I created Highland Titles more than fifteen years ago, as my personal response to the almost complete destruction of the Caledonian Forest. Highland Titles now own and manage six nature reserves. The Highland Titles Nature Reserve in Duror, Scotland, the most popular nature reserve in Scotland and one of the best known and best loved tourist destinations for those who are seeking to do something in the Scottish Highlands. Four other reserves are in Scotland and one is in Ireland. Together we manage about 1,000 acres of wilderness.
I first encountered the idea of souvenir land sales in 1997, when I sent off a promotional collar from a bottle of Laphroaig whisky. This entitled me to one square foot of the Scottish island of Islay, where the distillery was located. I have to admit I wondered if it was just a scam. However I was also excited that I might own a wee plot of Scotland and made my way to visit, check it out and collect my free dram. But Friends of Laphroaig has always been about much more than owning land. To quote them, “– like Islay itself, it’s about a community – and what a community“. To continue from the Laphroaig site “Over the years we’ve witnessed some extraordinary events on the hallowed turf. A wedding between two Followers, the scattering of a member’s ashes, even a Japanese ceremonial garden. But the real day-to-day Laphroaig community lives here on the Internet.“
Years later, when my daughter. Laura suggested selling souvenir plots, as a way to raise funds, but also to create a community of people able and willing to support our vision for decades to come, the example of the Friends of Laphroaig came back to me. This was crowdfunding, before anyone had thought to call it that. We created Lochaber Highland Estates and tested the concept on eBay, following it rapidly with a website incorporating ecommerce. This was very much a ‘mom and pop’ operation at this stage and it was a steep learning curve for a middle aged academic and a young graduate. But bit by bit we gathered friends and support in Glencoe and were fortunate in the people who offered to help.
We set the business up in Alderney in 2006 as a non-profit owned 100% by me. I had to move to Alderney at this time for family reasons and it seemed logical to incorporate in the country where I would be living and where our offices would be established. At the time of incorporation there was no registration process for Alderney non-profits. When registration was brought in in 2011, I decided to take the opportunity of changing the ownership of Highland Titles and I gifted my shares to a Guernsey registered charitable trust, the Highland Titles Charitable Trust for Scotland (CH444). This increases the burden of oversight, but in a good way which we feel protects the project going forward. Highland Titles is now firmly established as a business which benefits from local support to manage our Scottish nature reserves – (it currently operates five in Scotland and one in Ireland).
The Scottish Tourist Board, Visit Scotland, regularly inspect and grade the Highland Titles Nature Reserve and we are proud to hold a four star award.
For many years now, TripAdvisor awards Highland Titles Nature Reserve their Certificate of Excellence. This achievement is a direct result of their consistently great reviews from TripAdvisor travellers. On Trust Pilot, Highland Titles scores 5 stars, from more than 10,000 independent consumer reviews.
Highland Titles is unusual in that it sells souvenir plots of land in the Scottish Highlands with the unique selling point that Scottish landowners can style themselves as a Laird, Lord or Lady. This is certainly an unusual claim! So what are the facts:
Highland Titles defines each and every plot that it sells using precise Ordnance Survey map co-ordinates. Not only that, but we provide a free handy app that helps our customers to find their plots. ‘Laird’ is a Scottish word, literally meaning ‘landowner’. Whilst it is obviously stretching the point to call oneself a Laird (or even a landowner) when all one has bought is a square foot of land, it is not inaccurate and one should remember that Highland Titles sells these souvenir plots as a great gift for a good cause. Moreover, the company also sells much more meaningful plots of land up to 1000 square feet in size. ‘Laird’, being a Scottish word, translates into English as ‘Lord’. The female variation of both titles is ‘Lady’. All these simple facts are confirmed on independent review sites. So buying a plot of Scottish land legitimises your right to be a Laird, Lord or Lady in a fun, lighthearted way.
Highland Titles is my way of putting something back into Scotland. As you can see from the images here and on the Highland Titles Facebook Page, and on the Company “Smugmug” page, there is plenty of tree planting going on with the help of our supporters, and a 2 acre lochan was also created in 2014. Thousands of people every year visit their wee plot of land near Glencoe. They are usually met by a local volunteer warden, visit their land and review the progress made in their name on the Nature Reserve. You can view their reports on the Highland Titles Facebook Page. Highland Titles has been growing steadily in popularity for more than ten years. We have gained several celebrity followers such as One Direction heart-throb, Lord Payno and American singer, songwriter, Lady Cindi Lauper.
In addition to the support we give to Scottish conservation organisations we also invest in the local community. From schools to mountain rescue. From care homes to community centres. Highland Titles have stepped up to the plate to support good causes throughout Lochaber and Appin. Conservation means nothing if there is not a local community to maintain it. And the tens of thousands of visitors that we bring to the Glencoe area materially helps local businesses to flourish. Whenever possible we use local workmen and craftsmen on our Nature Reserves. In addition, as part of our celebration of Scottish heritage, we support and attend various Scottish festivals and Highland games throughout the world. We always welcome the chance to meet our lairds and ladies.
We have a representative on the land every day to meet and greet the thousands of people that visit their plots every year. We hosted our first Highland Gathering in May 2013, which was attended by Lords and Ladies from as far away as Australia, USA and Canada, as well as representatives from the UK national media. The 2014 “homecoming” was held at prestigious Glencoe House in May 2014 when lairds from around the world met local people and sampled highland hospitality at its best. The annual gatherings have proved so popular that the May 2015 Gathering had to be moved to the much larger Glencoe hotel, The Isles of Glencoe, and hosted 120 lairds for the three day event. The 2017 Gathering was sold out again and 2019, the 7th Gathering, has been the best ever!