Throughout mainland Scotland, including the Highlands and the Islands we are so lucky to have such an abundance of wildlife and whilst on your campervan or Motorhome journey you will have the chance of many wildlife spotting opportunities.
There is a huge amount of information out there on the best times and where to stand the best chance of catching your favourite bird or animal but here is a basic guide as somewhere to start and some handy tips.
An extremely popular spot is the Scottish bottlenose dolphins. These dolphins can be between 3 and 4 metres in length and are normally to be seen in pods (groups) of up to ten animals. They can be seen throughout the year at many locations but are easier to see in the spring and summer months in calmer waters. We are lucky to have the coastlines of the Moray Firth on our doorstep here at Highland Campervans and can recommend a few dolphin spotting locations that are close by. The well known spot of “Chanonry Point” on the Black Isle is within 30 minutes drive of our base and the dolphins are spotted here on a very regular basis. Mostly at the change of a tide where they come into feed in the choppy waters, they come very close to the shore and you are sometimes treated to them leaping and jumping out the water, not to mention playing with the large fish they catch for their tea.
If you wish to get closer to the action and want to take to the water, there are lots of companies who do boat tours.
Dolphin Spirit - https://dolphinspirit.co.uk/
North 58 degrees - http://www.north58.co.uk/
Ecoventures - http://www.ecoventures.co.uk/
At periods, when the tide is out or at least low, resting seals are visible on the shoreline or on exposed offshore rocks. They are visible year round all over Scotland but you are most likely to spot them on the West Coast, Orkney and the Hebrides as well as in the local waters of the Moray Firth. Any of the tour companies above would help you to see them locally to Inverness or if you are on your campervan adventure and wanted to see them whist touring, here are a few other suggestions
Plockton - http://www.calums-sealtrips.com/
Otters may be seen in the evening and the early morning but are more active at night. Otters are active and breeding all year round and throughout Scotland mostly where there is freshwater. The isle of Skye and the Isle of Mull are good places for otter spotting! There are a range of companies that do wildlife tours that will include Otter watching.
Ardnamurchan - http://www.wildhighlandtours.co.uk/2014/05/otter-bonanza/
Isle of Skye - http://skyewildlife.com/ottersandeagles.html
Isle of Mull - http://www.mullmagic.com/otter-watching-mull.html
Minke whales can be found in Scottish waters and are generally 8-9 meters long. They travel singly or with a calf. They are visible in Summer and migrate to warmer waters in the winter. They are spotted mostly around the west coast and western islands.
The Humpback Whale can occasionally be found offshore from June onwards and the Killer Whale, resident in these waters, may be seen at any time of year. We have recently had sighting of the Orca in our waters close to Findhorn in the Moray Firth.
The basking shark is the biggest fish in Scotland, their mouth can be up to 1 metre wide but thankfully they only eat tiny plankton, they are renown for being spotted by their dorsal fin as they feed on the surface of the waters.
The sharks are mainly here in summer, generally May-September, with peak season being June-August, coinciding with the blooms. They can be seen all over Scotland but the main hotspot is the Hebrides on the west coast where the vast majority of sightings come from. There is an abundance of useful information on the Basking Shark Scotland website, it has everything you need to know for adding some shark spotting to your campervan road trip.
If you are lucky enough to happen upon a sighting of marine wildlife and you want some guidance of how to behave around the animals in their own environment, check out this helpful link for the marine code - http://www.marinecode.org/
Coming out of the waters and onto the land…………………
Red deer are Scotland’s largest surviving native wild land mammal. You still find them in their thousands all over Scotland. Males are called stags and have antlers up to a metre long. Female deer are called hinds. Stags live in small wandering groups, except during the rut when they become solitary and fight other stags for the control of a hind herd.
Early summer is the best time to watch hinds and calves, as within the herd they are highly sociable. Red deer are more active during the morning and evening but can be seen more often during the long daylight hours of summer. The best time to see stags is during the autumn rut and they are more active in cold weather and rain, wallowing in mud, roaring and fighting other stags.
If you are unlucky enough to not spot the Red Deer throughout your road trip you can make a visit to Aberfeldy to the Highland Safaris base, they have a Red Deer centre on site but also arrange daily tours into the mountains to spot many wildlife species, see more of what they do on their website http://www.highlandsafaris.net/red-deer-centre/
Or in October on our North coast you will find that http://www.caithnesswildlifetours.co.uk/tours/ do Red Deer rut tours where you can witness the Deer rutting season for yourself whist on an adventure around the North Coast Route 500.
Scotland’s only native squirrel prefers to live in coniferous trees particularly Scots Pine. Resident throughout the year, red squirrels are active by day. Red squirrels are found in upland forests and lowland woodlands throughout Scotland, but they are no longer present in the Central Belt and parts of eastern Scotland because of the introduction of the non-native grey squirrel.
A great site for spotting these beautiful animals is the Glen Affric nature reserve, for more information visit their website http://www.forestry.gov.uk/glenaffric
You will also be able to also book a tour via http://www.speysidewildlife.scot/
And from the land we can turn our heads to the sky………
Birds of Prey
There are so many species that it is easier to refer you to the Wild Scotland Birds of Prey link as there is an abundance of useful information on all the birds including and their habitats and environments.
Please see http://www.speysidewildlife.scot/
You can also visit the Osprey centre at Loch Garten, Abernethy – For more information visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/l/lochgarten/index.aspx?gclid=CJbn14qIm80CFaoy0wod9YIMVg
Or on the Black Isle you can visit the Red Kite nature reserve – For more information visit
This really is only the basics of the huge variety of wildlife we are so lucky to have over the highlands and Scotland wide. There are some Fantastic websites with lots of general wildlife information and tips and they are as follows :-
What will you spot? http://www.wild-scotland.org.uk/wildlife-nature/
Wildlife Watching Tips: http://www.wild-scotland.org.uk/wildlife-nature/watching-tips/
Wildlife Calendar :- http://www.wild-scotland.org.uk/where-to-watch-wildlife/wildlife-watching-calendar/
Enjoy building wildlife spotting into your adventure in your motorhome or campervan road trip but remember to respect the land and animals habitat and environments so that we can all enjoy the wildlife for years to come.
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We had a fantastic week in the campervan, mostly up the east coast and Caithness...really enjoyed the care given by Highland Campervans and attention to details - thanks