Wildlife in the Highlands
The Highlands of Scotland has a richly deserved reputation for wildlife. The area is abundant with animals in the wild, including deer, pine martens, otters and even wildcats. From red squirrel to puffins and bottlenose dolphins, there is a fascinating diversity of creatures to enjoy in their natural habitat.
This highly evocative and diverse ecosystem is iconic and truly sums up the Scottish Highlands. So much so, in fact, that the distinctive landscapes are prime real estate for reintroducing rare species that once roamed the sweeping glens and hills of this scenic wilderness. Conservation efforts in the region in recent years have included ospreys, White Tailed Sea Eagles and beaver.
Such is the abundance of wildlife in the Highlands that it is now, arguably, Europe’s number one destination for wildlife enthusiasts. But, unlike other world famous destinations that can often be hampered by the seasons, Scotland has no such limitations: there’s always something of interest to see no matter the time of year.
Famed for its year round wildlife spotting, the visitor is truly spoiled for choice the length and breadth of the area.
You will be pleasantly surprised by how near the prime wildlife viewing areas are – most do not require strenuous expeditions into the hills. Go to almost any section of coastline or harbour to see resident colonies of seals and harbour porpoises. Or go out into the countryside away from ‘built up’ areas and birds of prey are frequently spotted flying majestically on the wing or even perched on a roadside fence post. And you might not even leave to need your holiday accommodation – you may see local wildlife from your holiday home in the Highlands.
The Cairngorms are home to the ptarmigan and mountain hare while the forest around Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore, is a known hotspot for the elusive pine marten. The equally shy Scottish Wildcat is also regularly seen in the forests surrounding Kincraig near Kingussie.
Easier to spot are red deer, numerous and frequently seen moving around the hills; coming down from their lofty homes in the winter to seek food on more gentle pastures.
On the water, there are a number of boat trip operators offering up close and personal encounters with the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth. It is a wonderful opportunity to pay homage to this most intelligent member of the animal kingdom.
No visit to the Highlands, though, would be complete without checking out what is by far the most intangible and celebrated creature in the world – the Loch Ness Monster. Sightings of Nessie stretch back to the 6th Century AD but what lurks in the depths of Great Britain’s largest body of water is anyone’s guess.
Back on land, a highlight not to be missed by all the family is the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie. The wildlife reserve brings together a wealth of Scottish and endangered animals from the world’s mountains and tundra in a spectacular setting.