Craigengillan lies within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere. This outstandingly beautiful landscape is home to a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna. Privileged to call this place home, the estate owners have taken a view that it is their duty to protect it for generations to come. This view has led to a dedicated conservation programme over the past 15 years, which have achieved some remarkable results.
Often working with local youths and long term unemployed, the conservation of the estate has had a positive effect both environmentally and socially. Three miles of drystone dykes have been meticulously repaired using a system developed by the original estate owners, the McAdams In the 18th century.
Over 18 miles of new footpaths have been created and are now walked by over 60,000 people each year.
Over 17 miles of new hedgerows have been planted, providing shelter for lambs, nesting for birds and linking parts of the landscape together following natural contours. The hedges act as wildlife corridors between woodland, wetland, hill pasture and species rich meadows.
A new loch was created below Craigengillan House in 2001. Two lochs have also been dug out on either side of the approach to the house, and another next to the footpath below Dalcairnie Falls, all providing habitats for native flora and fauna.
By planting over 1 million native hardwoods, native wildlife has returned. Some of the spruce plantations have been felled and replanted with more historically accurate species, including Wellingtonia, horse chestnut, Atlantic and other cedars, noble and grand firs, oak, beech and lime.
Craigengillan was selected as one of 60 sites in Britain to plant a Diamond Wood of at least 60 acres to mark the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012. A further 530 acres of broadleaved trees have been planted on Auchenroy Hill, Corwaur and Shalloch Hills. They will be dedicated to the Woodland Trust project to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The woods are carefully designed to enhance the landscape and bring back the mosaic of woodland, moor and hill pasture that would have existed up to medieval times.
In 2014, Craigengillan was the winner of Scotland’s Finest Woods Award for the new native woodlands created during the last 15 years. Trees help reduce the impact of climate change by sequestering carbon as they grow. The woods are registered under the Woodland Carbon Code and the estate welcome individuals or organisations interested in purchasing credits and becoming involved.
The estate has worked informally and to great effect with the local community and schools, and the task they have set themselves has the definite sense of a shared project. They believe that the best way to bring about long-term care for the environment is through education and by encouraging the active involvement of young people in conservation projects, art in nature and creative writing.