For over 140 years, we have ensured a refuge for Wild Haggis and offer professional training for prospective Haggis Guardians, staff, volunteers and haggis handlers.
The late 19th century was a time of heightened intrigue for the natural realm. As the dust of the Industrial Revolution settled, a wave of gentleman scholars and budding naturalists emerged, drawn to the tales of untamed terrains and the creatures that inhabited them. Concurrently, the burgeoning art of photography offered newfound opportunities, promising to capture the essence of even the most elusive of beings.
Within this mélange of intellectual fervour and innovation, the Haggis Wildlife Foundation was conceived. Established in 1892 by Sir Archibald MacTavish, the 7th Earl of Glenfinnan, the Foundation roots lay in MacTavish enchantment with Scotland rich tapestry of folklore. The tales of the haggis, the enigmatic
creature said to traverse the wilds, had held him spellbound since youth.
The Formation Of The Haggis Wildlife Foundation
W ith the dawn of photographic advancements, MacTavish envisioned capturing indisputable evidence of the haggis in its natural environs. To realize this vision, he sought the best in the field: notably, Neil McKinnon, whose reputation as a preeminent wildlife photographer preceded him. McKinnon's prowess lay not just in his photographic skill but in his ability to manoeuvre heavy
equipment across rugged landscapes and process glass plate negatives under challenging conditions. Dr. Edwin
McTaggart, with his vast zoological knowledge, bolstered the team's scientific credentials. Meanwhile, Duncan and Harris MacLeod, Highland natives, served as the expedition's trusted guides. By 1895, the Heatherlie estate in the Scottish Borders became the nerve centre for the Foundation.
Entering The Realm Of Haggis - Expeditions 1896
I n the spring of 1896, the Haggis Wildlife Foundation commenced its first official expeditions into the Scottish Highlands. Their aim was to document irrefutable photographic evidence of the elusive haggis and study its behaviour in the wild. Spirits were high amongst the explorers, led by chief photographer Neil McKinnon and head biologist Dr. Edwin McTaggart. The initial weeks of the expedition proved frustrating, as seemingly suitable haggis habitats such as peat bogs and heather fields turned up no definitive sightings. The team learned that stealth, patience, and luck would be required in abundance. Fortunes changed in May when Duncan MacLeod, one of the Highland guides, spotted a fleeting brown shape darting through a creek. Following the creature, he led McKinnon to a hillside burrow - the first haggis lair ever discovered.
McKinnon's first photograph of a live haggis emerging from its burrow - fuzzy yet revolutionary - caused a sensation back in London, vindicating the Foundation's mission. More sightings followed, along with invaluable observations on haggis behaviour recorded by Dr. McTaggart. The team celebrated their most fruitful month with a dram of whisky beside Loch Ness. However, challenges remained. The cumbersome cameras frustrated efforts to capture the fast, elusive haggis. Transporting heavy glass plates across boggy terrain proved exhausting. Developing images onsite in Scotland's fickle weather was a struggle. Still, McKinnon and McTaggart remained undaunted. The realm of the haggis had finally been entered, and many secrets remained to be revealed.
Sir Archibald MacTavish, the 7th Earl of Glenfinnan
In the grand and sweeping tapestry of the natural realm, there exist certain creatures cloaked in layers of mystery and sheer wonder, captivating the imaginations of all who dare to delve into their stories. The haggis, that elusive beacon of enigma, stands proudly among these creatures, shrouded in an air of mystique.