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Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project

Video coming soon!

The brief was to produce a short film, approximately one minute in duration, to highlight the key ecological features of the Dornoch Firth with an emphasis on marine life. The aim is to highlight the intrinsic link between the distillery and its surrounding environment demonstrating the value of Glenmorangie’s commitment to the area’s biodiversity whilst reinforcing its “sense of place”. The film also introduces the ‘Dornoch Firth Environmental Enhancement Project’ and feature brief interviews with key players from Glenmorangie, Heriot Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society.

The Dornoch Firth Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP) is a triple-helix partnership between the three aforementioned organisations and reflects the interests of the institutions in the fields of marine environmental enhancement, mitigation and societal benefits.


Announcing the development at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt academics Dr Bill Sanderson and Dr Jose Farinas-Franco presented an environmental review of the Dornoch Firth revealing the historic and present-day distribution of shellfish habitats and other environmental factors.

The DEEP project seeks to evaluate the scope for environmental enhancement within the Dornoch Firth, to support the marine environment and to minimise any environmental impact of the distillery.

Dr Bill Sanderson, principal investigator on the project, said “We are in the early stages of this partnership, which is an innovative initiative to address environmental challenges to the Dornoch Firth and to reconsider the standards for protected areas. We believe there is potential to achieve multiple benefits here whilst also invigorating environmental quality, and it is a potentially rewarding intersection between mitigation, biodiversity and ecosystem services to the local community. The DEEP project is now consolidating the evidence-base for environmental enhancement and building a practical platform to take these ideas forward.”

The Dornoch Firth, together with Loch Fleet, has been designated both Special Protection Area (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The tidal flats support internationally important numbers of waterbirds on migration and in winter, and are the most northerly and substantial extent of intertidal habitat for wintering waterbirds in the UK, as well as Europe. The Firth is also of importance as a feeding area for locally breeding Osprey.

The Dornoch Firth is the most northerly large, complex estuary in the UK virtually unaffected by industrial development. Wide sandy beaches dominate the large bays at the mouth of the Firth, and areas of saltmarsh occur around the shores. The estuary contains extensive areas of mudflats and sandflats with high diversity of animal and plant communities. The area also supports a good population of otters in what is the only east coast estuarine site selected for the species in Scotland, as well as a significant proportion of the inner Moray Firth population of the Harbour seal.

Key Species

  • Osprey
  • Bar-tailed Godwit
  • Greylag Goose
  • Wigeon, Curlew
  • Dunlin
  • Oystercatcher
  • Teal
  • Otter
  • Harbour seal
  • Harbour porpoise/cetaceans

Together with Richard Shucksmith, we spent just over 2 weeks at the Dornoch Firth with the primary aim of filming as much of the wildlife and landscapes as possible. We split the filming sessions into two parts, one at the end of the winter and one late spring with a deadline of beginning of May. The ideaof the two sessions was to try and capture the wildlife in different seasons, but, due to a particularly mild winter the difference wasn’t that distinct.

As always we pretty much hit the ground running and every day we were up at dawn and not back until dark. The Dornoch Firth is relatively large and much of its wildlife is fairly shy, particularly the wading birds, which took a bit of patience to film close-up.