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Natural Scotland

Natural Scotland

It is ironic that I originally wrote this page on natural Scotland, immediately after watching the simultaneously breathtaking and unsettling documentary film ‘You’ve Been Trumped’. How embarrassing that such an individual as Donald Trump has Scottish roots.

You should watch the movie. A mature dune system in Aberdeenshire, a wild place, a precious and rare habitat and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, was destroyed because Trump with a cheque-book wanted a golf course in Scotland. Many spineless councillors in Aberdeenshire, also the Scottish Government, as well as VisitScotland, the main body responsible for promoting wildlife tourism in natural Scotland, went along with it, in spite of the vociferous opposition of every conservation body in Scotland. Still, we got a nice golf course, in a country with more golf courses per head of population than anywhere else in the world.

So, anything your read on this site about natural Scotland, about Scotland’s habitats and environment, should be seen in this context. Wildlife is fine, unspoilt environment is good – but now we have had the precedent of a designated ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ destroyed for commercial gain. Scotland has many areas set aside for the protection of nature. But what was allowed to happen at the Menie Estate, in Aberdeenshire, is a reminder of the vulnerable aspects of natural Scotland. So, here are some habitat photos, of places that are still good for wildlife and bio-diversity in Scotland.

Dune system somewhere between Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

Dune system somewhere between Peterhead and Fraserburgh. The top of the lighthouse just visible gives a location clue.

(Above) Mature, though eroded, dune system, Aberdeenshire. Och, I’m not going to say exactly where in case Trump needs another golf course. (This picture title wins the ‘Grumpiest Caption on the Website’ award.)

Now, where was I? Well, about to recommend places in Scotland where you can see wildlife and enjoy fine landscapes. Here are some of my favourite places that, so far, haven’t had golf courses built on them yet.

Natural Scotland – islands

Below – On the skyline, Isle of Eigg from Arisaig.

Sgurr of Eigg on horizon, from Arisaig.

Sgurr of Eigg unmistakable on the horizon. Early spring in the West Highlands. Trees with that new yellow-ish green look. Feels like a cool day.

This is really a must see Scotland natural spectacle listing.

Orkney – Marwick Head – follow the link for more information, as it’s on another must see list! Not for the vertigo prone. (I think Vertigo should be the name of a small fishing port in Caithness.)

Scots Primrose. Lovely, but very tiny!

Scots Primrose. Lovely, but very tiny!

(Left) Scots primrose Primula scotica photographed ‘somewhere on Orkney’. And if you see it, take care a) you don’t stand on it, as it’s very small, and b) if you are taking pictures, don’t kneel on it. The focussing is tricky as well!

North Ronaldsay – when bird migration sat-navs go wrong, some very exotic birds end up on this wacky island. Follow the link for far too much information.

Shetland – Island of Noss. Take a boat trip from Lerwick. Gannets galore.

Hermaness, Shetland – wild, wild, wild – keep an eye on those fierce bonxies – and it’s at the very end of Scotland.

Outer Hebrides – Loch Druidibeg. Habitats? This magnificent place has got the lot, in Scottish terms. Otters a near-certainty. Oh, all right, a distinct possibility.

Colonsay – yup, just Colonsay. Oh, and add in Islay and Jura, plus Rum and Mull for sea eagles. You’re not expecting me to choose just one from the Scottish islands, are you? They are all great. (Skye, Skye, yes, I almost forgot Skye.)

 

Natural Scotland mainland

- I’m going off this listing already. Where do I start? Uhmm, roughly in the north and work south. The first three places are all in the north-west Highlands.

Handa – this little island is brilliant for birds again. A fine excursion on the rugged north-west seaboard.

Inverpolly – for deer, eagles and all the big names, oh, and Norwegian mugwort, if you know where to look. (Well, I’ve seen it.Artemesia norvegica - insignificant wee thing but nice to have it.)

Beinn Eighe – Scotland’s first national nature reserve, long before environmental conservation and respect became a concept widely understood – though obviously, if you’re Donald Trump’s henchmen, it still isn’t.

Troup Head, Aberdeenshire. with its gannet colony

The great cliffs around Troup Head, Aberdeenshire, with its gannet colony. Note tiny figures at the very top right

Troup Head, Aberdeenshire – round the corner into the Moray Firth – Scotland’s largest mainland gannet colony. (I used to cycle there as a boy, only partly to worry my mother.)

Loch of Strathbeg – an excellent autumn and winter visit to this bare coastal strip in Aberdeenshire. Flighting pink-footed geese always worth seeing.

Corrie Fee – the Angus Glens, with their u-profile glacial valleys dissecting the granite massif (ooh, get him and his geology) are sometimes overlooked, but this place is great for alpine plants. One of Scotland’s very rarest alpines grows somewhere here (Possibly. At least it did the last time I looked.)

St Cyrus – also in Angus, another good botanical spot, with an overlap of southern things at their most northerly and northerly things at their…well you get the picture. Super beach as well.

Loch Garten, Speyside, Highland – original focus of the return of the osprey success story. Now you’ll find ospreys widely distributed far beyond this loch with its excellent viewing facilities from the visitor centre. (Though I know of at least one main road in Scotland from where you can see an osprey nest from your car.)

Ben Lawers range, January 2009

Ben Lawers range, on 1st January 2009. Unusually small amounts of snow then. Next two years made up for it though!

Ben Lawers , Perthshire (pictured above) – another good hill for alpines, though it’s a big hill. Neighbouring Meall nan Tarmachan is good as well.

Ariundle oakwoods

Though the Caledonian pinewoods get all the attention, these Atlantic coast oakwoods (Scotland’s rainforest) are equally venerable.

Ariundle oakwood, near Strontian, Argyll – (pictured above) The Caledonian pine forests at places like Rothiemurchus on Speyside get a lot of attention – but these old western broad-leaved woodlands are just as much part of Scotland’s tree heritage, and sometimes as ancient as the pinewoods. Moist, mossy and very green.

St Abbs, Berwickshire – back in the east – actually Scottish Borders – fairly close to the A1 road en rote to Edinburgh, an easy to reach seabird city experience. (And on another must see Scotland list on this site.)

Wood of CreeGalloway – there are lots of good and wild bits in Galloway, if you ignore the squared-off bits of conifer plantings, and the Wood of Cree is the largest chunk of ancient woodland in the South of Scotland – bluebells, warblers, pied flycatchers etc. Great in late spring.

Caerlaverock, Galloway – another winter wetland, notable for views of overwintering barnacle geese and other wildfowl.

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