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Reimagining Strathaird consultation

Here's how we collaborated with local people to deliver innovative solutions that address both global crises and local issues, at a site in our care in southern Skye.

Strathaird Farm and ex hatchery

The John Muir Trust is looking to develop our Strathaird site (pictured above). We seek to understand the needs of local residents and businesses, while supporting our objectives as a wild places charity.

The consultations are now closed. They took place in 2022 / 2023 and explored where the local community and the John Muir Trust can work together, to bring forward a plan that benefits everybody.

Find out more about the project and consulation process below.

About the project

The site

The focus of this project is the Strathaird site, a non-crofted land holding which currently hosts a disused fish hatchery, several underutilised buildings, and a former church building which carries historic and cultural significance. It is also the start for a popular walking route to Camasunarie Bay that connects with the Skye Trail.

The site sits within the larger Strathaird Estate that the John Muir Trust has stewarded for many years, along with adjoining land in Sconser and Torrin. It is surrounded by land under active crofting tenure.

Why now?

Access to the Kilmarie Hatchery is currently through Strathaird Farm. Buying the redundant Hatchery and surrounding land in 2021 brought both sites together, and created opportunities for development.

As a charity, the John Muir Trust has a duty to move beyond remedial work that maintains underused and disused structures (including the kirk, hatchery and cottages) to developing a site that considers local needs and benefits, while supporting the Trust to deliver its objectives as a wild places organisation.

Five consultation themes

Landscape and culture

From the standing stones to the church, to the farm and the hatchery, the landscape has supported the local community in different ways for many years.

We asked:
1) What development would continue to support the local community in the future while respecting the land’s history and culture?
2) Is there an opportunity for a community enterprise at Faoilean?
3) Could the church become a heritage/ visitor centre?
4) How do we promote the Gaelic language as part of this project?

Community and land

The Strathaird site lies within the Cuillin Hills National Scenic Area. Its northern side is bordered by the Cuillins Special Protection Area, which hosts breeding pairs of golden eagles. The whole peninsula coastline is bordered by the Inner Hebrides and The Minches Special Area of Conservation, which is an area of particular importance for populations of harbour porpoise.

We asked:
1) What are the different ways that we could connect community and land on this site?
2) Could we establish community allotments or polytunnels? Who would use them?
3) Could we establish smallholdings that link crofting heritage to climate and conservation?
4) How could we connect the Strathaird site to the landscape’s rare and special qualities?

Conservation, climate and community

We asked:
1) How could the work we do here help address biodiversity loss?
2) How could it help address the climate crisis?
3) Could we establish a community tree nursery?
4) Could there be benefits to removing the dam wall?
5) Could we create Skye’s first educational field centre here?

Managing visitors

We recognise there are challenges associated with increased numbers of visitors using the single-track road to Elgol, including casual parking, informal camping, high traffic volumes and pedestrians crossing from the layby to the Camasunary track on a dangerous bend.

We asked:
1) How could the development of this site support the local economy?
2) Are there any other visitor-related challenges you have noticed?
3) In what way do these issues affect you?
4) How could the development of this site address some of these issues?
5) Should we extend the layby parking at the start of the path to Camasunary? Or should this be relocated to the farm/ hatchery site?
6) Could there be formal camping facilities here?
7) Could the site provide opportunities for the community to enjoy outdoor activities? What about all-abilities access?

Making the space and buildings work

We asked:
1) Would a hot desking/ co-working space be used by people in the local community?
2) Could we create a workshop space for local musicians, makers and artists?
3) What about affordable residential housing linked to land use?

About the consultations

Who carried out the consultations?

The John Muir Trust hired a team of independent consultation specialists to gather ideas and comments from the local community: Duncan MacPherson, Team Lead (Stakeholder consultation, options analysis); Sheena Raeburn, RaeburnFarquharBowen (Landscape assessment); Neil Munro, Rural Design (Architecture and masterplanning); and Faye MacLeod, Campbell Stewart MacLennan & Co (Financial analysis).

The consultants produced feasibility study outlining the feedback received, and made recommendations as to what the site at Strathaird could be in the future as part of a masterplan.

These options were shared with the community for further feedback, before the Trust made decisions and about how to proceed.

How are decisions made?

The Trust is a membership organisation, run by a Board of Trustees who are elected from the membership. The Board of Trustees will make strategic decisions about Strathaird, based on information presented to them.

The Trust has created a working group for this project, and will seek local representation within that group. This group will advise and make recommendations to the John Muir Trust Board of Trustees. The independent community consultants will prepare a report and masterplan to support the working group and the Board of Trustees in making decisions.

Project timeline


Strathaird doesn’t sound like ‘wild land’ – why did the Trust buy it? 

Access to the Kilmarie Hatchery is currently through Strathaird Farm. Buying the redundant Hatchery and surrounding land in 2021 brought both sites together, and created opportunities for development.

This purchase offers an opportunity to strengthen existing conservation work and community partnerships, by helping address local priorities.   

What are the opportunities here?

The John Muir Trust believes that wild places are for everyone, and that at Strathaird we have an opportunity to inspire people to connect with and share in the value of wild places. Our approach is to collaborate with others on innovative solutions that address both global crises and local issues.