Balnagowan Wilderness Camp

In May 1940, in answer to a plea from Britain, the Canadian government created the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) to come over to Britain and help cut down trees. Primarily stationed in the Highlands of Scotland, due to the availability of wood, the Corps located its headquarters at Beauly.

The Balnagowan Estate, located just south of Tain, was one of the private estates that supplied wood for the war during World War Two.

In 1941, the No. 9 and No.14 CFC Companies made their base at the estate. On 2 July 1941, the No. 14 Company set up camp in the forest still referred to today as The Wilderness, near Balnagowan Castle. Like all CFC, the No. 14 Company was a self-contained unit:

"It (carried) on its strength tradesmen of every kind necessary for the efficient carrying on of its allotted tasks," Stanley (1944) quoted by W. C. Wonders (1991) in Sawdust Fusiliers.

In most cases, within a week of arriving, the company was ready to start cutting the trees; within another week a mill was built to saw up the wood. In this case, however, missing parts for the mill delayed the No.14 Company from getting started. Fortunately, the CFC were great improvisers and they used the machine shop at Balnagowan Castle to make replacements for the missing parts.

Audio

Storyteller Essie Stewart shares a local tale in both Gaelic and English.

Visiting Balnagowan Wilderness Camp

The exact location of Balnagowan Wilderness Camp is grid reference NH 741 765.

To get there, Follow the Aldie Burn forest walk signs South from the A9 Tain bypass down Scotsburn Road. Go past the turn off for the forest and continue south through Lamington to Scotsburn. The Wilderness is the forest located on the left. There are various entrance points to the forest from Scotsburn.
 
There is no official waymarked trail here. There are small traces of the previous use of the forest visible in places, for example, sawdust piles, but little else remains of the camp.

All sites managed by Forestry Commission Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.

Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.