2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland (according to VisitScotland anyway). With vast expansions of wilderness, any year’s a good one to make the most of one of the world’s most rugged and beautiful landscapes. To celebrate the best of natural Scotland, VisitScotland has teamed up with Scottish Natural Heritage to “showcase some of the country’s best loved wildlife” with a list of Scotland’s Big Five.
The list includes the golden eagle, the harbour seal, the otter, the red deer and the red squirrel, all of which are native species and can still be viewed in their natural habitats. Here’s a quick look at these five fantastic animals with tips on where best to spot them in the Scottish wild.
With a wingspan that’s more than two-meters long (over a yard in length) and the capability to soar up to 80 miles an hour, the mighty golden eagle is truly a sight to behold. Found throughout Scotland, they are most likely seen around low lying moorland, peat bogs and mountains ranges.
Whether flopping about on the beach or gracefully swimming in the sea, harbour seals are a real treat to see. Look for them at sheltered harbours anywhere along Scotland’s stunning coast. Best chances to see harbour seals are around Shetland, Orkney, the east coast of the Outer Hebrides and in the Moray Firth and the Firth of Tay.
Frisky and playful otters are a so much fun to watch to their stuff. Easily spooked and as swift as any creature, you’d be lucky – or extremely patient and quiet – to see one in the wild. Still, odds of getting to check them out for yourself are considerably higher in Scotland than most anywhere else. Chances are even better if you can make time to visit Shetland and Dumfries and Galloway.
Britain’s largest land mammal, the red deer is as impressive to hear as it is in see. Known as the roaring monarch, the bellows from the stags to ward off other stags is one of rural Scotland’s most evocative sounds. Best places to catch a sight of this massive beast include Dumfries and Galloway as well as Perthshire, the northwestern Highlands and the islands of Rum and Jura.
The red squirrel is the UK’s only native species of squirrel with more than 80% of the population in Scotland. As cute as they are agile, red squirrels might be the smallest of Scotland’s Big Five, but they may very well be the most entertaining to watch in action. Areas known for prime red squirrel viewing are the Cairngorms in the central Highlands and the Dalbeatie Forest in Dumfries and Galloway.
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