If you’re looking for the special flora and fauna of Scotland, then the Cairngorms National Park is the place to come. Be it herds of Red Deer sweeping across the skyline, intimate encounters with Black Grouse and Pine Marten, majestic Golden Eagles, the delicate Twinflower, or just the ability to experience a huge variety of species within a few days, then this is the place for you. Below are 4 days’ itineraries, giving you a flavour of what can be found.
Join the A93 from Aberdeen as it heads west along Royal Deeside. At Aboyne, follow signs to Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve, where the ancient Caledonian Pinewoods house a wide variety of plants and wildlife including Scottish Crossbill, a bird unique to the Cairngorms. A few miles further west, Ospreys are often seen fishing at Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, where Otters are also active. Don’t miss the nearby Burn O’ Vat, a spectacular geological feature shaped by meltwater from the last ice Age. Just beyond Ballater, follow the narrow road to Loch Muick and Lochnagar Wildlife Reserve, home to Red Deer and Golden Eagle. End your day near Braemar at Mar Lodge Estate. Different areas of the estate host a vast variety of wildlife from Red Squirrels to Red Deer and breeding waders.
As you cross the Ladder Hills keep an eye out for Golden Eagle. They frequently hunt here because of the large numbers of Mountain Hare and Red Grouse. Continue to Tomintoul and drop in at the Estate Information Centre to find out more about wildlife on the Glenlivet Estate. Arrangements can be made (in advance) for a wildlife guide from the Glenlivet area to show you the Black Grouse Lek. Follow signs to Delnabo and the spectacular Ailnack Gorge, Scotland’s largest glacial meltwater channel. The area around the Gorge is home to Roe Deer, Red Squirrel, Red Grouse and Red Deer.
Head out of Tomintoul on the B9008 for three miles to see breeding Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe at the Feith Musach during the spring. Continue past Tomnavoulin and turn right through Tombae where Roe Deer and Brown Hare browse amongst the birches. Stop at the end of the road by the River Livet to spot Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Sandpiper, and during late autumn spawning Salmon.
From Grantown on Spey head out to Abernethy Forest National Nature Reserve, the largest native Scots pinewood in Britain. View Osprey on their treetop nest at Loch Garten between April and August. The rare Capercaillie can also be seen here just after sunrise during April and May. Scottish specialities such as Scottish Crossbill and Crested Tit can be seen throughout the year in the forest nearby. Continue to Loch Morlich where you can visit Britain’s only wild herd of reindeer during summer at the Glenmore Forest Park or join one of the local guided walks to see Ptarmigan and other mountain wildlife. Head back down to Rothiemurchus where one of the local guides can take you out to enjoy the special wildlife, experience Ospreys coming in to fish or spend the evening in a forest hide to see animals that prefer coming out after dark, such as Pine Marten and Badger.
Before leaving Aviemore enjoy an early morning stroll through Craigellachie National Nature Reserve to spot the Peregrine Falcons, which regularly nest here from April to July.
Head down the A9 to the wildlife park at Kincraig to see Scottish wildlife, past and present, including wolves, bison, otters, wildcats and more. Now head south to Insh Marshes National Nature Reserve near Kingussie. This is one of Europe’s most important wetlands where you’re likely to see lapwings, redshanks and curlews as well as oystercatchers, snipe and, in the winter, vast flocks of whooper swans and greylag geese. Finally, for something a little different, end your day at Falls of Truim just south of Newtonmore, which are a great spot for salmon watching.
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