Produced by The Local’s Creative Studio in partnership with Highland TitlesAre These Celebrities Descendants of Scottish Clans? | Highland Titles

 How to become a Lord or Lady 

(and help save the Scottish Highlands)

The Highland Titles Nature Reserve from above, Video: Highland Titles

Imagine it: You’re standing on a gently sloping hillside, looking out on a majestic snow-capped mountain ridge. The morning air is crisp, the subtle scent of heather mixing with the earthy peat. These are the Scottish Highlands – and you own a part of it, as a Laird (Lord) or Lady.

For centuries, the Scottish Highlands were under the stewardship of Lairds, landowners who would manage their estate for farming, hunting and fishing.

These Lairds, drawn from the Highland clans, have become part of Scottish tradition and folklore, inspiring books and TV shows such as ‘Outlander’ and ‘Rob Roy’ (based on the life of the Scottish outlaw). 

Together with Highland Titles, we show you how you can join their ranks, while contributing to the conservation of the Scottish Highlands, restoring the countryside and bringing back vital native species

an osprey on the hunt, in flight with a fish caught in a lake in northern finland

   An osprey snatches a fish from a loch. Photo: Getty Images

Salachan Burn bubbles and flows. Photo: Highland Titles

Lords and Ladies of Glencoe

Devoted to preserving the unspoiled, wild beauty of the Highlands, the family-run Highland Titles hit upon the idea of utilising a unique aspect of Scottish law.  In exchange for purchasing a small plot of land – as small as one square foot – buyers could legally term themselves a Lord, ‘Laird’ or Lady of Glencoe. 

As Director Doug Wilson tells us: “Souvenir plots have been sold in the United Kingdom since at least 1971. Now, they’re only available in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“You get what’s known as a personal right to a plot of land. It’s a valid and legal form of ownership that can be passed onto future generations.”

Since its establishment in 2007, Highland Titles has drawn customers from Australia, the United States and all over the world, keen to take on a title and own a piece of the Highlands.  

Positive publicity from around the world allowed Highland Titles to expand to own four other properties in the surrounding area, which are now being returned to a wild and natural state.

The majesty of the Scottish Highlands, seen from the Highland Titles Nature Reserve. Photo: Highland Titles

Guardians of the Glen

From the beginning, sustainable conservation of the Glencoe region was at the forefront of Highland Titles’ dreams for growth – and one that Wilson knew would take years to make a reality.  “Conservation is frustratingly long-term,” he says.

Access paths had to be built into the reserves, fences built and native plants and wildlife reintroduced. It was, by no means, something achieved overnight and without the help of many volunteers.

Yet, since its founding, Highland Titles has managed to re-establish populations of  osprey, squirrels and hedgehogs within its reserves. It even runs a hospital for injured hedgehogs, that is assisting in their repopulation efforts. 

Trail cameras regularly catch deer, foxes, squirrels and other mammals and bird life making the nature reserves their home, and the company continuously consults its property owners – that is to say, the Lairds and Ladies of Glencoe – on what species should be prioritized next in their conservation efforts.

A red squirrel enjoys a snack in the Highland Titles Nature Reserve. Video: Highland Titles

“I genuinely believe we sell the most engaging gift in the world.”

An ongoing investment

Engagement with their community of landowners is at the core of Highland Titles’ every day operations.

“I genuinely believe we sell the most engaging gift in the world,” says Wilson of its land ownership offerings.

“There’s not another company like us that converses so often and so well with our customers.

“We meet thousands of people every year at the nature reserve, and we hold the Highland Gathering, a two-day event.

“We get people who can’t believe what we’re doing. A few year ago we showed two people up to their plot and gave them a tour. 

“They were dumbfounded and asked us ‘How can you do this? We gave you £30 ten years ago!’”

Lords, Lairds or Ladies can visit the Highland Titles Nature Reserve at Duror, near Glencoe and be shown their plot at any time. Volunteers will help them find their plot, and show them the progress made possible by their support.

For those Lords and Ladies that decide to visit their plot, a number of local accommodation and service providers offer discounts to Highland Titles customers.

A gift that will last a lifetime

Becoming a Laird or Lady is easy on the Highland Titles website. Customers can choose to receive a luxury physical gift pack, or an eco-friendly digital gift pack that is proving to be an extremely popular option with last-minute shoppers and the environmentally conscious, as the digital pack is instantly available. With Christmas coming up, they make an ideal gift.

Whatever you choose, you can be sure the gift of land will last forever!


France’s famed roadside trees could face chop

French conservationists are once again fearing the much-loved lines of trees that frame a typical French style countryside road could soon be a thing of the past, with authorities reportedly lining up a mass chop in a bid to improve road safety.

France's famed roadside trees could face chop
Will the famed roadside trees of France's country roads become a thing of the past? Photo: Shutterstock

With the French government under pressure to bring down the number of road deaths fears are growing that a famous feature of the French countryside could be axed.

Around 10,000 “plane trees” or sycamores that adorn hundreds of rural roads for miles up on miles and that are believed to date back to Napoleon could be felled if the government decides road safety must come first.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has triggered concern among conservationists when he asked local authorities to undertake a “safety audit” and assess potential hazards from roadside infrastructure.

Although no mention of trees has directly been made, there are fears among conservation groups the famed trees could be chopped down.

“For the moment, this is just an audit but we remain on the alert. We have to wait and see what will result of it,” Chantal Fauché, president of the association for the protection of trees on road sides (Asppar), told the newspaper Le Figaro.  

“Admittedly, trees alongside the roads are aggravating factors for accidents but the plan to reduce the number of deaths on the road each year needs to tackle the causes of accidents.

“These are above all alcohol, speed and behaviour. Chopping down trees is a simple political choice, which also enables to generate saving costs from maintenance,” she added.

(Chantal Fauché pictured in 2001, during her campaign to protect the plane trees. Photo: AFP)

Nevertheless those calling for the government to take the axe to the trees point to some concerning  statistics.

In 2013, 326 people were killed on the road after hitting a tree, which amounted to 10 percent of people who died in a car accident.

More broadly, the same year, in 36 percent of cases when people died in road accidents, there were fixed obstacles such as a tree, a parked car or a median strip involved.

The debate about the danger of trees on road sides is long-standing one and it’s not the first time conservationists have become concerned.

In 2001, Asppar spoke out against the then claims of the Agricultural minister Jean Glavany who said that “plane trees along side roads are a public danger”.

Those words have been backed by vigilante bikers, who declared war on roadside trees the same year. The group calling itself the Anti-Plane Tree Commando sawed down dozens of trees because they were “sick to the teeth” of seeing motorcyclists or other bikers killed y smashing into one of the trees.

However in 2006, a report concluded that trees on road sides have a positive effect on motorists. It showed trees clearly mark out the road, are useful pointers for security distance between cars and give a sentiment of speed, which makes people slow down.

The first road trees were planted by Henri III, King of France in the 16th century in order to restore the French woods which had been cleared out during the Middle Ages.

Napoléon continued to plant sycamores alongside the roads of his war campaigns as a reserve of wood in the winter and provider of shadow for his troops in the summer.

By Chloé Farand