A community in Scotland's highest village are coming together to purchase vast swathes of land from a local duke to transform the wider area into a sustainable tourist destination, with ski slopes, biking, hiking and nature trails, and music- and art-themed festivals.
Locals in Wanlockhead have been granted permission to purchase 3000 acres of land from a private estate in their village as part of a community land buyout deal. The 83,000-acre Queensberry Estate, which belongs to Richard Scott, the tenth Duke of Buccleuch, contains parts of a popular walking route known as the Southern Upend Way and sites of "natural, historical and recreational significance" which the villagers are keen to develop into sustainable tourist sites.
"This is the first big step towards a brighter future for our community. If we can own the land, we can make our own decisions about its use," said Lincoln Richford, chair of the Wanlockhead Community Trust (WST) - the group overseeing the purchase of the land. "Today, locals said ‘yes’ to self-empowerment and self-determination. It is an historic day for all of us."
The WCT now have six months to raise the £1.4 million necessary to complete the buyout after the deal was agreed earlier this month. As well as tourism opportunities, potential projects the villagers are keen to explore include developing affordable housing for families, environmental restoration and creating new business opportunities for locals.
"There is so much potential here for us in Wanlockhead. It is very exciting where we can go as a community with this buyout, if we put our minds to it," said Dominika Torka, a WCT member.
Wanlockhead sits 467 metres above sea level in scenic Lowther Hills, an area renowned for its skiing opportunities in Dumfries and Galloway. It's a popular tourist destination already, and is home to quirky attractions like Scotland's highest pub, the Wanlockhead Inn, and the Museum of Lead Mining.
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