Balmacara, a 2,550-hectare traditional Highland crofting estate owned by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), lies at the heart of the Lochalsh peninsula.
Approximately 75% of the Balmacara estate is under crofting tenure with 84 registered crofts in eight crofting townships.
Recognising the unique position of crofting within the West Highland community and as part of its charitable objectives, the NTS at Balmacara has been actively supporting crofting with the creation of eight new crofts in 1999, at that time the first new crofts anywhere in 80 years according to the Crofting Commission. Each croft was created on about eight acres of former farmland within the estate.
This was followed by the establishment of the Traditional Croft Management Scheme (TCMS) in 2006 which delivers direct financial support for crofters in the three townships of Drumbuie, Duirinish & Plockton who are undertaking the traditional agricultural activities of rotational cropping and rearing cattle on their croft. Its aim is to encourage the continuation of traditional crofting practices as a means of ensuring the protection and enhancement of the increasingly rare croft landscapes and associated species and habitats and the strong cultural identity associated with crofting.
The addition of a new crofting education course for students at Plockton High School represents the most recent step in this programme of support by the estate and is aimed at ensuring the next generation of crofters have the skills and experience necessary to take crofting forward as an active agricultural system. During the course, students will have the opportunity to develop the wide range of practical skills that are vital for any crofter. The NTS has developed this programme which will enable students to receive expert guidance and training from the Crofter/Tutor in the field, backed up by freely available online resources via a dedicated website which is due to become operational in 2017.
Iain Turnbull, NTS Estate Manager at Balmacara, commented: “Recognising as we do the importance of crofting to communities here, the National Trust for Scotland has made a concerted effort to support and maintain crofting on the Balmacara Estate.
“We have helped create new crofts for the first time in a generation – before there was any legislation to support it; we provide direct financial support for crofters on the estate through TCMS; and we have been active in setting up an education programme to ensure the next generation of crofters have the skills and experience to carry the sector forward in the future. The crofting cultural landscape is continually evolving but active crofting agriculture lies at its very heart and needs to be sustained if this distinctive landscape and all its associated features are to remain a feature of the Highlands and Islands”