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!


Why the hunt for North Sea oil is getting harder

The North Sea has some way to go before running out of oil but faced with falling output, unlocking new reserves is proving technologically complex and expensive, according to experts.

Why the hunt for North Sea oil is getting harder
Photo: L.C. Nøttaasen (File)

"There are clouds on the horizon but the outlook is bright," said Nils Helge Sorgard, head of business development at oil and gas group Wintershall Norge AS, at a recent energy industry conference in Aberdeen, northeast Scotland.

Around 100 professionals last week converged on the port city, whose economy is inextricably linked to the North Sea energy industry, to assess the future of oil exploration in the waters between Scotland and Norway.

As energy experts got down to business there was a reminder of the dangers faced by the industry, as 240 kilometres from Aberdeen, gas leaking from a North Sea platform forced the evacuation of more than 300 workers.

French oil giant Total, which operates the stricken Elgin platform, said the leak was the most serious problem it had faced in the North Sea in a decade.

At the Oil & Gas Outlook North Sea 2012 conference, experts assessed the industry's outlook against a backdrop of data highlighting a decline in the amount of crude brought to the surface.

Britain's North Sea oil and gas production slumped 54 percent in the decade to 2010, while the British government estimates that it will collapse by a further 60 percent by 2030. Norway's output dropped 5.0 percent between 2000 and 2010.

The government estimates that the area of the North Sea owned by Britain holds roughly 7.8 billion barrels of extractable oil and 4.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), or gas, that can be brought to the surface.

That is the equivalent to 15 years at current production rates.

Norway's government meanwhile estimates that there are still 40 billion boe that can be extracted from its North Sea waters.

But none of this 'black gold' is easy to grab.

"The easy oil is over and now we have to exploit much (more) difficult oil — here is the challenge," said Tim Davies, Premier Oil's exploration manager, North Sea.

"We have to push the play deeper and beyond the known extent," he told AFP.

To the north of Britain and west of the Shetland Islands, a series of gas fields pose "quite significant" exploration challenges, according to Garry Dempster, commercial & business development manager at DONG Energy UK.

We are talking about "very deep waters and it's the harshest environment in the UK, with extreme waves and high winds. The development costs and technical risks are high."

Dempster said that the Laggan-Tormore project — a joint venture with Total — required an investment of £2.5 billion ( $4.0 billion), including a contribution of £500 million from DONG Energy UK.

But exploration in such remote areas is not vital, according to Premier Oil's Davies.

"Even in areas largely explored in the past, we think there are still resources to be found," he said.

"The challenge will be to keep the existing infrastructures alive to maximise the volume in mature fields … and continue exploration. It's not an easy game."

Much depends on the oil price. With Brent crude currently trading at over $120 a barrel, funding difficult exploration is feasible. But should a slump occur and oil prices slump to around $70, "it will make a big difference for production," one industry source said.

The industry, which is continually looking for government incentives to help meet the high costs of North Sea oil extraction, won a boost in Britain's recent budget.

Oil & Gas UK warmly welcomed finance minister George Osborne's package of tax measures that the industry body said would result in tens of billions of pounds of additional investment to exploit Britain's oil and gas reserves.