Many of us have heard about safari trips and exclusive wildlife vacations for animal lovers and photographers especially in African continents. I didn’t realize we can have a similar experience in Europe in Scotland which is a wildlife heaven with diverse animals and birds inhabiting the top of mountains, down through the forests, moors and sea/lochs below. In this blog, I will cover 20 wildlife to spot in Scotland and where to find them. Though I have seen many highland pictures with Scottish cows and sheep, a two week road trip in the Scottish highlands uncovered many other animals during my visit. The wildlife discovery was very refreshing for an animal lover like me whose affection for them was pretty much devoted to the stuffed animals I carry as zoos make me really sick and I don’t enjoy it at all as I keep pondering how cruel it is to lock animals down.
Scotland will fill your heart giving you the opportunity to see animals in the wild very closely. Here are all the animals I had the pleasure to meet with and say Hello to. When you visit it is really worth it to bring a decent camera and set of binoculars. For spotting and tracking dolphins and salmon you need to be patient and plan ahead, but for majority of animals here you are guaranteed to see a lot of them during your journey in NC500 route and nearby islands.
Chanonry Point in Inverness is one of the best places to watch dolphins, as they come very close to the shore and swim near you for a very long time. The trick is to go one hour after the low tide time to maximise your chances to catch the dolphins. Note that the car park here get filled up quickly but it is highly recommended to go early and spend one or two hours there waiting for the dolphins. I would also recommend taking a tripod to get nice shots as it is pretty windy there. Words can not describe how exciting it was to watch the dolphins swim in the sea only about 10 feet from the shore.
The Mealt falls in the Isle of Skye also is another location to see dolphins as it turned out. While we were at the waterfall, we spotted dolphins swimming but not as close as in Chanonry point. The final location we were hoping to see them was on a boat tour we took from the Isle of Mull as they had seen lots of them near Isle of Staffa even the day before, however unfortunate weather conditions meant that they had moved on.
The story of a salmons life cycle is a great life story on its own. They are born upstream in fresh water before swimming out to sea, when it is time for them to breed they swim thousands of kilometres back to where they were born. In the waterfall areas, you can and watch them jump constantly trying again and again to escape the river to get to their breeding location . Pitlochry dam is a great spot for this but it was closed when we went there due to Covid. The other famous location is Rogie Falls where we were lucky to watch the salmon jump. I kept tracking a salmon for quite a while, and managed to get a clip of one actually succeeding to get to the top of the waterfall. Vow, Salmon have a lot of lessons to teach us about persistence and sacrifice.
Jellyfish are everywhere in all the beaches so you will spot them easily if you look into the sea. I had never seen this big jelly fish before and in varying colours, so adding them in here for those who have not seen many.
Another joyful experience was finding a stag in a car park while we were on the road in Torridon, we found many other travellers around and feeding it. Though I love animals I have never had the opportunity to feed one before as I never had a pet. This was an amazing experience to see one very close, very tame and friendly. See you never know when you come across a stag in this area.
Deer are relatively easy to find if you kept an eye for them even (especially) when you are on the road. We spotted many of them crossing the roads and in the wild or mountains while we were driving especially in the Glencoe and Fort William area. You will also find them grazing in some private properties. I am sharing all pictures with places I spotted them. The Harry Potter Viaduct in Glenfinnan is actually located in a deer garden, so we were lucky to see one just before the viaduct too, which is the my blog image above was taken.
Sheep might be a familiar animal for many, but it was still a great experience to stroll around them and enjoy the diverse ones you come across on the roads, mountains etc. A highlight of my trip included watching an early morning traffic of sheep on the road guided by sheepdog. It made me so happy to watch this and I was jumping out of excitement as I fondly recalled the nursery rhyme “Ba Ba Black Sheep”.
Another most diverse wildlife experienced we had watching a duo of sheep, one white and one brown. These two spotted in the Sanna Bay area ,were like best friends and they always moved around together. What an amazing duo, telling the message of diversity very loudly. This duo is my friend’s most favorite moment from the trip.
Goats are also familiar domestic animals for most of us, but we spotted a wild goat very unique with this stellar beard in the Isle of Kerrera. While this one was seen resting over a rock, look at the other one inside the cave. This was also a very enjoyable moment.
Highland cows or Coos are special native Scottish animals. For me they always looked grumpy and a bit not so friendly when I went near them. You can see then in NC500 route especially in Ullapool and Torridon area.
Golden Eagle are spotted a lot in the northern hemisphere and you will be able to see them in Scotland. Golden Eagles are very unique, have a stylish shape and looks amazing when they stretch out feathers when they fly.
Shags rule the islands of Scotland in my opinion, they are everywhere and actively trying to catch fish. You can see them swimming, walking and flying around all the time. Their long beaks make them very distinguished. I personally loved watching them dive while we were on a boat trip in Isle of Mull. The first picture is more or less a little Shag island in the middle of the sea.
This was a capture of the moment and a lucky one, as we got into habit of clicking any bird we see after we spotted the Eagle flying first in Isle of Skye. We believe it is a Pelican from a Google search, but would love to be corrected if any bird experts knew better.
The most romantic birds we saw in this area the Kittiwakes. It would have been Puffins if we were early enough to see them before they left Scotland. You will see lots of Kittiewakes in the coves of Scotland. We saw a lot of them nesting in the Duncasby Stacks near John O Groats.
John O Groats coast has many starlings nesting in groups. I really love their polka dotted feathers.
We also spotted many sparrows in many places and here are a few of my favourite shots.
We can’t finish a wildlife post not showing seagulls. They are the most common but still amusing. Here is a seagull taking off shot somewhere in Scotland.
Above is the route I took during my two week road trip to Scotland and nearby islands. I saw the wildlife mentioned along the route covering NC500, Isle of Skye, Isle of Mull and other islands. I have specified exactly which places did I see the animals along with their picture. For being familiar with the locations, I would recommend taking a closer look at my downloadable itinerary map on the complete itinerary post to spot the locations. You can also pin it for future reference using my PIN on the right.
If you would like to plan a getaway to Scotland and see wonderful animals, checkout the itinerary I followed for a two week road trip to Scotland –>>