Scotland:Rewilding Retreat in the Cairngorms

Discover the story of the UK’s largest landscape scale restoration project: Cairngorms Connect



The Cairngorms is the perfect location to explore a variety of habitats - from upland to wetland and croftland to coast. After many years of decline, the last remnants of the Caledonian Forest are beginning to recover. The gnarled granny pines, some centuries-old, are now surrounded by new life as saplings begin to erupt from the undergrowth and spread. 

The autumn months see shifting priorities in the wildlife we search for. Salmon leap up waterfalls to reach their spawning grounds, red deer are roaring throughout the glens, red squirrels hurry across the woodland floor and crested tits are calling from the tops of pine trees.

During this weekend retreat we’ll focus on exploring the wild landscapes of the project area whilst searching for some of it’s unique wildlife along the way.


Home to some of Scotland's most spectacular landscapes.


Day 1:  After arrival and introductions we enjoy our first meal together before an after-dinner presentation setting the scene for our adventure.

Day 2-3: We’ll explore the rewilding reserve at Ballintean, our base for the weekend, and in spring, search for the local ospreys that nest alongside the river. Next door lies the acclaimed Glenfeshie Estate and we'll take a walk alongside the braided river to see first-hand, a landscape recovering after decades of over-grazing.

This is an area that encapsulates what rewilding can achieve given the chance. We discover the importance of Insh Marshes, one of the country's foremost wetland habitats with a variety of breeding waders and lined by nationally important stands of aspen. 

During the retreat, we’ll visit some of the best remnants of the Caledonian Forest, where a new and exciting approach is seeing the forest expand, benefitting golden eagles, crested tits and Britain's largest grouse, the capercaillie. We'll get up close with red squirrels and spend an evening watching badgers and pine martens from a dedicated hide.

This Wilderness Weekend will provide a fantastic insight into one of the UK's most exciting nature-recovery projects, whilst immersing ourselves in spectacular scenery and searching for some of Scotland's iconic wildlife.

Day 4: We say our farewells after breakfast on Monday.


  • Days: 3days/2nights
  • When: Set dates: 7-10 May 2021 (FULL) and 22-25 Oct 2021 (FULL) Do not hesitate to email us for information on similar upcoming retreats.
  • Accommodation: Ballintean Mountain Lodge 
  • Guide: Jack Ward:  A professional guide in the Highlands for the past ten years. He has combined a lifelong love of the outdoors with a working knowledge of land management in the Highlands. 
  • How to get there: You can train, ferry or fly into Scotland via Inverness, Edinburgh or Glasgow. From there you will need to take a train, bus or (rental) car and get to Kingussie.
  • Languages: English


€910 pp

The price includes: 3 nights accommodation in an en-suite room. All meals. All excursions. Guiding. Presentations. Transfers to/from Kingussie

The price does not include: Travel to/from the retreat. Travel/cancellation insurance. Alcoholic drinks (wine is served with dinner). Personal expenses


While the activities of man have taken their toll, the rise of rewilding in Scotland now offers hope that the wild nature for which the country is rightly renowned can be restored.

From Cairngorms Connect to Scotland: The Big Picture, and the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape initiative, today a growing number of inspirational rewilding projects are demonstrating how rewilding can benefit both people and wildlife.

We believe healthy nature and healthy communities go hand in hand. Our Rewilding Retreats demonstrate and support this philosophy.

A key element of rewilding is for communities to see the benefit in restoring wild landscapes and wildlife populations, by creating new economic opportunities which allow them to thrive.

Our retreats visit inspiring rewilding projects where we’ll hear first-hand from the experts on the ground who will provide fascinating insights into their work and explain why rewilding is so beneficial to both wildlife and people. 


Aukje Van Gerven and

Irene Fernandez


Meet James

James is an award-winning nature photographer, filmmaker and guide with a passion for rewilding based in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. Having studied a BSc in Zoology with Conservation and an MSc in Science Communication he has a thorough understanding of conservation issues and a wide array of skills in multimedia production.

James is one of the directors at SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, a non-profit social enterprise focused on rewilding advocacy and communications. 

James has helped create films and books, all with an emphasis on rewilding and currently heads up their Rewilding Retreats programme.

As an advocate for ecotourism as one of the economic benefits of rewilding, James has been guiding nature lovers and photographers across the Scottish Highlands for several years. He will take you in search of amazing wildlife, visit inspiring rewilding initiatives on the ground and explore the potential for a wilder landscape.

“Quite frankly I’m addicted to nature. I can’t emphasise enough that time spent in the wild is good for your body and mind. Hiking to a mountain top for sunrise or walking amongst the gnarled Scots pines of the Caledonian pinewoods are mesmerising experiences. There’s so much to explore in the natural world and every time you head outside you’ll see or learn something new and that’s the excitement of nature.”

James Shooter

Rewilding Retreats Scotland