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Scotland is known for its naturally beautiful landscapes and high biodiversity. This is why wildlife tourism remains to be one of the most profitable industries here. There are so many places to visit to witness and appreciate Mother Nature and to enjoy Scotland’s diverse wildlife.
Want to experience nature and see Scottish animals? Below are the four best places in Scotland for wildlife watching every nature lover must visit:
The Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in the United Kingdom. Its size is around 4,500 square kilometres in terms of land area. This unspoilt mountain wilderness is a favourite among nature and wildlife lovers.
In terms of wildlife, Caingorms National Park is home to many animals including rare species like the golden eagle and the Scottish wildcat. There are less than 400 Scottish wildcats left, though, so spotting them can be challenging. Dotterels, snow buntings and mountain hares can also be found here.
Capercaillies, the largest member of the grouse family, are found in the park, too. While you may be able to hear them, the probability of seeing them is low since these birds are very elusive. A definite favourite among the visitors of the park is the red squirrel. While many areas in the UK are dominated by grey squirrels, Caingorms National Park is one of the last strongholds of the red squirrels.
Apart from wildlife watching, there are other activities you can do in this massive national park. Home to five out of the six highest mountains in Scotland, trekking is one of the more popular activities here. Others enjoy walking and cycling in several areas inside the park. Electric bicycles are available for rent. If you just want to simply relax amidst the beautiful scenery after wildlife watching, there are several cafes you can stay in.
Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides. It has a land area of about 875 square kilometres. Some wildlife experts in Scotland say that if there was only one place you can visit in Scotland to enjoy the wildlife, then you should visit the Isle of Mull.
There are many different types of animals that can be found here. Marine animals like the Atlantic grey seal, common seal and orcas have been spotted regularly. This place is also the home of the beloved Eurasian otters.
There are some rare occasions when humpback whales appeared in the area. Basking sharks, minke whales, bottle-nosed dolphins, common dolphins and porpoises may also be seen in the Isle of Mull. Around 6,000 red deer inhabit the Isle of Mull so it’s highly likely that you would be able to spot some of them on your visit.
For bird lovers, this is a paradise as the Isle of Mull is home to several seabirds, ducks and even eagles. Kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, shags and gulls are found in the main island. On the surrounding smaller islands, puffins, guillemots and razorbills may also be spotted. On rare occasions, storm petrels and Arctic skuas are known to make an appearance here also. Eider ducks and red-breasted mergansers nest along shorelines. In the inland lochs, you can find the red-throated diver, great northern diver and the black-throated diver. Most bird watchers, though, aim to spot the white-tailed sea eagles and golden eagles.
Apart from spotting the different animals in the area, the Isle of Mull has abundant activities that you can do. There are several places where you can enjoy a walk. There are also some golf courses in the area. The island is a great place to go cycling, too. For others who are looking for a different kind of riding experience, pony trekking is also another activity available in the island.
Are you a deer lover? If you are, then Invermark Estate is a place that you should visit. Invermark Estate is one of Scotland’s top deer parks. It is part of the 55,000-acre Dalhousie Estates which has been owned by the Earls of Dalhousie for almost 250 years. Invermark’s terrain is composed of mountains, hills and moorlands.
In 1853, it was turned into a deer forest following the release of a handful of red deer in the area. Currently, aside from the red deer, the roe deer also live on the estate. The estate managers report that there are around 2,000 deer roaming the estate.
Naturally, being a deer park, the main wildlife attraction here is the deer herd. However, unlike other deer parks, Invermark Estate allows visitors to watch the deer up on the hills. These guided deer walks would also teach you how to find deer on hilly or mountainous terrains. Furthermore, a visit to this estate would help you understand how premier deer parks like Invermark Estate manage to keep a sustainable deer herd. During your tour, you may also encounter otters, red squirrels and mountain hares.
Different species of birds are also found all over the estate. So, birdwatching may also be done here. Some of the birds you may see include the willow warbler, skylark, chaffinch and common sandpiper.
Boat fishing is another activity you can do at Invermark Estate. If you are lucky, you may catch a salmon in addition to arctic char and brown trout which are common on the Loch Lee. While fishing, you may spot sea eagles, ospreys and other birds.
Situated in Argyll, Knapdale Forest presents wonderful views of the relaxing seas and verdant woodlands. It is rich in history as well as wildlife. In fact, Knapdale is one of the best places to visit if you’re hoping to spot Scotland’s Big Five – golden eagle, harbour seal, red squirrel, red deer and otter.
Knapdale has different walking trails. In fact, you and your family can have a fun family day-out here. You and your children can walk along the Beaver Detective Trail and try to look for beaver traces in the area. Following their release in the forest, beavers have been one of the popular animals at Knapdale. If you are lucky, you may be able to spot this well-loved animal feeding or even swimming in the pond. This two-hour walk is certainly something your kids would enjoy.
There are also picnic spots which offer great vistas such as the one at the start of the Dunadry trails. This spot is overlooking the Crinan Canal, enabling you to watch boats and spot marine wildlife. Meanwhile, if you want to go cycling, head on to Killberry peninsula.
Simply put, wildlife watching in Knapdale Forest is not just family-friendly, it is also exciting with all the different activities you can do.
Cairngorms photo by Nick Bramhall
Red deer photo by CarolineG2011
Beaver photo by flickkerphotos