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With its diverse wildlife and scenic landscape, Scotland is the perfect place to visit for a nature getaway. In fact, it is the leading destination in Europe when it comes to wildlife-watching activities. This place offers numerous adventures for you to come up close and personal with various animals including its Big Five. Whether you are going alone or with your family, Scotland is the perfect place to go for a fun and memorable wildlife adventure.
What Wildlife Activities Can You Do in Scotland?
Spot Scotland’s Big Five
A visit to Scotland is never complete without seeing the Big Five – golden eagle, red deer, red squirrel, otter and harbour seal. One of the places where you could see all five animals is Knapdale Forest, a vast area that offers numerous wildlife activities. Other locations you could visit to accomplish this task is Cairngorms National Park, Trossachs National Park and some of the national nature reserves in Scotland.
Alternatively, you can join a Big Five Safari for a more exciting and enjoyable experience. In this activity, you will travel to different places to look for Scotland’s iconic animals. Aside from the Big Five, you will also encounter other fascinating animals on this trip like herons, terns, black guillemots and porpoises.
Go on a Wildlife Boat Trip or Cruise
Scotland is gifted with beautiful coastlines and breath-taking islands rich in wildlife. A good way to appreciate Scottish rivers, lochs and islands is via boat trips or cruises.
Depending on the waters you are traversing, you may be able to spot marine animals like dolphins and whales while aboard the vessel. For example, the waters surrounding the Isle of Mull serve as a playground for whales. In fact, this area is considered as the “whale watching capital” of the UK.
One of the regular whale species spotted in Mull is the Minke whale. A type of baleen whale, the Minke whale is one of the smallest whales in the world. Out of curiosity, this whale sometimes approaches boats to check them. So, if you’re lucky, you can see them up close!
Aside from whales, basking sharks, dolphins and harbour porpoises are also frequently seen in the area. In fact, it’s not unusual to see schools of dolphins displaying their acrobatic moves. The dolphin species you may encounter in this area are bottle-nosed, Risso’s and orcas or killer whales.
While it’s possible to see these marine creatures all year round, the best time to go on a marine safari is during summer.
Visit Seabird Colonies
Scotland has a number of seabird colonies. It is home to largest gannet colony in the world. Bass Rock, located in the Firth of Forth, has over 150,000 birds. Because of the sheer number of the gannets, the lump of volcanic rock turns white. To view this spectacular site, you can take a boat trip which usually runs from April to September.
Several puffin colonies are also found in Scotland. The best place to see these colourful seabirds is in Shetland where seven big puffin colonies are found. One of the most accessible puffin colonies in Shetland is at Sumburgh Head. Visitors often get the chance to stand a few metres away from these adorable birds. Aside from puffins, you may also spot seals in this area.
Lunga, off the Isle of Mull, is another good place to enjoy puffin-watching. Here, you can sit amongst thousands of puffins and enjoy the scenic view. Aside from puffins, there are also guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and shags at Lunga.
Join a Nocturnal Tour
Nocturnal wildlife tours allow you to experience Scotland and its wildlife in a different light. You see species which are typically inactive during the day like bats and owls. Furthermore, you get a glimpse of the night time activities of local species. Making this wildlife activity even more unique is the use of high tech devices which will help you observe and detect animals better.
The nocturnal tour offered in Dumfries and Galloway is said to be the first of its kind in the UK. This tour is led by an experienced guide. Aside from owls and bats like the lesser horseshoe and noctule bat, other animals you may see are hedgehogs, badgers, brown hares and roe deer.
Learn About Deer
Scotland has a healthy population of deer. The red deer is the most common species found here. If you wish to see more deer species, you can head to the Scottish Deer Centre in Fife. This wildlife park has 14 species of deer and wild animals like the European wolves, Northern Lynx and native red fox.
Meanwhile, if you want to observe red and roe deer in their natural habitat, check out Invermark Estate where one of Scotland’s well-known deer forests is located. Aside from seeing them in their natural habitat, you will also learn valuable information about deer such as how to find them in the wild. If you are lucky, you can even a snap a close-up photo of these adorable mammals.
Those mentioned above are just some of the many wildlife activities you can do in Scotland. So, if its nature adventure you seek, this is the place to be!
Bass Rock photo by theleastweasel
Golden Eagle photo by ahisgett
Gannet colony photo by Andrea Schaffer
Minke Whale photo by Len2040
Wild Red Deer photo by Michel Curi