There is nothing better for body and soul than a wildlife walk in beautiful surroundings, and Scotland has some of the most stunning walking routes in all of the UK.
From red squirrel woodland to big skies dominated by golden eagles, these Caledonian adventures offer truly iconic wildlife and spectacular scenery. So, whether you’re a seasoned rambler or just want to get outside and stretch your legs somewhere new, here are eight of the best wildlife walks in Scotland that everyone can enjoy.
1. Glen Finglas, Brig o'Turk
Glen Finglas epitomises the Scottish Highlands, all glassy lochs, heather-covered uplands, hidden glens and ancient woodland. The most iconic way to explore it is a challenging 15-mile hill-walk along The Mell Circuit. It takes at least seven hours and boasts long hills and uneven terrain suited to more experienced walkers. Be sure to pack all-weather gear, a map and plenty of refreshments to keep you going!
It’s worth lingering in the woodland that marks the start of your walk. This peaceful haven is home to carpets of bluebells (take care not to stand on them), a chorus of warblers and singing redstarts during spring. Autumn brings the spectacle of the deer rut. Up on the heathlands you may come across black grouse performing their courtship leks as the males put on spectacular displays to attract a mate.
2. Knapdale Forest, Argyll
Knapdale Forest has the best of both worlds: stunning oak woodland and coastal beauty. Picturesque walking trails will introduce you to some of the most iconic wildlife in Scotland: golden eagles, red squirrels, red deer, otters and harbour seals.
Even more exciting are the beavers, released as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial. You can try to spot them during an easy walk that starts from the Barnluasgan car park. Follow the ‘Beaver Detective Trail’, a two hour circular walk on good gravel paths around the Dubh Loch and Loch Collie Bharr. There may be some wet and muddy patches, and there are some moderate gradients, but if you pull on your walking boots this is a lovely walk for families.
3. Mar Lodge Estate, Aberdeenshire
Mar Lodge is the perfect place to get back to nature whatever the season. Heather moorland, Caledonian pine forest and wonderful wetlands cover 29,000 hectares of incredible Scottish landscape. Here you have chance to see red squirrels, otters, red deer and ptarmigan during a range of walks. One of the best and most accessible routes lies within the ancient pine forest, home to rare birds like the black grouse and Scottish crossbill (the UK’s only endemic bird).
The Glen Lui Trail takes around one hour and 15 minutes along a fairly smooth path. Pause by the raging waters of the Lui and see if you can spot dippers and goosanders. Take a moment to savour the stunning views into the mountains from the pinewood viewpoint.
4. Abernethy National Nature Reserve, Strathspey
Countless footpaths and boardwalks wind through this mosaic of moorland, wetlands, mountains, and one of the largest remnants of Caledonian pinewood. There are some stunning high-level walks for experienced ramblers, stretching from Loch Garten into the untamed wilds of the Cairngorms, though these aren’t recommended unless you’re a skilled hill walker.
Instead, why not take to the low-level Two Lochs trail? It offers 1.7 miles of stunning views across Loch Garten and Loch Mallachie. Starting from the Loch Mallachie car park, you’ll cross hard-packed forest soils that are easily accessible save for some tree roots, undulations and potentially muddy sections. Keep your eyes peeled for crested tits and, if you’re very lucky, capercaillie.
5. Crinan Wood, Argyll
Bright spring bluebells, fiery autumn colour and bushy-tailed red squirrels are just a few of the sights that make Crinan Wood such a fantastic spot for a memorable wildlife walk.
Rare ferns, mosses and lichens lie at ground level. It is heaven for birdwatchers, with the chance to see buzzards, redstarts, wood warblers and golden eagles.
Take in the best of Crinan Wood during a walk that starts from the canal basin in Crinan. From here you can take an hour-long walk along the main woodland path.
Stop to admire the view across Loch Crinan to romantic Duntrune Castle and the Isle of Mull. The path can be wet and muddy, and some steep sections and steps could be difficult to access for some visitors.
6. Insh Marshes, Kingussie
This stunning wetland is a fantastic place for waders and waterfowl. Greylag geese and whooper swans arrive for the winter. During spring and summer, lapwings, curlews, snipe and redshank probe the marshes for food. Being so close to Loch Insh and the River Spey, you could also spot ospreys hunting fish during the warmer months.
The best way to explore Insh Marshes is a two-hour walk from the reserve car park off the B970. This scenic stroll combines the Invertromie and Tromie Meadow trails. Passing through a tranquil section of birch woodland, you’ll hear tree pipits and redstarts call throughout the summer. Two hides offer breath-taking views of the Monadhliath Mountains and are a great place to spot hen harriers. The meadow at the opposite end of the trail literally buzzes with insects making the most of the orchids.
7. Lang Craigs, Dumbarton
Lang Craigs has it all: ancient woodland, sheltered glens, rugged moorland and brand new woodland growth less than 10 years old. Keep your eyes peeled for roe deer, foxes and brown hares. Bird-wise, you’ll be spoilt for choice with peregrine falcons, sparrowhawks, green woodpeckers, spotted flycatchers, cuckoos, whitethroats, hen harriers and many more! Lepidopterists should keep their eyes peeled for green hairstreak butterflies and, on the higher ground, emperor moths.
Four waymarked walks offer something for all abilities. A longer four-hour walk offers a great way to combine a stroll through the woodland with a deeper exploration of the surrounding area. The Crags Circular Path also takes in some stunning areas of moorland and interesting local history.
8. Uig Wood, Uig
Uig Wood lies a short hop from the mainland, nestled on the Trotternish Peninsula on the spectacular Isle of Skye. Wild garlic, bluebells and a variety of lichens grow below a canopy alive with the sound of chiffchaffs and willow warblers during spring and summer. Woodcock hunker down on the ground, while barn owls have been spotted sheltering in the trees.
Uig Wood is made up of a few distinct pockets of woodland connected by waymarked paths. One of the best stretches takes you along a 300-metre path to Rha Glen, where a dramatic two-tier waterfall greets you at the end.
The walk here involves passing through a gap in a drystone wall and negotiating a flight of steps. The other trails are just as scenic and much more accessible.
Are you ready and raring to spot some of Scotland’s most iconic wildlife? Become a member to receive a directory of UK woods, perfect for planning your next day out in Scotland. You’ll also be helping to keep special places like these safe for wildlife and people to enjoy.