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Scotland is branded as one of the top wildlife destinations in Europe. The government claims that millions visit annually for nature trips. It is also estimated that Scotland’s wildlife tourism’s annual worth is £153 million. Demands for nature trips were so high that even the economic downturn in 2009 still resulted in an increase in revenue for tour operators.
Why choose Scotland for winter wildlife activities? Nestled on this nature-rich place are two national parks and huge expanses of protected areas which serve as habitats to a variety of animals. On top of scenic landscapes, this place is teeming with wildlife; some of the UK’s rarest and threatened animals call Scotland their home. It is awash with opportunities for wildlife watching all year round, even during winter.
What Are Some Winter Wildlife Activities In Scotland?
The cold season may be a downtime for nature tours in many places around the country but not in Scotland. There are many wildlife activities that you can do in Scotland during winter.
Tour The Isle Of Mull
The third largest island in Scotland, the Isle of Mull is known for its unspoilt landscape composed of mountains, hills, beaches, waterfalls and sea caves. It is also much-visited for its diverse and abundant wildlife. Further adding to the appeal of the island are the multitude of activities offered here. On top of wildlife watching, you can go swimming, cycling, golfing, camping and even weaving. There is an activity for everyone, young and old, which is why the Isle of Mull is an ideal getaway destination for families.
Winter does not dampen the beauty of the island nor the diversity of its wildlife. During this season, be prepared to be treated to enchanting, frost-covered landscapes. Plus, iconic British animals can still be spotted this time of the year.
If you love birds, you would not be disappointed as you would be able to see golden eagles and white-tailed eagles. Moreover, you may even spot migratory birds because some of them spend their winter here. Add waders to your bird list – these animals are common spectacles from November to January.
With less daylight and disturbance, chances of spotting the elusive otters in the island is also high during winter. Grey seals haul ashore to give birth during this season, so you may encounter them with their pups. From a good vantage point on the island or while riding a ferry, you may also see other marine mammals such as dolphins and harbour porpoises.
Go On A Nocturnal Wildlife Tour
Ever wondered what the wildlife scene is like at night? If you are curious about the night activities of animals, try a nocturnal wildlife tour on foot in Dumfries and Galloway. Winter means longer nights, making it a good time for this activity.
What can you expect during this tour? This is not just about learning about what local species do at night. You also get the opportunity to get to watch them up close as they go about their ‘after hours’ activities. To aid you in this adventure, expect your tour operator to provide you with devices such as night vision and thermal imaging equipment. These gadgets allow you to spot small animals even when they are hundreds of metres away from you.
This type of activity is best done in small groups. This is to ensure that each member gets ample amount of guidance from the tour guide. With a small group, disturbances, which can scare away animals, can be kept to a minimum, too.
Much like other places in Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway offers picturesque views of verdant forests and rolling hills as well as soothing vistas of coasts. Its wildlife population is also noteworthy with its skyline featuring sights of red kites and ospreys. On your nocturnal wildlife tour, the probability of seeing hedgehogs is high, as they are nocturnal animals and spend their nights being active. You may also encounter badgers, deer and hares. Another mammal you may see are the bats, with 10 species of this nocturnal animal found in this area.
Wildlife Watching And Walks At Cairngorm National Park
Cairngorm National Park remains majestic even in winter. Visit the place this season and you would be treated to a spectacular sight of frozen lochs and snow-capped mountains. Winter is still a busy season here with various activities including skiing and snowboarding (since three of UK’s ski areas are situated here).
There are those who engage in winter walks in the park. If you plan to do the same, bear in mind that weather conditions can be harsh. So, please wear the proper attire. Most importantly, if you’re embarking on a hill walk or mountain hike, ensure that you have the necessary skills for these types of winter walks. For something more manageable, walk around Loch an Eilein.
While some of the resident animals in the park move away for the winter, there are still those which remain. During your walk, you may chance upon mountain hares and snow buntings. This time of the year, ptarmigans also become visible on the Cairngorms plateau as they descend from the Highlands when temperatures become extremely low. Then, there are the reindeer which you can visit (with your kids) at the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre.
Image Attribution: Photograph By Yathin S Krishnappa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHaliaeetus_albicilla_(Svolv%C3%A6r%2C_2012).jpg
Image Attribution: Photograph By Dietmar Nill [CC BY 2.5 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMyotis_bechsteinii-flying.jpg
Cairngorms In Winter
Image Attribution: Photograph By Daniel Lehermeier [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACairngorms_-_panoramio.jpg