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Issue 22 - Go wild in the country

Scotland Magazine Issue 22
August 2005


This article is 13 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Go wild in the country

Marieke Smegan argues that wildlife alone is worth visiting Scotland for

Scotland has an amazing number of animals. There are hundreds of different species of birds, mammals and sea animals, some of which are quite easy to spot. To list them all would be impossible. However, Scotland houses plenty of visitor centres and nature reserves, which make the wildlife even more accessible. From day trips to week long holidays, it is all available for any (‘wannabe) wildlife enthusiast.

Scottish Seabird Centre / Bass Rock.
The Harbour, North Berwick, EH39 4SS.
Tel: +44 (0)1620 890 202
The Scottish Seabird Centre is an ideal place to go for easy access to seabirds. The centre has closed circuit television cameras placed on several islands in the Firth of Forth – among them on the Bass Rock, Fidra and the Isle of May. As a visitor to the centre you can navigate around the islands by moving the cameras. The Bass Rock houses a huge colony of gannets. In summertime you will also see puffins, while sightings of seals and the occasional dolphin happen all year round.
Weather permitting, the Seabird Centre also organises boat trips to Bass Rock. These two hour trips include an hour stay on the island. Boat trips only take place in the summer, contact the centre for details.
Entry to the visitor centre is £5.95 for adults and £3.95 for concessions. Boat trips are £21 for adults or £17 for concessions.

Argaty Red Kites.
Lerrocks Farm, Argaty, Doune, Perthshire,FK16 6EJ.
Tel: +44 (0)1786 841 373
The RSPB and Scottish National Heritage have reintroduced the red kites to Scotland after an absence of 130 years. You can now see these spectacular birds from a hide at the red kite feeding station in Doune. The birds are fed daily, but are easiest seen between October and March. Guided walks take place in the morning, while the hide can be visited all day. Other birds to be seen in the area are peregrines, kestrels, buzzards, sparrow hawks and hen harriers. Booking is advisable.
Guided walks are £5 for adults, £4 for children.
Access to the hide costs £3 for adults and £2 for children.

St Kilda National Nature Reserve.
National Trust for Scotland.
St Kilda used to be populated by Gaels for whom seabirds were the staple diet. In 1930 the population left as life on the island was too harsh.
The island is now home to the largest colony of gannets in the world, and is also a popular hide for puffins and fulmars. It is Europe’s most important seabird colony and access has to be arranged in advance. One company that can take you there is Kilda Cruises.

Kilda Cruises.
Angus Campbell, Fasgadh,Tarbert, Isle of Harris.
Tel: +44 (0)1859 502 241
The company will take you out for a full day (dress sensibly!) for £80 per person, or £40 for 10- 16 year olds. Booking in advance is essential.

Bressay, Shetland, ZE2 9ER.
Tel: +44 (0)7831 217 042
Seabirds-and-seals on the Shetland Islands can take you out to sea to show you wildlife above as well as under water.
The company uses both a boat and submarine.
The Shetland Islands are colonised by many different birds, and on the boat trips you will encounter species such as gannets, fulmars, puffins, kittiwakes and shags. The company organises trips daily between April and September, weather permitting.
Noss and Bressay Cruise: adults £30, under 16s £20, under 5s free.
Submarine Shetland Cruise: adults £25, under 16s £20, under 5s free.

Sea Life Surveys.
Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Argyll, PA75 6NU.
Tel: +44 (0)1688 302 916
Sea Life Surveys organises a wide range of boat trips, from 30-minute seal-watching to a seven day whale, dolphin, porpoise and bird search.
It also does a lot of sea life research, such as minke whale photo-identification and acoustic work.
The company serves everyone from families to the real whale-spotting enthusiast.
Phone or check out their website for more information on the different packages and prices.

East Pier, Lossiemouth Harbour, Lossiemouth, Moray.
Tel: +44 (0)1343 829 244
Scotland’s east coast is famous for sightings of bottlenose dolphins.
Sailing wild offers daily cruises to meet these friendly creatures.
Chances are that you also encounter minke whales and harbour porpoises.
The boat is the first UK commercial vessel to switch to biodegradable diesel, which helps to reverse global warming.
Cruises take place daily (weather permitting) between March and October.
1.5 hour cruises: £17.50 per person, group/families 4+ are £15 per person; 2.5 hour cruises: £25 per person, groups/families 4+ are £20 per person.

Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve.
SNH, Caerlaverock NNR office, Hollands Farm Road, Caerlaverock, Dumfries, DG1 4RS.
Tel: +44 (0)1387 770 275
This national nature reserve is a good place to visit in winter. During the coldest months of the year you can spot thousands of geese, particularly barnacle geese from the Arctic. There are rare natterjack toads on the saltmarshes and whooper swans, badgers and waders can be seen on the meadows.
Historic Caerlaverock Castle, ancient stronghold of the Maxwell Family, is nearby and not to be missed.
Access to the nature reserve is free.
To visit the wetlands that are part of the reserve, prices are as follows: adults £4.40, senior citizens £3.60, child £2.70, family ticket £11.50.

Galloway Red Deer Range.
15 minutes north of Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway.
Tel: +44 (0)1671 402 420
Although red deer live all over Scotland, it is not always as easy to see them up close. However, On the Galloway Red Deer Range, a ranger will take you out on guided tours, and you can meet the deer close up in anenclosed area.
You will learn about the deer and you can handfeed them. In October the Range organises a special event around the mating season.
Tours take place from the end of June until mid September, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Admission: adults £3.50, concessions £2.50, under 16s £1.25 and families are £8.

Speyside Wildlife Day Guides.
Garden Office, Inverdruie House, Inverdruie, Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1QH.
Tel: +44 (0)1479 812 498
If you are interested in a full wildlife-watching holiday, try Speyside Wildlife Holidays. It organises Scottish Wildlife Holidays that show you several parts of Scotland. The company is based in Aviemore and this is where you would be staying for the majority of their holidays. You can book weekend trips, whole weeks away or day trips. The holidays can be tailor-made and could include bird watching, whale watching and trips into the mountains. Holidays are all inclusive, check out their website or phone for more details.

Highland Wildlife Park.
Kincraig, Kingussie, Inverness-shire, PH21 1NL.
Tel: +44 (0)1540 651 270
The Highland Wildlife Park is home to several species of animals that live, or have lived, in Scotland. It is a great showcase of the diversity that can be found in the country. The main park, through which you drive in your own car, has deer, bisons, highland cattle and more. The walkthrough part of the park has numerous animals from wolves to grouse and otters to capercaillies.
Visiting the park is an easy and fun way to get to know Scotland’s animals from the past and present.
Admission: adults £8.50, senior citizens £7.50, concessions £6.

Visit for more information or request a free brochure from VisitScotland tel: +44 (0)845 225 5121 or +44 (0)1506 832 121 (from outside the UK).

Another useful website is Wild Scotland:

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