Scotland has such a unique landscape that it makes for a wildlife watchers paradise, with a vast array of animals and birds that can be spotted on its rugged land and shores, or even out at sea on one of many boat trips offered.
Wildlife watchers can enjoy the abundance of nature in areas such as the Special Area of Conservation at Loch Creran, with its forest nature trails, or Ballachuan Hazel Wood on Seil Island. In more remote areas, Red Deer are seen running on heathery moorland or up amongst the crags. The Oban Sealife Sanctuary situated just north of Oban is a major centre for rescued seals and their pups, otters, and also has a spectacular tank recreating life in a Scottish sea loch.
Argyll and the Isles has
- 21 Special protection areas
- 8 National scenic areas
- 121 Sites of special scientific interest
- 8 Wetland sites
- 30 Special areas of conservation
- 6 Nature reserves
- 1 National Park
- 1 Local Nature Reserve
- 4 Scottish Wildlife trust reserve
- 3 RSPB Reserves
Just as the plains of Africa have the Big 5, Scottish Natural Heritage have come up with a Scottish ‘Wee 5’: consisting of Red Deer, Red Squirrels, Otters, Seals and Eagles, with Salmon an added draw for anglers.
What to See When
Spring: Best time to see and photograph mammals and birds in woodlands before the foliage gets too thick. Roe Deer, Capercaillie (wood grouse), Bluebells, Lapwings displaying, Guillemots breeding on the Treshnish Isles, Mull. Lambing season.
Summer: Puffins, Dolphins, Mink whales, Flower Meadows, Osprey chicks hatching, basking sharks known to be seen off the coast of Mull. Peak time for Salmon leaping is July-September
Autumn: Red Squirrels, Greylag Geese migrating from Greenland to Islay, Salmon migration, Grey seal pups around the Inner Hebrides, Autumnal colours, Deer rutting
Winter: Mountain Hare, Ptarmigan, Red Kites, Mating season for ducks, winter scenery and great crystal clear views.
Knapdale Beaver project
The Scottish Beaver Trial is a unique conservation project taking place right here in the Heart of Argyll. Wild beavers have been reintroduced back into Scotland after being extinct in the UK for over 400 years. It is the first official project of its kind in Britain and a groundbreaking five year trial to explore how beavers can survive in Scotland and what effects they may have on the local environment and economy.
Four beaver families were introduced to Knapdale Forest, with kits produced each year, and visitors can explore this stunning woodland and spot the signs of beaver activity, including felled and regenerating trees, stripped branches (look out for teeth marks!) and a beaver dam. During the summer month’s tours are run Tuesday evenings 28th May – 27th August and Saturday evenings 25th May – 24th August which depart at 6pm from Barnluasgan Information Centre in the heart of the Knapdale area.
Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserves
Shian Wood, Loch Creran
Ballachuan Hazelwood, Seil Island
Knapdale, Kintyre Peninsula
Largiebaan, near Campbeltown
National Nature Reserves
Glen Nant, by Ben Cruachan
Moine Mhor, by Crinan Canal
Ben Lui, nr Tyndrum
Staffa, off Mull
Loch Gruinart, Islay
The Oa, Islay
Land Reform Act
Unlike England and Wales, Scotland believes in an access right for those who live in and visit the country. Due to the Land Reform Act 2003, everybody has a statutory right of responsible access to land and inland water for:
- outdoor recreation
- crossing land
- some educational and commercial purposes.
Scottish Access code
Please respect the land and environment you are visiting and make yourself aware of the Scottish Access Code which sets out where and when access rights apply.
Tips on Wildlife Watching
- Clothing – appropriate coloured clothing which will blend into your background will always help not being spotted and disturbing the wildlife, as will clothes that do not rustle. Strong smelling perfumes and aftershaves are a big no no too.
- Dogs – Although your dog will enjoy a long walk around the countryside, the wildlife will not enjoy their company! You are 10 times more likely to make a spot without your dog as the wildlife will get their scent, or hear any barking, and vanish in a blink of an eye.
- Binoculars and wildlife spotting guides are the only tools you really need to help you in your search for spotting which ever creature you wish to see.
- Often the best time to make a spot is at dusk or at dawn. We can arrange a packed lunch to be taken with you if you miss breakfast or book you in for an early dinner before you head out again in the evening.
Check the what the weather will be here.