Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip
Join our next volunteer trip to the Scottish Highlands! Come help to reforest and rewild the highlands at Dundreggan Conservation Estate, located in beautiful Glen Moriston, along the ‘Road to the Isles’. The Scottish Highlands volunteer trip is focused on restoring the Caledonian forests. Our environmental conservation projects will take place at Dundreggan Conservation Estate, a 10,000 acre expanse of wild land. Located near Loch Ness, it is a center for rewilding and a flagship forest restoration project. Dundreggan contains a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest and is especially noted for its exceptional juniper-birch woodland. It has been described as a haven for biodiversity, supporting many rare and endangered species.
Click on the expandable links below for details.
Group Size: 8 plus trip leaders
IMPORTANT NOTICE Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight. Since our trip begins in Edinburgh, you might want to arrive a few days early to explore Scotland’s historic capital, and nearby sights.
Day 1: Meet the group in Edinburgh, then travel to Invernes.
Welcome to Scotland and its ancient capital, Edinburgh! Our trip begins at 8:00 a.m. with an orientation where you’ll get acquainted with your ConservationVIP Trip Leaders and fellow Volunteers, and get an overview about the exciting week ahead. After our orientation, we’ll load up our bus and head for Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Along the way our expert guide will stop at a number of scenic vistas, historic sites, and engineering marvels. We plan to visit the mythical Kelpies, the Falkirk Wheel- -a Ferris wheel for boats, and scenic Glencoe, the site of one of Scotland’s most notorious massacres. Then we will travel along Loch Ness (keep an eye peeled out for Nessie!), arriving at Inverness at the head of Loch Ness, for dinner and an overnight stay. Lunch and Dinner included. Please make sure you eat breakfast before you arrive at our meeting location.
Day 2: Explore Historic Inverness, and head to Dundreggan Conservation Estate
After breakfast, our trip leaders will take us on a walking tour of historic Inverness. We will walk along the River Ness through the Ness Islands, check out Inverness Castle, explore historic downtown, and get one more chance to shop for any forgotten items. After lunch, our Trees for Life “focalisers” (leaders) will pick us up and take us back along Loch Ness to Glen Moriston, where our home and project site, Dundreggan Conservation Estate is located.
Dundreggan Conservation Estate, once a hunting estate, is the focal area of Trees for Life’s restoration programs. It has a large remnant of ancient Caledonian Forest, with running brooks or “burns,” waterfalls, magnificent ancient Scots pine, and rare yew. The estate houses a large native plant nursery where thousands of seedlings and cuttings are grown for reforestation efforts throughout the Highlands. The Estate is also home to legends of dragons (dreggan) and faeries, and a medieval “motte” – a stone and earthen defensive mound that was used by the local clan chief to keep an eye on Glen (valley) Moriston.
Once we settle into the homey lodge and get oriented to our week ahead, our focalisers will take us on a guided walk into the estate to learn about the ecology of the Caledonian Forest. All meals included. Meals at Dundreggan Conservation Estate are vegetarian based and are planned and prepared by the trip leaders. Participants make their own breakfast and box lunches from a variety of food available. Lunch meats may be provided upon request.
Days 3 – 5: Work on projects to help restore the Caledonian Forest
A typical workday consists of preparing a hearty breakfast of your choice, packing your lunch, and being geared up and ready to go at 8:30 a.m. Our projects will vary throughout the week, and may include working in the on-site native plant nursery sowing seeds or cuttings, or transplanting native plants to bags ready for planting, and other tasks assigned by the nursery staff. Other days we will work outside, removing non-native species, planting native plants, or surveying for the presence of native wildlife such as the beautiful red squirrel. Throughout our days, our focalisers and other Trees for Life experts will provide us with ecology, history and lore about the Highlands, and the critically important nature of our work. After our projects end for the day, generally around 4:30 p.m., you’ll have a little time to relax before dinner. All meals included.
After dinner is free time to relax, to read, or gather around a cozy wood stove and tell stories. Keep an eye on the TV hooked up to a remote night vision camera; you might get a glimpse of the resident pine martens scurrying around the stone wall! The lodge is equipped with a small library stocked with a variety of materials and books about the Highlands for your reading pleasure.
Day 6: Rest day.
We take a day off work in the middle of the project to rest and relax. On this rest day, you will have the option to visit more of the Scottish Highlands and return in time for dinner at the lodge. All meals provided..
Days 7 – 8: Work on projects to help restore the Caledonian Forest.
The group will continue with the work described above for days 3 – 5.
Day 9: Complete your trip to the Scottish Highlands
After breakfast, we will return to Inverness, ending our group experience at the Inverness train station at about 10:00 a.m. Breakfast included.
Note: Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule above, the itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control, including weather and terrain conditions. Project locations may vary with each volunteer expedition according to the needs of local non-profit at the time the trip takes place.
IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING AIR TRAVEL: Before purchasing your airline tickets, please check with us to ensure the trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate.
- all meals from lunch on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 9
- hotel in Inverness; rooms are double occupancy
- hostel at Dundreggan
- all bus and van transportation noted
- gratuities for services provided to the group
- project leadership and support staff
- group tools
- orientation and training
- airfare to/from Scotland
- cost of medical immunizations
- insurance (emergency medical and evacuation insurance is mandatory for this trip)
- excess baggage charges
- airport taxes
- alcoholic beverages or soft drinks
- personal items
- A $400 deposit is required to reserve a spot on the trip
- The remainder of the trip price is due by June 15, 2017
Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip Dates
|September 15 – 23, 2017||Sign up starts soon!
or call (925) 228-5946
Scottish Highlands Trip Review
Scottish Highlands Impact
Expand the Trip Reports link below to see the difference past volunteers to the Scottish Highlands made!
About the Scottish Highlands
The Romans named Scotland “Caledonia”. The name comes from an early Celtic word meaning “strong” or “hard”, an accurate description of the rugged and wet terrain of the Scottish Highlands.
Once heavily forested, today forests cover only about one percent of their original acreage. Fortunately, the environmental movement in Scotland — the birthplace of John Muir — is growing. A local Scottish nonprofit is in the forefront of restoring the great Caledonian forests. Over the past 25 years, Trees for Life and their volunteers have planted more than 1 million trees in the Scottish Highlands. They have already restored some 10,000 acres of forest. Now, Conservation Volunteers International Program wants to offer its volunteers a chance to participate in this great reforestation project. Take a moment to be inspired, watch the founder of Trees for Life as his passion for this great effort shines through his TEDx Talk:
Related Travel Information
Have extra time to explore in Scotland? Recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh offers a variety of options for history buffs. Explore Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town and 18th-century New Town, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Edinburgh’s other historic sites include Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and St. Giles’ Cathedral.
History also abounds outside Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Six miles outside Inverness is Culloden, the site of the last battle on British soil, which took place in 1746. Tour the modern visitors’ center to better understand the history. As you walk around the battlefield, stop and look at the boulders marked with the names of the Scottish clans who fell at Culloden, hinting at the scope of the slaughter that took place there.
About 11 miles from Inverness is Fort George, built between 1748-1769 by the English to guard the narrows in Moray Firth. Virtually unchanged after 250 years, it is an outstanding, and enormous, example of an English military fortification. As you walk around Fort George, visualize the forts built in North America by the English that pre-date the American Revolution, such as Forts Ticonderoga and William Henry in New York State.