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Wildlife in Speyside

Wildlife in the area and when to see it

Places to see Wildlife in the Highlands of Scotland

The Cairngorms, Moray and Speyside are some of the wildest parts of Britain. Many amazing animals, birds and plants live here, including some of Britain's rarest. Glenmore Forest Park, and nearby Rothiemurchus, beside Aviemore, have extensive networks of trails through stands of old pine and out across heaths. Both have ranger services, guided walks programmes and visitor centres. Scottish crossbills, crested tits and ospreys breed and feed in the area, as do pine martens and red squirrels. Or visit the Loch Garten visitor centre near Boat of Garten to see an osprey eyrie or to join a dawn watch for capercaillie in early summer.

Beside Loch Ness at Abriachan, there are trails in oak, birch and conifer woodland, including an intriguing boardwalk through a conifer plantation to a loch (good for dragonflies) and hide. West of Loch Ness, colour-coded routes run through the native pinewoods at beautiful Glen Affric. Scottish crossbill, redstart and tree pipit use the woods while red deer, golden eagles and peregrines range the hills here.

Around the inner Moray Firth, many different operators offer boat trips to see some of the area's famous resident bottlenose dolphins. To ensure maximum enjoyment, and the welfare of the dolphins, choose a member of the Dolphin Space Programme for your excursion. Or try a shore-watch for the creatures from Channory Point near Fortrose or North or South Kessock beside Inverness. In the west, the Isle of Skye is an equally popular location for cetacean spotting.

      ·        Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve, Newtonmore

·        Glen Strathfarrar Beauly Inverness

·        Loch Ness Inverness

·        Loch Ruthven Inverness

·        Loch Garten Osprey Centre

·        The Moray Firth Wildlife Centre

·        Rothiemurchus Estate

·        The Glenlivet Estate, Tomintoul

·        Glen Affric

·        Glenmore Visitor Centre, by Aviemore

·         Abernethy Forest And Dell Woods, Nethybridge

·        Highland Wildlife Park  Kincraig by Kingussie

·        Ryvoan Pass and the Green Lochan , by Aviemore

·        Culbin Sands - RSPB  Nairn

·        Insh Marshes Bird Reserve, Kingussie

·         Findhorn Valley

·         Red Kite Centre

·        Udale Bay

Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve Newtonmore

Description:

Creag Meagaidh at 1128 metres high is a Scottish "Munro" (a mountain over 3000 feet or 914 metres in height). It is also a National Nature Reserve run by Scottish Natural Heritage. The mountain has a rounded plateau top but carved deeply into it are classic glacial corries of Coire Coille-rais with its lochan and Coire Ardair with a lochan and formidable cliffs. There is a strenuous but highly scenic circular walk going up from Aberarder Farm past Coire Ardair and back down along the ridge between Coire Ardair and Coire Cholle-rais. Allow from 7 to 9 hours for this 16 km (10 mile) walk. Since it was taken over by SNH ,sheep have been removed and deer numbers reduced considerably so that there is now a lot of natural regeneration of native woodland and diversification of flora and fauna with considerable numbers of young trees lower down and also dwarf willows, mosses and lichens above the tree line. The plateau is an important breeding ground for dotterel. Ptarmigan, red grouse and mountain hare are also found, and, of course, red deer and roe deer. The reserve has a free exhibition centre and car park. However, do note that dogs are not allowed.

Specific wildlife species of interest

Golden eagle, pine marten, wildcat, dotterel, red deer, ptarmigan

 

Glen Strathfarrar Beauly Inverness

Description:

Glen Strathfarrar boasts grand and ancient Caledonian Pinewoods. This classic Highland scenery, within a half hour's drive of Beauly, gives access to remote and wild areas. It is also a haven for wildlife such as red deer, golden eagles, pine martens and otters. This glen offers challenging hill walking, gentle rambling, cycling, bird watching and excellent fishing (permit required). Vehicular access to this peaceful and less frequented glen is restricted to set times during summer months. Permits for cars are available at the bungalow at the entrance to the glen. Out of season it is necessary to telephone to make arrangements. Contact 01463 761 260

Specific wildlife species of interest

red deer, golden eagle, pine marten, otter
 

  Loch Ness Inverness

Description:

Loch Ness is world famous for the Loch Ness monster, known as 'Nessie'. There's dramatic scenery and many attractions ¿ Cruises, tours, Urquhart Castle, 2 monster exhibitions, Fort Augustus, walks, cycle routes and natural features such as the Falls of Foyers to name a few. The wildlife of the Loch Ness area is also considerable. In fact the Great Glen itself acts as a flight path for migrating birds between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. It is common to see buzzards or occasionally an eagle or an osprey but more common are woodpeckers, siskin and fieldfares in winter. Pine martens and wildcats populate the area - keep your eyes open on some of the local forest walks and you may be lucky enough to see one. You may also see a fox or the indigenous red squirrel.

Specific wildlife species of interest

buzzard, golden eagle, osprey, great spotted woodpecker, siskin, fieldfare, pine marten, wildcat, red squirrel


Loch Ruthven Inverness

Take the A9 south from Inverness to Daviot and turn off onto the B851 through the village of Farr, past Dunlichity and then turn right at Croachy, following RSPB signs. 16 miles

Description:

This beautiful loch is surrounded by moor land, rocky crags and birch wood and is one of the best sites in Britain to view Slovenian grebes. The hide is about 600 metres from the car park which can be reached by following a short trail. Other birds to be seen include ospreys, red-throated divers, goosanders and other waterfowl. By using the hide you will be sure not to disturb the birds on this RSPB nature reserve. The loch can be seen from the car park and minor road beside it.

Specific wildlife species of interest

Slovenian grebe, osprey, red-throated diver, goosander
 

 Loch Garten Osprey Centre

RSPB, Forest Lodge, Nethy Bridge, PH25 3EF

Tel: 01479 831694 / 821409   Fax: 01479 821069

Description:

Direct views of the osprey nest and live video images at the centre. The reserve has three nature trails in rare Caledonian pinewoods with guided walks and events in the summer. Capercaillie watch April to mid May 5.30am - 8am.

Specific wildlife species of interest

crested tit, red squirrel, Scottish crossbill, osprey, capercaillie


The Moray Firth Wildlife Centre

Tugnet, Nr Buckie, IV32 7PJ

Tel: 01343 820339

From Elgin Tourist Information Centre take the A96 Aberdeen Road. At the village of Mosstodloch turn left after the Baxter’s Factory. Follow the road 5 miles to Spey Bay

Description:

Wildlife Themed Visitor Centre on the edge of a Nature Reserve. Exhibition about the Moray Firth, Dolphins and Local Wildlife. Frequent sightings of Dolphins, Seals, Otters, Osprey and Wildfowl. Shop and Cafe.

Specific wildlife species of interest

bottlenose dolphin, grey seal, common seal, otter, osprey
 

Rothiemurchus Estate by Aviemore

Tel: 01479 812345 

Rothiemurchus is 2 miles from the A9 trunk road, lying on the B970 and A951 between Aviemore and the Cairngorm ski area.

Description:

Rothiemurchus Estate offers great company days out amid outstanding scenery; also, coach and Land-rover tours, guided walks, fishing, varied wildlife, clay pigeon shooting, off-road driving, shopping and much more. At South end of Aviemore, turn up the B91 road.

Specific wildlife species of interest

osprey, crested tit, capercaillie, pine marten, red squirrel 
 

The Glenlivet Estate, Tomintoul

Follow Tomintoul main street south to estate information centre 1 kilometre.

Description:

A large Highland Estate encompassing extensive heather moorland, native woodlands, rivers, farmland and forests in the Cairngorms national park. Visitors are welcome to explore over 100 miles of way marked trails, which provide good opportunities for viewing a wide range of upland wildlife and enjoying walking, cycling, cross country skiing, bird watching and other outdoor activities. Free maps/ guides, and wildlife information are available together with a ranger service, which provides guided walks during July and August and tours for educational and other groups. An information centre houses displays about the wildlife and countryside together with a wide selection of tourist information.

Specific wildlife species of interest

roe deer, red squirrels, mountain hares, wading birds and black grouse.
 

Glen Affric

Five miles west of Cannich on the Glen Affric road, off the A831 road.

Description:

Often described as the most beautiful glen in Scotland, Glen Affric has one of our largest remaining ancient pinewoods. Capercaillie, black grouse, crested tit, crossbill, golden eagle, red-throated diver, pine marten and otter are all present. The reserve also has great facilities for hill walking; mountain biking on forest tracks, and open water canoeing. This glen is part of a Nature Reserve.

Specific wildlife species of interest

capercaillie, black grouse, crested tit, crossbill, golden eagle, red-throated diver, pine marten, otter

 
Glenmore Visitor Centre  By Aviemore

From Aviemore centre go to the south of the village and take the B970 towards the Cairngorms.

Description:

Situated amidst the magnificent Cairngorms, Glenmore Forest Park has a series of way marked trails which help the visitor explore this wonderful landscape. The Forest Park Visitor Centre, which includes a shop and cafeteria, provides information, advice and light refreshments.

Specific wildlife species of interest

osprey, crested tit, capercaillie, pine marten, red squirrel, mountain hare

           
Abernethy Forest and Dell Woods,
Nethybridge

From Aviemore railway station drive north through Aviemore onto the A95 for about 4 miles, fork right to Boat of Garten (approx 2 miles). Go through Boat of Garten and cross the Spey to join the B970, turning left at T junction onto the Nethy Bridge road. Approx 1 mile on you will turn right. About 1.5 miles on you will come to a car park. You can leave the car here to start walking into the forest.

Description:

This is the largest native Scots pinewood in Britain and a remnant of the Great Caledonian Forest. Abernethy Forest offers a unique mix of woodland and northern bog, with a great variety of habitats for breeding birds such as capercaillie, crossbill, crested tit, osprey and goldeneye. The reserve is also well known for its many rare northern insects. There are lots of trails and paths through the forest and round Loch Garten. The Osprey hide is open from mid April till August.

Specific wildlife species of interest

crested tit, red squirrel, Scottish crossbill, osprey, capercaillie


Highland Wildlife Park  
Kincraig Kingussie

Tel: 01540 651270

From Aviemore turn right and follow B9152 to Kincraig. Continue to Kingussie. From Kingussie turn left and then after primary school turn right opposite Duke of Gordon Hotel. Continue down High Street and straight on towards Kincraig. The park is 1 mile from Kincraig.

Description:

Discover Scotland's wildlife, past and present, at this unique attraction in the spectacular setting of Cairngorms National Park. Experience the main reserve from the comfort of your car - European bison, Soay sheep, mouflon, red deer, highland cattle and one of the World's rarest mammals - the Przewalski horse. Explore the rest of the park on foot and look out for beavers, wolves, otter, wildcats, Lynx, reindeer and Scotland's largest and most endangered grouse, The Capercaillie. Open all year from 10am every day (weather permitting). Events programme from April to October (see Website). Wildthings Gift shop and Café. Reduced winter rates.

Specific wildlife species of interest

Wolves, otters, lynx, capercaillie, bison, eagles, foxes, wildcats, reindeer and badgers

  
Ryvoan Pass and the Green Lochan  Aviemore

From Aviemore Tourist Office car park turn right. After the B.P garage take the left turning onto the Ski Rd. Drive along for 6 miles until you see the sign for the Reindeer House and Glenmore Lodge, take the left turnoff at the sign for Glenmore Lodge and drive along for about half a mile. There is space to park.

Description:

A walk of native pinewood and scree slopes lying in spectacular scenery. Start the walk at Glenmore lodge and follow the path climbing upwards until you reach a long level section through planted Scots Pine which gives way to a rocky path through a very natural section of woodland before dropping steeply down to the Green Loch, legend has it that the fairies used to wash their clothes in the loch. Crossbill, goldcrest and crested tit are among the resident birds, while summer visitors are tree pipit, redstart and grey wagtail. Red deer and red squirrel are also regularly seen here.

Specific wildlife species of interest

crossbill, goldcrest, crested tit, tree pipit, redstart, grey wagtail, red deer, red squirrel

 
Culbin Sands - RSPB  
Nairn

From Inverness or Elgin take the A96 to Nairn. In Nairn cross the River Nairn at Bridge Street, then take next left to Maggot Road. At the road end, turn right, through the caravan park to the car park.

Description:

Overlooking the Moray Firth, Culbin Sands forms one of the largest shingle and sand dune bars in Britain, behind which there is extensive saltmarsh. Large numbers of sea ducks can be seen offshore in winter. Bar-tailed godwits, oystercatchers and knots flock at high tide. Much of the reserve is remote and largely undisturbed.

Specific wildlife species of interest

crossbill, red squirrel, crested tit, pine marten, coal tit, goldcrest, siskin, ringed plover, arctic tern, bar-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, knot, snow bunting


Insh Marshes Bird Reserve  
Kingussie

From Kingussie Tourist Information Centre drive along Spey Street and turn left at the end. Cross the railway level crossing, continue across the River Spey and turn left at the top of the hill. At the T junction continue past Ruthven Barracks and up the next Brae. The Inshmarshes Reserve car park is on the left just before the end of the double bends. A path leads down to hides overlooking the marshes. The distance is about 2 miles from the tourist information centre. .5-.75 hour walk.

Description:

One of the most important wetlands in Europe. Spring brings nesting lapwings, redshanks and curlews and in winter the marshes flood, providing roosting and feeding for flocks of whooper swans and greylag geese. The RSPB reserve has 3 nature trails and 2 birdwatching hides.

Specific wildlife species of interest

lapwing, redshank, curlew, whooper swan, greylag goose

     
Findhorn Valley

The valley of the raptors! From the A9 take a right turn marked Tomatin and from this road another right marked to Coignafearn Lodge.

Specific wildlife species of interest

Golden eagle, Red grouse, Osprey, Hen Harrier , Goshawk, Red kite

 
Red Kite
Centre North Kessock

Description:

Red Kites have been re-introduced to the Black Isle in the Highland region of Scotland. In 1997, a red kite viewing facility was established at North Kessock Tourist Information Centre (TIC), using closed circuit television cameras to show visitors nesting birds.
 

Udale Bay

1 mile/1.6 km west of Jemimaville on the B9163.

Description:

Udale Bay is an extensive area of mudflat, saltmarsh and wet grassland on the Cromarty Firth.  From late summer to April the reserve supports large numbers of wildfowl and wading birds.   Best visited within two hours of high tide, there can be spectacular views of flocks of birds.  In autumn, up to 5,000 wigeons feed on the beds of eel-grass.   Late summer is a good time to see fishing ospreys.