BrewDog buys Scottish grouse moor for rewilding & ecotourism

Earlier this year the Aberdeenshire brewery and pub chain BrewDog bought the Kinrara Estate on Speyside for an estimated £7.5M and announced some pretty grand plans to take this former grouse moor and pheasant shoot and transform it as part of the ‘single biggest native woodland establishment and peatland restoration project ever carried out in the UK‘.

BrewDog’s purchase is apparently motivated by ‘becoming the world’s first carbon negative beer business‘ with a claim that, ‘as well as over £50m of investments in reducing our environmental impact, we are also removing twice as much carbon as we emit every year, forever‘.

You can read BrewDog founder and CEO James Watt’s announcement, made in March 2021 on LinkedIn, here. Judging by the accompanying photograph, it’s not hard to see why they’ve called this The Lost Forest project:

The Kinrara Estate was being sold via estate agents Galbraith and it was promoted as having ‘considerable afforestation and potentially valuable carbon capture opportunity‘ and ‘great conservation potential‘ (see here).

Here’s a map from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website showing the estimated estate boundary (in blue, from 2002 data), with the southern part of the estate lying within the Cairngorms National Park close to Aviemore [Park boundary is in yellow] and the northern part extending into the Monadhliath Mountains.

Last week, the grouse shooting industry finally caught up with BrewDog’s progressive plans and guess what, it didn’t like them.

Right on cue, the hysteria button was pressed and social media has been rife with calls for a BrewDog boycott, personal abuse of its founders and a scaremongering headline in The Times that looked like this:

Unsurprisingly, the headline didn’t reflect the fact that as well as a significant ecological restoration programme on this former shooting estate, BrewDog intends to create many, many more jobs at the Lost Forest by creating ‘a hotel built from sustainable cabins, a campsite, a distillery, hiking and biking trails as well as kayaking on our beautiful loch’.

According to CEO James Watt’s LinkedIn article, ‘We want the Lost Forest to enable people to reconnect with nature and by doing so become far more cognisant of the impact that we, as humans, are having on our planet‘.

Who knows, maybe the two gamekeepers reportedly made redundant since the land purchase at Kinrara will find alternative employment opportunities at the Lost Forest that don’t involve shooting animals as a recreational ‘sport’. The world is moving on and grouse shooting is heading for the history books; even some industry supporters recognise this, as demonstrated by this fascinating recent article on the ShootingUK website.

For those more interested in conservation than amateur dramatics, you’ll probably be interested in having a look at the details of BrewDog’s ecological proposals for Kinrara. BrewDog has hired Scottish Woodlands Ltd as its forestry management company and as well as ecological surveys, a public consultation on the plans is also currently underway.

The following document forms part of that public consultation and the details show an impressive approach to sensitive restoration plans:

37 thoughts on “BrewDog buys Scottish grouse moor for rewilding & ecotourism”

  1. I’ve always liked Brewdog funnily enough. This is fantastic news, and I can’t wait to delve into the detailed plans, but every time something like this happens in Scotland (with increasing frequency it seems), I can’t help feeling it also accentuates the lack of practically any similar initiative in the whole of northern England on a former grouse moor. There’s a pretty massive gulf opening up between progress in Scotland and business as usual across another bloody big part of the country. Considerably better than no change anywhere I know, but with the effective freeze on rewilding in Wales thanks to the mutton mafia there progress is becoming grossly uneven. However, at least the owners of Scottish grouse moors in particular must be feeling the end is nigh, now there’s a pretty rapid succession of estates switching from shooting to conservation and general recreation and I’ll be very surprised if they ever look back – there’ll be no return to DGS.

    The MSP for the Angus Glens has been strutting about recently making it pretty clear he’s the friend of the grouse moors and how they keep fragile rural economies alive, and if there are better economic alternatives what are they? It might have been good as the local MSP if he had taken it upon himself to look into that rather than place the onus for doing so on anti DGS campaigners. Never mind now we have another, pro active example of how rural Scotland can be a far, far better place for wildlife and people than it currently is, and to help him see beyond the rotationally incinerated hills of Angus in place and time. Well done Brewdog!!!

      1. Unfortunately it’s pretty apt. Not only is the status quo horrendous for wildlife there, those knackered hills probably contributed to the 2007 Gloucestershire floods when the Severn broke its banks, all at a cost of more than two billion pounds. To add insult to injury what made the hills in the Severn watershed so flood friendly was enabled by public subsidy some of it coming from the people whose homes, businesses and lowland farms that were hit by the floods. Ironically it was a bunch of (uncharacteristically?) progressive Welsh farmers at Pontbren that showed how targeted tree planting didn’t just boost sheep welfare and income from them, but was incredibly effective in reducing the speed of water flow from the hills. https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/media/4808/pontbren-project-sustainable-uplands-management.pdf

        So of course there was a big drive to implement this fantastic work at landscape level to benefit sheep, their owners, wildlife and the people living under the threat of flooding. My arse there was, just keep doing the bare minimum to get the maximum subsidy, even bog standard conservation work in Wales – e.g help a curlew – is becoming regarded as too much of an interference in farming. Sadly I see what’s happening in Wales as having a parallel with the reactionary (bulk?) element of the crofting community here, and politically no one is challenging it which is not healthy in a supposed democracy. It seems it’s okay for townies in Gloucester to have their front rooms become swimming pools, it’s taboo to criticise or even question desperately uneconomic hill farming at a time when about 40% of our food gets dumped.

        There are plans to reintroduce golden and sea eagles to Wales and I hope they happen, I really do, but if there’s one place in the UK where even this comparatively popular conservation initiative is likely to get the thumbs down it will be there. Trials involving how beavers reduce flooding and help other wildlife are springing up like veritable mushrooms up and down the length of England – there’s virtually nothing in Wales, the sheep farmers have certainly spoken out against them, some even complained about pine martens being reintroduced! You can’t have a genuine interest in conservation and not be appalled at what’s NOT happening in Wales. The conservation community needs to get together and tackle this with resolution, not hand wringing or sympathy for the wrong people.

    1. The one fly in the ointment in regards to the speed of change in Scotland and that of England. (wales appears to have a similar mindset to Holyrood.)
      Prime Minister Boris Johnston is currently putting through some legislation — I beleive on a Trade Bill — and if any country passes legislation which restricts or inhibts practises legal in the other countries — then they can sue that particular Government. This, in my reckoning, could very well seriously hinder what changes can be made.

    2. Interesting , can you tell me more about the situation in Wales with regards to rewilding, please? I’m a recent immigrant to Wales, and I have found it difficult to learn anything about grouse shooting there. The only thing I have got was an email from the former UKIP incumbent, denying categorically that there was any, and especially not DGS.

      1. Sadly after it being free from driven grouse shooting for some years, a bit of a toe hold has been re-established – https://www.gwct.org.uk/blogs/news/2019/february/return-of-the-welsh-grouse/ I don’t know how well it’s doing or the potential for more grouse moors to reopen, but TBH I think there’s more scope for that to happen in Wales as rewilding isn’t really being allowed to take things in a different direction that would effectively block a return to grouse shooting. As you’ll see from my previous comment I think the situation in Wales is pretty dire for rewilding, not a cause for despondency, but for the conservation sector to go up two or three gears with their lobbying and campaigning.

        A group called Rewilding Britain was one of the groups involved in a wonderful initiative called Summit to Sea that I think might have been modest in size compared to other projects in Scotland, but was still fairly substantial and exciting, the flagship project for rewilding in Wales. It got absolutely hammered by a particularly reactionary farming community, Rewilding Britain withdrew from the partnership (the word rewilding was causing problems) and now summit to sea exists as a ridiculously watered down plan intended not to get certain backs up and therefore looks as if it will do precious little for conservation either. http://www.summit2sea.wales/a-new-chapter-for-summit-to-sea/ Sad and a bit pathetic.

        Not wanting to depress you, but the situation in Wales is poor – I also mentioned earlier that while beaver trials are popping up up and down England with new ones proposed practically by the week there’s virtually nothing in Wales – pretty clear disparity that says an awful lot. A few beavers are living there ferally which is something. The more speaking up for change the better the chance it will happen so hope you get involved. I know Powys a little, but essentially I’m an outsider, however, a respected naturalist that lives there has confirmed my pretty bleak assessment. On the plus side that means there’s plenty of room for improvement! Best of luck and I hope you enjoy Wales, I still love it even with its conservation disappointments.

  2. brilliant, just like Langholm community, wish I drank , i would drink brewing dry,🥳👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  3. Sounds great and if they show a profit from tourism it could prompt others to move on from the cruelty of the past and the present for alot of the people that only see the destruction of wildlife as profitable.
    There are other ways to make money more geared to todays attitudes.

  4. How fantastic…..only two gamekeepers out of jobs though…is the only negative I can see here.

  5. Time to abandon politics and embrace corporations?

    Also I wonder if the recent negative news about BrewDog is connected to this. Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. If it was it would give some idea of what exactly we’re up against in order to make changes for the better.

  6. Excellent News !
    I reckon the Good Folk at BrewDog deserve a couple of complimentary copies of “Inglorious – Conflict in the Uplands” , “Snared”, “Back to Nature” , “Sky Dancer” , “Eagle Warrior”, “Killing by Proxy” … over to you Wild Justice, Gill Lewis, Bob Berzins, Alan Stewart et al …
    Oh, and please let’s Rewild Bonnie Scotland with a complete & effective ban on ALL killing for “fun” – indeed, as Chris Packham so succinctly puts it , “Killing for fun is a dying business”.
    Very Well Done BrewDog – I’ll drink tae tha’ 🍻

    1. Fortunately for Packham [Ed: Rest of comment deleted as libellous, irrelevant and indicative of someone with a micropenis]

  7. As Wild Justice’s expose of the article in the Shooting Times regarding the shooting of 10 species in a day was found to be untrue.
    It would appear some of the media coverage regarding this acquisition of the Kinrara Estate by Brewdog and the negative effects this will have, also appear distorted and untrue.
    It would seem that so much of what is said and claimed by the shooting industry and its supporters is dishonest and deceitful; to the point that any sensible person would want to verify the facts before reaching any conclusions.
    It also makes me wonder how many MP’s who support grouse shooting in parliament are guilty of just accepting the facts as presented by the shooting industry, or wilfully turn a blind eye to what they suspect is untrue?
    So how can an industry which appears shrouded in dishonesty and deceitfulness have any credibility when it comes to deciding how the countryside and nature should be managed? And why are governments still seeing this industry as a meaningful partner when it comes to consultations on land management practices, conservation or the future of driven grouse shooting???
    I think the answer to this lies somewhere in Britain’s past and the unacceptable power still held by a tiny minority who seem to be above the democratic process?
    Let’s hope that through further acquisition of land by those who put ethical and sustainable ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance ) policies at the heart of their businesses, we see a continual erosion of land ownership away from those who simply want to exploit the land for their own pleasure, to those who genuinely have an interest in tackling climate change and the extinction crises.
    And perhaps in the process we will see more wildlife in our countryside and less dishonesty and deceitfulness???!!

    1. John, can you clarify your first sentence, please? I presume it was the ST article, not WJ’s comment, which was criticised.

      1. It was the article in the Shooting Times which was found to be not wholly truthful- the author of the article apparently hadn’t killed the 10 species in one day as claimed! Fortunately Wild Justice delved deeper.

        1. Thank you, one wouldn’t want to see it misquoted. Though the following context should prevent that.

  8. Great news! Well done Brewdog. Could we be reaching a tipping point here? I don’t know how often Highland estates come up for sale but if enough other wealthy entrepreneurs dive in inspired by their own environmental and wildlife virtue-vision it could be really transformative.
    And about time too!

    1. Unlike shooting, the attractions offered should attract visitors through most of the year. And with the ski railway closed, Aviemore needs that.

      Perhaps the estate will later join the Cairngorm Partnership.

  9. “the hysteria button was pressed and social media has been rife with calls for a BrewDog boycott, personal abuse of its founders and a scaremongering headline in The Times”

    We should, then, call for a boycott of The Times, and perhaps Brewdog could ban all its employees from its pubs? What’s good for the goose… and all that.

    In my small part I always misplace retail copies of The Times wherever I find them…

  10. A change in land use on Kinrara is long overdue so Brewdog’s recent purchase is welcome. A cessation of muirburn is the first priority, but big questions hang over Brewdog’s plans. Kinrara is adjacent to the Dulnain native pinewood, a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest, naturally regenerated for thousands of years since the last Ice Age. Its natural expansion across Kinrara and into the headwaters of the River Dulnain should be the prime ecological objective. Deer fencing and planting in this area is inappropriate and will degrade the natural qualities of the woodland and montane habitats and their wild land values. What is required is a substantial reduction in red deer grazing pressure across the whole estate through culling, not fencing, with more, not less stalkers/gamekeepers employed, but with revised job descriptions. These initial plans from Brewdog are too strongly influenced by the requirements of the Scottish Forestry grant system which is biased towards planting instead of natural regeneration and is no longer fit for purpose when dealing with an area like Kinrara. Brewdog need to re-think their plans. These recently published plans require significant change if Kinrara is to become an exemplar of good practice. There is a real opportunity, in making those changes, to demonstrate how landscape scale ecological restoration can be central to biodiversity recovery and climate change mitigation in the Scottish Highlands. If they need any help in this all they have to do is look across the strath and see what Anders Povlsen and his Wildland team have achieved on Glenfeshie estate on the western flanks of the Cairngorms massif.

    1. Well said DM….while applauding Brewdogs desire to move away from the appallingly destructive practice of DGS they should be very careful who they take advice from. Commercial foresters are not experts in rewilding; understandable at present as their [forestry companies] livelihoods depend on trees as a crop, not as part of a natural system.[their beer, including the non alcoholic ones are in my humble opinion and without fear or favour, excellent!].

  11. This is brilliant news. Love that they are calling it The Lost Forest.

    It’s an example of what the Shooting UK article says – that carbon-offsetters are outbidding shooters in the purchase of at least some moors. I hope this economic trend increases and happens in Yorkshire too!

  12. I think this is wonderful that brew dog are going to tewild this area, I’m all for Mitsubishi biking and kayaking and camping in the wild. They are the sorts of hobbies I love. Breeding obviously need to do something good after all the negative press they have had lately. But just on the flip side for a moment, would you rather eat a grouse that has lived a happy life in the wild or a chicken reared in a barn?

    1. Neither!!
      I would rather eat a free range chicken which was reared in accordance with the RSPCA Assured and Red Tractor schemes, and supports British farming!!
      The grouse you mention may have led a fairly natural life in the wild- but many of the animals with which it is supposed to share its space in that natural environment, will have suffered immensely.
      The ethical argument for eating grouse falls down at many hurdles.
      If the bird had come from an estate which practices only walk up shooting, the land and wildlife management is carried out with a view to protecting and enhancing all species of flora and fauna, which includes the strictest ethical animal welfare practices when it comes to deterring and removing those species which hinder conservation, and the person who shot the bird did so with a clean kill instant kill, and didn’t use lead shot, then the argument for eating such a bird might have some credibility.
      But according to the RSPB the Red Grouse is listed on the amber list as a conservation species. So should we be killing such a bird for food when there are far better alternatives?
      – so I would rather eat a RSPCA Assured free range chicken- ideally an organic one, and donate some money to various conservation charities who work to protect and enhance the natural environment and the wildlife which lives in it!!

    2. Hi Brendan, would you like to eat the other 5 – 10% or so of grouse that are never found by the pickers-up after a good day of DGS? Say the bag is a typical 200 brace (400 birds) – there will be another 30-odd shot & badly pelleted birds that manage to fly on elsewhere to hide in a little nook in which to die agonisingly over a few days, or get sniffed out by a rat or a stoat if any of those remain. Some diligent keepers will do a sweep with dogs the next day to recover some of these, but most are too busy doing the usual things to produce more grouse. Maybe photos of these pitiful slow deaths should be made available to those that dine on grouse or pheasant or in fact any driven game bird? But then again someone would only say they are props from the freezer!

    3. As a mountainbiker (though old, slow and cautious) I am moved to ask – What has Mitsubishi to do with it?

  13. Whilst this news is very welcome news, it’s another worrying reminder of the relative impotence of government in Scotland (and this is not a party-specific point), that it lacks the confidence, vision and courage to do anything decisive, or to show leadership on the environmental issues which most impact us locally. If we need to rely on the whims of billionaires and the alcohol industry to determine the future of land use in Scotland, then we’ll have given up on democratic accountability and the possibility of a viable long term plan, and also neglected to address the single biggest cause of our malaise – concentrated unaccountable land-ownership.
    I do also salute Brewdog’s support of minimum alcohol pricing: a healthier population to appreciate their healthier landscape!

    1. I do too, liked the name of the company for the humour of the name (inside joke, a brewery dog is a mouse!). Bought my first Brew Dog beer last week, again because I found the name ‘Dead Pony Club’ amusing. Beer’s good!

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