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Issue 69 - 10 best wildlife walks

Scotland Magazine Issue 69
June 2013


This article is 5 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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10 best wildlife walks

Keith Fergus finds the best places to watch Scottish wildlife

1 Rough Island
(Start/Finish GR NX852536)
A visit onto Rough Island can be made when the tide is out. From Rockcliffe Upper Car Park, turn left, descend Millbrae to a slipway at Rockcliffe beach. Turn left, cross the beach through an obvious gap in the rocks onto firm mud flats, which lead to a causeway at the northern tip of Rough Island. Join a path beside a National Trust sign and climb to the summit cairn. Rough Island is an important breeding ground for oystercatcher and ringed plover (the island should be avoided during the months of May, June and early July), puffins, terns and scaups. To return to the mainland follow the causeway onto a beach. Turn left onto a singletrack road, then right onto a track signposted ‘Rockcliffe’. This narrows to a path, climbing through woodland to a junction. Turn right, descend through woodland (home to woodpecker), pass a cottage and beyond a gate follow a track over a footbridge. A field edge path passes through a gate then swings left through another gate back to Rockcliffe. Retrace steps back to the car park.

2 St Abbs Head
Scottish Borders
(Start/Finish GR NT913674)
The 300-foot high cliffs at St Abbs Head bestow an exhilarating vantage point to enjoy the magnificent seabirds, including thousands of guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars, shags, shearwaters and skuas. Exit the car park by an information board onto a path, descend past a visitor centre then turn left through a gate. Follow the path as it climbs around Starney Bay then Horsecastle Bay. Well-worn paths continue to the dramatic setting of St Abbs Head Lighthouse, Walk around the front of the lighthouse buildings to gain a single-track road. At a cattle grid turn left onto a path, which runs to the right of the loch where a fantastic variety of flora and fauna exists.

After a gate, turn right onto a broad track then turn left onto a road. Continue over a cattle grid then follow a tarmac track down through some beautiful, open countryside to eventually return to the car park.

3 Crossford
(Start/Finish GR NS827464)
Nethan Gorge comprises the Upper and Lower Nethan Gorges. Both present superb examples of semi-natural woodland with ash, oak, and elm playing host to song thrush, willow warbler and yellowhammer. Walk through Crossford, by the Tillietudlum Inn. Once over a bridge crossing the River Nethan, turn left into Nethan Gorge. Climb a good path up 3 flights of steps above the River Nethan. Keep left at a fork with the path eventually dropping steeply down steps. After another footbridge turn left up steps into the grounds of Craignethan Castle. Walk through a car park then follow a narrow road to Tillietudlum. Turn left onto Corra Mill Road, which undulates through lovely countryside, home to buzzard and kestrel. At Blair Road turn left, and as Crossford is approached turn right onto a path signposted ‘Lanark Road’.
Follow this back to Crossford.

4 Kelvin Walkway and the Forth & Clyde Canal
(Start/Finish GR NS827464)
Urban walking may not be instantly identifiable with nature but Glasgow’s green spaces are alive with superb wildlife; the paths along the River Kelvin and Forth & Clyde Canal are home to the likes of otter, kingfisher, snipe, heron, blue tit, goosander, water vole, redwing and great spotted woodpecker. From Glasgow Botanic Gardens, walk through the park to join the River Kelvin Walkway. Cross the river then turn left and walk along the wooded banks to the Ha’penny Bridge. Turn right here and continue along the path, eventually reaching Kelvindale Road. Go straight across where another path meanders through pleasant parkland, to a path on the right for the Forth and Clyde Canal. Climb this to Maryhill Locks. Turn right and walk along the peaceful towpath by Stockenfield Junction and the Bilsland Drive Aqueduct. Turn right down steps onto Maryhill Road. Turn right and continue to Queen Margaret Drive. Turn left, re-cross the River Kelvin by Queen Margaret Drive Bridge then turn right back into the Botanic Gardens.

5 Dalmeny Estates
South Queensferry, Lothian
(Start/Finish GR NT138779)
The wooded landscape of Dalmeny Estate sits on the Lothian coast and therefore holds a wonderful variety of wildlife; roe deer, kestrel, buzzard, swift, curlew, oystercatcher, cormorant and woodpecker. From Dalmeny Railway Station, turn right onto Station Road. Once over a bridge turn right down steps onto a cycle/walkway. Turn left and follow this wildflower-lined path. Once under a bridge turn left and climb a path onto The Glebe at Dalmeny. Turn right, walk through the village for 1km to the B924. Carefully cross into Dalmeny Estates and follow the driveway to Dalmeny House. Continue straight on by the house, descending an estate road, which sweeps left into broadleaved woodland. Follow the path all the way into South Queensferry. After making a left onto Hawes Brae, turn right, climb steep steps for Dalmeny Station then follow a path across a road. Take the path back to Dalmeny Station.

6 Morton Lochs
Tayport, Fife
(Start/Finish GR NO458288)
orton Lochs were created in 1906 primarily for fishing although it quickly became an important freshwater habitat. The lochs became Britain’s second National Nature Reserve in 1952 and today mute swan, moorhen, tufted duck, buzzard and water rail are frequent visitors. From Tayport town centre walk along William Street onto Queen Street then turn left onto Maitland Street. At a roundabout bear right and follow Nelson Street then Shanwell Road South. Just after Scotscraig Golf Course entrance turn right through a gate, follow a public path across the course through a gate at Garpit. Once through 2 more gates a woodland path enters Tentsmuir Nature Reserve then passes Morton Loch and 2 wildlife hides. At a junction go left and once opposite a car park turn left where a path swings left back to the outward-bound route. Turn right, retrace steps back over the golf course to Tayport.

7 Loch of the Lowes
Perthshire (
Start/Finish GR NO029426)
A breeding pair of ospreys were reintroduced to Scotland in 1962 at Loch of the Lowes, after being persecuted to extinction in 1916. Today there are around 240 pairs in Scotland. Sharing the loch with the ospreys are sandmartin, Canada geese, pipistrelle bats, great crested grebe, whooper swans, redshank, lapwings and great spotted woodpeckers. From Atholl Street in Dunkeld on the River Tay, climb Brae Street for 0.5 miles. Turn left onto a narrow road to a fork and go left. A track climbs steeply to a gate on the left. Go through here and walk along this woodland path through a gate. Bear right at a junction and proceed through beautiful countryside, with stunning views of Loch of the Lowes. Once through 2 more gates carefully cross a minor road then walk left along a path to the Loch of the Lowes, its visitor centre and hides. Once spending time at the loch simply retrace steps back to Dunkeld.

8 Montrose Basin
Montrose, Angus
Start/Finish GR NO668591)
The large expanse of marshland and reed bed comprising Montrose Basin is an important local Nature Reserve and a haven for wildlife. Salmon and common eels travel thousands of miles to Scotland’s east coast, as do sedge warblers. Sharing the reserve with these migratory species are redshank, curlew, godwits, dunlin and Peregrine falcons. From the reserve car park, a few miles west of Montrose follow a path for the hides, skirting woodland to a junction. Bear right into the nature reserve. Go right at the next junction and keep along a path to eventually reach the Shelduck hide, a great spot to enjoy the wonderful wildlife. From here simply follow the waymarked path towards the Widgeon hide, turning right at a T-junction to reach the hide. Here there are great views of the surrounding coast and countryside. Return to the outward-bound track where a right turn leads back to the car park.

9 Craigellachie
Aviemore, Highland
(Start/Finish GR NN896123)
Craigellachie Nature Reserve is home to stunning birch woodland and amazing wildlife including Scottish crossbill, wood warbler, lesser redpoll, orange tip, and the rare Kentish Glory moth. From Aviemore Railway Station turn left, walk along Grampian Road and turn right onto a road for Craigellachie Nature Reserve. Walk by a youth hostel then descend into the reserve. The path climbs gently into gorgeous birch woodland. Go right at a fork to reach Loch Pulardden. Bear left, follow the path around the loch then veer left to a junction, turn right and continue to a path on the left. Follow this to a waymark, turn right continue to the second birch pool. Bear right at the next waymark, then walk around the loch to a junction. Go left onto a stony path then take the first left where a narrow path descends through the woodland, eventually reaching a junction. Make a right, drop down a path to another junction near Loch Pulardden. Bear right, walk back down to the outwardbound path and retrace steps back into Aviemore.

10 Lochnagar
Glen Muick, Aberdeenshire
(Sart/Finish GR NO310850) The woodland at Lochnagar’s base and her broad plateau accommodate some of Scotland’s iconic wildlife. From Glen Muick car park follow a road by a visitor centre. Turn right onto a road signposted for Lochnagar. At a cottage leave the road into woodland and follow this onto Lochnagar’s lower slopes. Climb a track above Clais Rathadan gorge to a large cairn. Turn left onto a superb path, which climbs steadily to a plateau above Lochnagar’s cliffs. Turn left to climb a steep path southwest onto the lip of Lochnagar’s magnificent cliffs. The gradient eases and a flatter path heads west around the cliffs and across the plateau. As the path swings left, bear right and climb steep slopes onto an indistinct path, which carries on northwest to large cairn at Cac Carn Mor. The path continues a short distance north to reach Lochnagar’s 1155 metre summit of Cac Carn Beag. Retrace steps back to Glen Muick.