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Comrie Croft is an award-winning destination in the middle of Scotland combining bunkhouses, self-catering properties, wild-camping, Swedish kata tents and mountain-biking. Established on the belief that business should be a force for good, Comrie’s commitment to restoring degraded farmlands is a model example of rural regeneration in Great Britain. Comrie is also championed for rekindling Gaelic culture and restoring historical buildings.
Recognising that the management of wildlife habitats requires community buy-in, Comrie is working with local landowners to map out a collective strategy. One-hundred and thirty five of the Comrie Estate’s 247 acres are now indigenous woodlands and open spaces, creating a home for endangered species including ospreys, red kites, red squirrels and barn owls. In the case of the osprey, Comrie is enhancing two nesting sites to aid the propagation of this species.
Guests are very much encouraged to get involved in Comrie’s sustainable ethos, so much so that accommodation is offered at discounted rates for those that ‘use their own steam’ to get there. Minimising impact is also a priority; a small wind turbine and solar panels help power lighting and Comrie is working towards zero-waste status. Local artisans are offered affordable exhibition spaces and the estate’s shop is packed out with local produce.
Comrie Croft joined The Long Run in 2011 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
Comrie Croft focuses its conservation efforts on restoring the biodiversity on degraded farmlands. It works to balance the use of land for recreation, settlement and food production with the conservation of iconic species such as the red kites, ospreys and red squirrels – the latter whose population has seen a steady decline over the last century and is on the IUCN Red List. The old causes of the long-term decline of these species such as habitat loss and human activity (hunting) has somewhat reduced. However, there is need to restore natural habitats to their original state to ensure the regeneration of the species to acceptable levels.
It is investing in measures to support the restoration of these natural habitats and is dedicating its time to creating approximately 55 hectares of new indigenous woodlands and open spaces. In the case of the Osprey, for example, it is enhancing two nesting sites to aid in the propagation of this species. It is also an enthusiastic participant in a project which is bringing together landowners in the area to map out a collective strategy for the management of wildlife habitats, and water catchment areas across landowner boundaries.
Comrie Croft actively involves its guests in its conservation activities by offering them unique incentives to be more environmentally conscious during their stay. It offers accommodation at discounted rates for those who as it puts it ‘use their own steam’ and walk, bike or even skateboard to Comrie Croft!
To minimise the impact of its tourism business, Comrie Croft has installed a small wind turbine and uses solar power for lighting on the premises. It is also working toward zero-waste production.
Comrie Croft is an integral part of the community at Comrie Parish made up of 3,000 people. It’s a small, close-knit and active community with a variety of voluntary groups and societies which come together to carry out activities ranging from earthquake monitoring to providing meals for senior citizens.
Comrie Croft is a member of The Comrie Development Trust, and together they are actively pursuing a number of projects to increase the sustainability and resilience of Comrie in a changing world. Through this Trust Comrie Croft has participated in a number of infrastructure improvement projects such as footpath planning and development.
Comrie Croft is strongly committed to maintaining good ties with its neighbours. It actively supports community-driven initiatives such as the conversion of abandoned farmlands into public squares, which serve as meeting places for this close community. It has also improved transportation around the Parish by providing funding for a community minibus. It willingly donates its premises for school functions and community gatherings.
Comrie Croft is set in an area rich in Gaelic history and culture. This culture is slowly being replaced by a more ‘modern’ Scottish culture. Historically, the Gaelic culture placed great emphasis on language, music, family, community and the natural world. Traces of this culture can still be seen through place names (especially natural features) and the renaissance in Gaelic language and music.
Rekindling the Gaelic culture is a core part of Comrie Croft’s vision. It plans on recreating a ‘crofting’ culture which is essentially is a system of small-scale subsistence farming that has traditionally supported rural families throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In doing so, it hopes to propagate the old values related to enterprise, community, and stewardship. Comrie Croft also preserves local culture through other avenues such as maintaining old farmstead buildings which symbolise the old crofting culture. It also stocks it shops with locally produced products that are unique to the region.
In addition to this, Comrie Croft supports local artisans by providing them with low-cost exhibition spaces where they can sell their wares. It also hosts a well-attended local crafts market further boosting local culture through the arts. It makes up part of the organizing committee for the local Drover’s Tryst festival – an outdoor festival aimed at keeping alive the strong cattle droving culture. This celebration of culture extends to the cuisine it serves and it is working to set up a ‘Perthshire Breakfast’ 50% of which will feature local foods.
Comrie Croft offers budget accommodation in the form of hostels, group accommodation as well as eco-camping. It also provides Swedish kåtas, and mountain-biking. It has shareholders most of whom have signed up to its dividend reinvestment programme which it ploughs back into its work in the 4Cs (conservation, community, culture and commerce). It channels a percentage of all its earnings to support its conservation, community development and cultural stewardship activities.
Plans are well underway to further diversify the products on offer at Comrie Croft through the ‘Wildlife Watch’ enterprise. Set for launch in 2012, it will be a major tourist attraction, which will allow its guests to view the Osprey and Red Kite from a vantage point that will not only showcase the breathtaking scenery at the Estate but will also allow guests to appreciate the true beauty of these endangered species.