Renowned BBC wildlife broadcaster and ornithologist Iolo Williams will be the keynote speaker at the pioneering Moffat Eagle Festival in the UK’s first official Eagle Town. The star features within a festival programme of fascinating and fun events for all ages, celebrating one of Scotland’s most iconic species, from 22 to 24 September 2023.
The first of its kind in the UK, the community-led festival is viewed as another significant milestone for the award-winning South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project which, thanks to support from the project partners and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, has already helped to increase the local population of golden eagles to 38 (the highest number recorded for three centuries) following a series groundbreaking translocations.
Now in its third year, this year’s festival programme includes a family fun day, an Eagle Hill Fell Run, a motorbike event, a chainsaw demonstration by Moffat-based award-winning carver Peter Bowsher, live music, wildlife and author talks, and more.
In addition to supporting the project’s conservation efforts, there is evidence that the festival is supporting economic regeneration within the vibrant town of Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway. Some businesses have even developed golden eagle themed products to support the charity initiative. And a stunning wooden bench, carved exclusively by Moffat’s own Sam Bowsher (winner of the Canadian Discovery TV series A Cut Above), still sits proudly in the town centre two years after it was unveiled at the very first festival to mark the new Eagle Town status.
Speaking about his involvement in the 2023 Moffat Eagle Festival Iolo Williams said: “I’m delighted to be involved in the Moffat Eagle Festival to celebrate the fantastic work of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project in boosting the small golden eagle population in the south of the country. It’s going to be a brilliant day with a whole series of fascinating talks and fun events. There really will be something for the whole family. I will be speaking on Saturday 23 September, but would love to stay for the whole weekend if I can.”
Rick Taylor, Community Engagement Officer at South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project and one of the founders of the festival, said: “The Moffat Eagle Festival has become a must-attend annual event for wildlife lovers across the country, bringing fantastic economic, social and cultural benefits to the area. Its continued success is absolutely testament to the community’s phenomenal support for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project.”
Pip Tabor, Manager of the Southern Uplands Partnership, the project’s host charity added: “It is brilliant to see that so many people are so passionate about protecting this iconic species in the south of Scotland. The more people understand the importance of golden eagles, and what can be done to protect them, the more golden eagles will flourish in southern skies and the healthier our ecosystems will be.”
Dave Smith is one of the local business owners embracing the growing eagle population in the south of Scotland and the Moffat Eagle Town status. His popular Buccleuch Arms hotel and restaurant promotes adventure activities including eagle-themed motorcycle routes across the south of Scotland. Dave has also adopted ‘Buccy’, a young male eagle translocated by the project in 2022, and commissioned a 7-foot chainsaw carving of a golden eagle by Peter Bowsher for the festival.
Explaining why he thought it was important to support the initiative, Dave said: “We are all completely behind the golden eagle project and our hotel is embracing the Moffat Eagle Festival with open arms. It is a fantastic addition to the amazing experience visitors can have in the area. We see the great potential of a thriving golden eagle population in the south of Scotland. Our guests are very excited at the chance of an eagle encounter, our eagle routes are increasingly popular and we are supporting Moffat’s identity as an Eagle Town in every way we can. We look forward to hosting some of the Moffat Eagle Festival celebrations in 2023 and seeing even more golden eagles soaring in Moffat skies for many years to come.”
Leys Geddes chair of Visit Moffat added: “The Moffat Eagle Festival is a wonderful celebration. In its first two years, many businesses reported that the town was busier than it has been for a very long time – helping our town to recover from lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty. We look forward to building on this in 2023.
“This little town is the gateway to the 300sq km of the Moffat Hills. Our hills are like a mini-Highlands, providing outstanding scenery, green grass for our sheep farmers and a rich variety of wildlife. So Moffat is ideally situated to be Scotland’s First Eagle Town and to celebrate, and be hosts to, one of Scotland’s most iconic species – the golden eagle.”
Local whisky makers, Dark Sky Spirits, have once again produced a limited-edition Eagle Festival Whisky to raise funds for the work of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. Speaking of their involvement Dark Sky Spirits co-founder, Erin Bullard said: “It is brilliant to be part of the Eagle Festival in Moffat. Preservation of land and wildlife is something we care deeply about and after raising £1,000 from our 2021 whisky release, we hope to do it again in 2023. We are delighted to continue to play a part in helping to ensure golden eagles truly flourish in southern skies for generations to come.”
Speaking about the festival Gordon Smith VisitScotland Destination Development Director for the South of Scotland said: “The South of Scotland, with its spectacular scenery and unique natural environment, is a fantastic location for watching wildlife. Not only is the Moffat Eagle Festival contributing to the protection of the iconic species as part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, it has quickly established itself as a valuable addition to the events offering in the region.
“Our communities, along with our natural and cultural heritage, are what make Scotland so special. It is vital we protect and preserve them for the future. Tourism is a force for good. It creates jobs, sustains communities and contributes significant to the economy.”
Caroline Clark, Director for Scotland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund added: “The Golden Eagle Festival is yet another innovative way in which the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is helping communities learn about this awe-inspiring bird of prey and the role it plays in Scotland’s biodiversity. Not only does this bring new visitors to discover this beautiful part of Scotland, but it helps to safeguard the golden eagle’s existence for future generations.
“Through our conversations with National Lottery players, we know that nature is incredibly important to them and it is thanks to them that our £1.5m support for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is helping to protect the south of Scotland’s outstanding wildlife, landscapes and biodiversity.”
Since 2018, the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has almost tripled the local population of golden eagles through a series of groundbreaking translocations to secret locations in the southern uplands.
South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project partners RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Forestry, NatureScot and the Southern Uplands Partnership worked on the project together for more than 11 years before releasing the first eagle chicks in 2018. Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, project partners and the Scottish Government, the initiative is a key project under ‘Scotland’s Biodiversity. A Route Map to 2020’, supporting the Government’s ‘2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity’.
For the latest project and festival news, or to donate to the charity initiative, visit: www.goldeneaglessouthofscotland.co.uk