Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards

These awards celebrate the contribution that woodlands can make to the people, environment and economic prosperity of Scotland


The annual ‘Tree Oscars’ to recognise Scotland’s finest forests and woodlands have named their first Climate Change Champion – just weeks before COP26 comes to Glasgow.

Balbeg Estate’s Bennan Hill, near Straiton, Ayrshire – owned by Andrew and Lynne Sinclair – won the new award, sponsored by CarbonStore, as Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards returned after a Covid-cancellation in 2020.

Professor Chris Quine, Chief Scientist at Forest Research, who led the team assessing the Climate Change Champion entries, said: “The judges were very keen to find a worthy winner for the new award and we certainly did find one, in Balbeg Estate.

“Bennan Hill was a well-planned and well-executed case study, drawing on guidance and expert knowledge to address the climate emergency by establishing trees to sequester carbon and contribute to a decarbonised future.

“Even more noteworthy was the way the estate demonstrated an integrated approach to tackling climate change throughout its activities with actions relating to mitigation, adaptation and knowledge exchange.  The owners demonstrated a strong commitment and a real consistency of vision which made this site a very worthy champion.”

The other 2021 winners ranged from a small playgroup in Perth and a high school in Pitlochry to Scotland’s largest landowner, Anders Holch Povlsen, who won the New Native Woods Award for Killiehuntly Woodland in the Cairngorms.  Mr Povlsen said the success was based on “a big team effort” and added: “We very much appreciate this recognition and I’m very proud.”

Thomas MacDonell, Director of Conservation at Wildland Ltd, who led the project, said it was “absolutely fantastic” to win what he described as “the premier forestry awards”. He added: “This could not have happened without Anders Holch Povlsen, who had the vision and courage to stick by us.”

It was a year of firsts – the first Climate Change Champion prize, the first time the Awards were held online in almost 40 years – and the first award for early years woodland education.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the schools and early years prizes for Pitlochry High School and Perth Outdoor Playgroup. She said: “I’m delighted to be able to support these fantastic Awards again, and to see young people in Scotland, from nursery through to secondary school, engaging with trees and nature in such a positive way.

“In the year that COP26 comes to Scotland, it’s important that our schools and early years settings continue to encourage young people to enjoy and value our woodlands. By learning about woodlands, taking part in activities, and sometimes also by planting new trees and protecting our woodlands, our young people are creating a greener, better future for Scotland. Congratulations to all the awards winners and everyone involved in celebrating the very best woodlands in Scotland.”

Angela Douglas, Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, said: “The high standard and number of entries in the Schools Award made it hard for judges to separate schools and early years settings. As a result the Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland team at Scottish Forestry agreed to provide an early years trophy – a beautiful carved wooden acorn reflecting the saying ‘From little acorns mighty oaks grow’ – and prize money.”

The number and quality of entries for the 2021 awards was very strong overall, Angela Douglas added.

“The strength of the awards depends on maintaining very high standards and recognising entries that truly deserve the title ‘finest woods’,” she said. “After the Covid cancellation in 2020, I’m delighted we have been able to bounce back with such a high-quality programme – and I would especially like to thank our 23 volunteer judges who put in so much work in difficult circumstances to ensure the quality standard was maintained.”

You can enjoy the 2021 Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards Ceremony and find out all those awarded here.