Buccleuch holds talks with communities over south of Scotland land
Two community groups are weighing up bids for a large swathe of land in southern Scotland.
Buccleuch announced its intention earlier this year to sell off about 25,000 acres of its Borders Estate.
It has now confirmed that two communities have expressed an interest in buying some or all of the land.
It said it was holding talks with the groups and had decided to "create a window" for them to consider their options up until March next year.
The area involved stretches from Auchenrivock in the south to Hartsgarth in the north - much of it currently part of the group's farming operations.
Buccleuch, which represents the interests of the Buccleuch family, said the land included a "small number" of farm tenancies which would continue under any new ownership along with blocks of forestry.
The area involved also contains Langholm Moor which has been the site of two major scientific projects into moorland management.
Executive chairman Benny Higgins said they had opened consultation on 30 May with a view to putting the land on the market in August if there was no registered interest.
However, two communities have "expressed a desire to reflect on whether or not they may wish to bid for some or all of the land that is to be sold".
Mr Higgins said they had now decided to "create a window" until the end of March 2020 to allow communities to develop a successful bid.
If that does not happen, Buccleuch will continue with the planned marketing of the land.
One of the communities involved has described it as the "opportunity of a lifetime".
Barbara Elborn, secretary of Newcastleton and District Community Trust (NDCT), said: "The south of Scotland has lagged well behind other parts of Scotland in acquiring land for its communities, this is now our time.
"The challenge this presents us is huge but NDCT, the wider community and our neighbours, will do our utmost to ensure that the time granted to us is used to explore the opportunity this affords us as a community."
Andrew Thin, who chairs the Scottish Land Commission, has welcomed the move.
He said it was a "great example" of how landowners could work effectively with communities to make the most of the local land.
He added: "It is good to see the possibility of negotiated transfer open up and we encourage both the estate and the communities to make the most of this opportunity."