The 20,000 acre estate in our stewardship includes crofting land, several common grazings, a farm, commercial and heritage properties and commercial and natural woodlands.
The Clan Donald Lands Trust charity
The Clan Donald Lands Trust (CDLT) CDLT was founded through a Clan Donald community buyout of part of the old Macdonald Estate in 1971. As a registered charity (Scottish charity number SC007862) the Trust has no capital shareholders and our local community is the main capital beneficiary of the charity. Most of our revenue goes to local payroll and local suppliers.
Each year we employ community members from over 25 local families and take pride in our long history of community wealth-building. Over half a century we have employed many hundreds of local people and invested millions of pounds into the local economy.
CDLT is a charity dedicated to our indigenous heritage, culture, people, and land – locally here in Skye and across the Gàidhealtachd. We are at the centre of our community here in Sleat, both as a large local employer and, together with our local crofting and farming partners, as a steward of the wider estate. In addition, CDLT has invested in education, cultural events, grants, and sponsorships.
We welcome local development and partnership ideas, with a number of initiatives already in motion and major local consultation on other exciting projects to start Autumn/Winter 2023.
The door is always open; get in touch!
More information on who we are and the charity HERE.
Clan Donald Estate management premise
CDLT manages the Clan Donald Estate land and property for sustainable development. This means meeting the needs of the present whilst ensuring future prosperity, with equitable effort given to management that benefits local communities, the environment, and the local economy.
CDLT’s Clan Donald Estate is primarily a crofting estate. Crofting is a mixed agricultural system based on small-scale occupation of land. Unique to the Highlands and Islands, crofting is a vital part of indigenous culture. We are proud to help maintain this sustainable land management activity.
CDLT is committed to ensuring a viable future for traditional crofting on Skye, working in partnership with Common Grazing Committees and individual crofters within their townships.
Agriculture is a crucial part of local life, being important for the economy, communities and the environment. As well as the significant crofts and associated common grazings across the estate, we also lease land to local people for sheep and cattle farming. Our long-term objective is to make local meat available to the public to buy, and to supply our own café and other local food businesses with estate produce.
Deer Management and Game Shooting
Red deer and roe deer are native species in Scotland, with both being present on the CDLT estate. Humans are a natural predator of deer in the UK, and we cull deer to maintain herd welfare as well as for the health of the environment. Our highly experienced wildlife managers use non-lead ammunition, with deer carcasses being processed by a skilled Island butcher and sold for affordable prices in our café and, depending on seasonal availability, our shop.
The Clan Donald Estate is not a sporting estate. The Trust does not carry out commercial sport stalking at present, for two reasons:
- Our ground is challenging, requiring a high level of physical fitness and shooting competence to ensure the venison harvest is maximised.
- Sport stalking in Scotland is currently too focused on stags and trophies, which does not align with the Trust’s values. In addition, due to previous poor deer management including a lack of age-range planning, this model of commercial stalking would not be viable. It will take 5 years to repair the age ranges of hefted red deer on the CDLT estate.
CDLT is clear on its deer management responsibilities, including deer welfare considerations. Following recent highly selective culls, the Clan Donald Estate has low red and roe deer densities – well below Forest and Land Scotland recommended densities. Deer are native to Sleat and Skye and play an important part of the island ecosystem.
We are in the process of rebuilding sustainable deer age classes within the hefts and the overall herd. Target densities are 3-5 deer per sq km and 7 per sq km in traditional hefted areas, which we have achieved over most of the estate now. We operate to the ‘Clutton Brock Rum Block 3’ model, operating at lower deer densities for a healthier and better-balanced herd.
Local residents with deer-related issues are asked to contact CDLT via the ‘contact us’ page or pop in for a chat.
Local Deer Management Group
CDLT is the former chair of the South Skye Deer Management Group. The group is currently on pause due to matters not connected with CDLT. The underlying basis for an effective deer management group is that every landowner and manager in that geographic area is involved, otherwise a group cannot be purposeful and effective.
As custodians of the land under our care and management, rather than single-species focused groups we support landscape-scale partnerships; essentially working with other landowners and related bodies to greater common good outcomes. Working together for the wider Skye environment is vital and CDLT looks forward to working with other local landowners and managers over the years ahead.
We carry out lawful control of generalist predators such as foxes and hooded crows, because these common, widespread species destroy the eggs and chicks of rare and vulnerable species such as the curlew and hen harrier. Generalist predators also harm livestock, which in turn harms the viability of our agricultural communities. In addition, we leave a small number of deer carcasses on the hill to provide food for important species such as golden and white-tailed eagles, particularly during wild and wintry weather.
CDLT’s estate has a number of hill lochs, where our guests can fish for wild brown trout. Sadly, wild salmon and sea trout populations are negligible, in common with much of the West Coast. Fishing permits cost £20 per day, and can be purchased subject to compliance with our fishing terms by contacting the office. As a charity, we re-invest the income from fishing permits into our management activity. Fishing is strictly fly only.
The right to fish from freshwater lochs in Scotland belongs to the landowner. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code does not give members of the public the right to fish; fishing is not included in the Scottish right to responsible outdoor access. The future of Scotland’s wild fish stocks depends on sustainable management, investment and hard work, which is undermined by poaching. Help our wild fisheries conservation: please do not fish without consent.
Earlier in 2023 we started an initiative to explore the feasibility of a local Sleat angling club, which would be intended to be as much a get-together social club as a pure fishing experience. We are currently ascertaining the viability of stocking a couple of lochs and sea-angling boat potential. We look forward to reaching out to the community to establish interest in a club when we are clearer on the practicality and insurance implications related to third party use of boats. In the meantime, if you are interested or have any suggestions do please get in touch. We have already met with several south Skye residents who have expressed a keen interest. Contact details at bottom of page.
As a responsible island landowner, CDLT is mindful of the Scottish Government’s commitment to renewable energy, a just transition, and sustainable development. We support this commitment and are exploring how our land can play its part. Low carbon renewable energy from wind, hydro and biomass may be options in Sleat. As sustainability has three equal pillars – economy, environment and communities – we are committed to ensuring that any future renewable energy development at CDLT benefits local people, local wealth-building, and our treasured environment.
Forestry and Woodland Management
Outside of the policies of Armadale Castle, CDLT’s estate has several young, commercial conifer plantations that aim to produce good-quality softwood timber in the years to come. These plantations sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and represent an important part of the estate’s natural capital stocks.
Across our estate we also have woodlands including native species such as oak, birch, rowan, hazel, Scots pine, beech and ash. These woods provide an important, biodiverse habitat, which we intend to protect and expand in suitable locations.
Natural Capital is broadly understood to refer to the Earth’s stock of renewable and non-renewable natural assets that, in turn, provide the flow of ecosystem services upon which human life depends. These natural assets include geology, water, soil and forests, amongst others. Examples of the ecosystem services derived from these assets include food, biodiversity, climate regulation and recreation.
CDLT is committed to responsible management of natural capital. Because natural capital underpins everything we do, it is woven into all of our management decisions. We are currently cautious about any commercial exploitation of carbon credits, for example from sales under the woodland and peatland carbon codes, because their markets are immature and there may be unintended, onerous consequences for future generations of land managers and crofters. We are keeping this matter under review, and welcome conversations with local stakeholders and colleagues within Scottish Government.
CDLT has a limited number of residential properties. Across our 20,000 acres we have limited housing occupied by essential employees. We have two sites earmarked for construction of new housing, including staff accommodation and affordable housing for local people. The availability of good quality, energy-efficient housing at realistic rents for local people is the key to ensuring a viable future for our charity.
CDLT’s estate is centred around the ruin of Armadale Castle and its beautiful surrounding gardens. A five-star visitor attraction, our commercial enterprises include:
- Self-catering properties: Armadale Castle Cabins, Forester’s Cottage, The Flora Apartment and The Lady Margaret Apartment.
- Armadale Castle Ruin and Gardens, a significant arboretum of rare trees, shrubs and flowers originally laid out in the 19th century by the then Lord Macdonald.
- The Museum of the Isles, telling the Highlands and Islands story through the eyes of the famous Clan Donald.
- The Gatehouse Shop, offering primarily Scottish gifts and souvenirs.
- The Stables Café, providing visitors with barista coffee, baking and light meals. Local produce is used where possible.
- The Clan Archive and Library, with books and other documents covering all aspects of Scottish culture and history. Our library has one of the best reference collections in Scotland. Due to the nature of research queries, the Archive and Library are by appointment only.
As we take forward the sustainable development of our estate, we plan to repurpose currently derelict buildings to create further commercial offerings. Ideas for exploration include live-work units and a community market garden with tea room. Community engagement will begin in due course.
“Take only photos, leave only footprints.” We welcome responsible visitors to CDLT’s estate. We have a range of walking trails from very easy routes within the gardens, to challenging hill routes across our more remote areas.
The wooded policies immediately outside the gardens contain short nature trails that are open to walkers and careful mountain bikers. Longer trails include Coille Dalavil and Point of Sleat, both offering more strenuous terrain and incredible sea views. Our estate is dog-friendly, but please clean up after your dog and keep it on a lead when near livestock, and during the bird nesting season (April – July). It is a criminal offence to worry livestock or disturb wildlife. Please park responsibly if accessing your starting point by vehicle. Work occurs on the estate day and night all year round; please do not block access tracks or junctions.
Our estate is a working environment, and we expect visitors to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code: know the Code before you go! Farming, deer management, and property maintenance are all legitimate estate activities that take place across our land, so we ask visitors to please take care and work respectfully with our staff team to ensure a safe environment for everyone.
In particular, wild campers must use stoves instead of lighting campfires, as our environment is at serious risk of wildfire. Do not cut down trees for firewood, as this hurts our woodland conservation. There are toilets at Armadale Pier (CalMac) and at The Stables and our Museum. Campervans must not dump waste on land or in our precious watercourses: please use designated campervan facilities.
We seek to maintain a healthy, resilient and biodiverse environment. In the age of the climate crisis, this has never been more important. Due to our mosaic of habitats including coast, woodland and moorland, CDLT’s estate is rich in biodiversity. We have a wide variety of bird and animal species, including golden and white-tailed eagles, various wading birds, finches, deer, otters and pine martens. Our estate is also home to an incredible array of plant life, including ferns, lichens, grasses and wildflowers.
Four areas of CDLT’s estate are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, which is a statutory designation regulated by an agency of the Scottish Government, NatureScot. These fragile sites require special management. Some activities, such as the lighting of campfires, is not lawful within the site boundaries. Our SSSIs are listed below; click the links to see the site maps and find out more:
Although much of our land is controlled by crofters, Common Grazing Committees and other tenants, together we are committed to sustainable management of our collective environment. With this in mind, and under its recent new leadership, CDLT is pursuing active partnership working with the occupiers of our land to achieve best environmental outcomes. This is part of our objective to realise a thriving community rooted in a resilient environment.
The Gàidhealtachd is the Gàidhlig speaking area of Scotland in the Highlands and Islands. Gàidhlig is an indigenous language of the UK, but it is endangered due to socio-economic challenges that have accumulated over several centuries and, sadly, still continue today. Although the Scottish Government is trying to help, CDLT believes that more can be done to protect and enhance Gàidhlig as a living language of everyday use.
Sleat is at the heart of Gàidhlig language on the Isle of Skye, with the only Gàidhlig medium higher education institution in Scotland located here: Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. The Clan Donald is traditionally the principal clan of the Gàidheal, and the Gàidhealtachd is our charity’s significant community of interest. From the Gàidhlig arts, including our music, poetry and literature, to the interpretation of our landscape and environment, our spirituality, and the structure and viability of our crofting communities: in our language lies the integrity of our whole culture. Under our new CEO, CDLT has committed to develop a Gàidhlig language plan for our estate as one of our sustainable development objectives.