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Wildlife in Scotland, meeting the neighbours.

Posted on Jan 09, 2013 by Robin McKelvie

When it comes to viewing, experiencing and interacting with wildlife, Scotland is simply world class. Amongst this epic country and its 800 island studded coastline you can gasp at massive sea eagles, hike with enormous stags and kayak with killer whales. I’ve been to 100 countries around the world as a travel writer and I firmly believe that you cannot beat Scotland. On top of that 2013 is the ideal time to check out the bountiful wildlife as it has been designated the Year of Natural Scotland.

Kayaking with Seals and Cruising with Basking Sharks

I’ve bashed all over Scotland on two feet, two wheels and at kayak level. I’ve flown all over the country, peered out from ferries and taken a lazy view from the decks of yachts. All the time I’ve been watching, waiting and, ultimately, savouring the wildlife that teems around Scotland.

I could write a book nevermind a blog on what I have seen and experienced. And anyone can enjoy the same sights and sounds. Memories that stick in my mind include a seal off the Isle of Barra who took exception to my presence in a small cove and almost tipped me out of my kayak and spending a leisurely picnic in the heather in Glenfinnan with a stag just metres away. I could hear him breathing in the cold air and see his breath.

Then there was ambling along Mull’s southern fringes to find a pod of bottlenose dolphins racing like graceful powerboats along the deserted coastline. Or the basking shark who came to share sundowners when I was cruising around Arran and the skuas who firmly showed me who was boss on St. Kilda by almost knocking me off my feet!

Wildlife for All Seasons

Scotland is wild and wonderful, a nature documentary writ large, but also thankfully one on a very human scale. The wildlife is easy to access and is all around. I live on the outskirts of Edinburgh and I regularly get deer dropping by my garden office and munching on my vegetables! The good news too is that it can be viewed all year round. There is no bad time. In Spring and Autumn the bird migrations are world famous amongst ornithologists. I’ll never forget the thousands of barnacle geese filling the Islay skies or the gannets swirling around a rocky outcrop in St. Kilda that is home to a mind boggling fifth of the world’s gannet population!

In Summer you have more daylight to enjoy the wildlife, but Winter also brings its benefits. You can see the mountain hares and ptarmigan dispense with their fair weather plumage and turn snow white. No one who has heard it will ever forget the sound of mighty stags rutting either. Winter brings deer much further down off the hills, so there really is no bad time for me for viewing wildlife in Scotland.

Scottish Wildlife - Gannets at St Kilda

Gannets at St Kilda

The Value of a Good Guide for Scottish Wildlife Viewing

I’ve been lucky enough over the years to often have travelled with a local guide, someone knowledgeable about the flora and fauna all around. This can really enhance a trip. Having an extra pair of expertly trained eyes who know what they are looking for is priceless. As is having someone on hand who knows the ins and outs of each species and can actively tell you what you are watching unfold.

That brings me to my wildlife experiences with Wilderness Scotland and there have been many. They’ve been remarkably varied too. On a sailing trip we popped ashore on Jura and nipped up a small peak. On the way down we came across a herd of deer at least 100 strong! Then in Knoydart we had to take evasive action off a trail to avoid a bustling herd of free roaming Highland cows. In a boat the next day we chanced upon both a pod of dolphins and porpoises in one morning. Then descending a peak in the Cairngorms with a group I was treated to a ptarmigan rearing up feet from my face.

It is experiences like these that really make Scotland such a living, breathing, heart pumping wildlife destination. And with 2013 designated the Year of Natural Scotland I think there really has never been a better time to get out there and explore all that glorious wildlife for yourself.

Scottish Wildlife - Skuas on St. Kilda

Skuas on St. Kilda

About the author

Robin McKelvie

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