The start of our 150-year vision for Torosay Hills is driven by a passion for, and commitment to, thriving wilderness landscapes. We aim to encourage the restoration of nature rich landscapes bringing opportunities for local communities and visitors, and inspiring people to experience the joy of living in a flourishing wild environment. Our vision of a more sustainable world starts here, at Torosay Hills.
Torosay Hills is a 3,000-hectare Highland estate on the glorious Hebridean island of Mull, a haven renowned for its diverse wildlife. The land runs from sea level where it borders Loch Spelve, a sea loch abundant in marine life, and rises up to Mull’s second highest peak, "Dun da Ghaoithe", the mountain of the three winds.
Here, an impressive ridgeline forms a natural boundary, locally known as the "Torosay Tops". Surrounded by breathtaking panoramas to the distant mountains of Ben Nevis, the Cuillins of Skye and the Paps of Jura, this landscape instills awe, and has the power to change lives, as well as our perspective on our planet.
There is no time to lose; even now the ancient remnants of the birch upland woodland are receding as deer and sheep graze the emerging saplings. Where once complex birch forest stood, now only scattered Octogenarian trees remain living out their last years with no new generation growing up beside them. Heavy coppicing of the Torosay oak woodland in the 18th century to supply charcoal to the furnaces at nearby Bonawe, where cannonballs were once cast for use in the Napoleonic wars, led to the felling of the forest. Subsequently sheep were introduced and permanent grazing arrested the natural woodland regeneration.
Annual burning of fragile heath and draining of the peat wetlands also led to further degradation, as vital nutrients have bled away, leaving a sodden, ecologically dysfunctional desert. Today, less than 1% of this previous temperate woodland remains, a reminder of what once cloaked the hills at Torosay.
Swathes of bluebells and wood anemones, found on the bare hillside, are woodland marker species that indicate the extent of the formerly lush Celtic rainforest, of oak, birch, willow, holly, hazel, rowan, aspen and juniper.
Pollen analysis of core samples taken from the peat across Torosay and analysed by the University of Aberdeen gives us a remarkable insight into the last 8,000 years of woodland species that have thrived on these hills. In addition to the woodland restoration there is equal urgency to restore native wetlands to good health. These, like the woodlands, are vital tools for storing carbon and helping mitigate against climate change.
Following extensive consultation with ecologists, palynologists, archaeologists, foresters, the local communities, and many other specialists, the first phase in our restoration plan is underway. In addition to woodland and peatland restoration, the sea is integral to our unfolding story. Our plans include promoting the importance of a dynamic marine environment, where the burns and rivers, lochs and coastline bustle with life, and once again salmon and sea trout make their journeys to their hereditary spawning grounds.
Though the salt-laden gales that sweep across the Atlantic seaboard are harsh, the warmth of the Gulf Stream also reaches the shores of Mull. Relieved of grazing pressure from sheep and deer, and with help of short-term intervention, the trees will start to prosper. Fragile new life will emerge, bringing a thriving and resilient ecosystem, diverse communities of wild flowers, mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns, as well as numerous invertebrates, small mammals, that in time will encourage the natural balance of the predator-prey relationship.
What has taken generations to denude will inevitably take generations to restore. It is hoped that Torosay Hills will become a beacon that represents our commitment to all future generations, enabling them to experience the vast wilderness of our island.