If you love spending time in nature, then the northeast of Scotland has plenty of options for you.
More than Tartan and 'Outlander' in Scotland
When talking about Scotland as a vacation destination, many visualise images of heritage and history, Clans and Tartan and in recent years Outlander! On the west coast are dramatic mountains, Lochs are scattered across the central and northern parts of Scotland and on the east coast, in Aberdeenshire, we have our fair share of beautiful varied landscape. From high hills in the east Cairngorms, to the stunning coastline and gentle rolling hills on the south side of the region.From RSBP reserves, Local and National Nature Reserves, National Forestry Woodlands and the Cairngorm National Park, there are fabulous locations for having a nature break and doing some wildlife spotting.
Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve
The Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve lies in Royal Deeside about an hour’s drive West of Aberdeen and is thought to be one of Scotland’s best wildlife sites. The National Nature Reserve has areas dedicated to woodland, heath, and open water with Loch Kinord. There is a very special reason some like to visit this reserve, that is the ‘Vat’, a giant pothole carved by a huge meltwater stream during the last Ice Age. Imagine squeezing yourself between two granite boulders into a large vat created over thousands of years ago.
There are four trails to walk ranging in length from about 1 mile to 4 miles through the woodlands and around the loch. People have lived at Dinnet for thousands of years, leaving fascinating traces of their lives. On the banks of the loch, you can find a beautiful Pictish cross carved over 1,000 years ago. On Loch Kinord, one of the islands is a crannog: the remains of a hut built on a platform over the water. The other island once boasted a castle, visited by several Scottish kings.
Forvie National Nature Reserve
Forvie National Nature Reserve is a large area of internationally important coastal habitat around the estuary of the river Ythan. With one edge of the reserve on the North Sea the shifting sands are blown into tall dunes, a wide estuary of mudfl atsand open heathland create a spectacular home for thousands of birds. Forvie is renowned for having one of the largest breeding colony of eiders in the United Kingdom.
Forvie is also known for their seal haul-out location near the village of Newburgh. There are an estimated 300 grey seals that call the Ythan Estuary their home. There are stunning bays and coves to explore as well as the dune network to wander through. There is a dedicated visitor centre near Collieston. The Forvie Nature Reserve is a short 25-minute drive from Aberdeen.
Troop Head RSPB Reserve
Troup Head is a coastal reserve with clifftop walks including grassland full of wildflowers to the cliffs offering fantastic views of a seabird spectacle. Starting around 1988, the cliffs became colonised by gannets, making it until recently Scotland’s only mainland gannet colony. The site is still the largest colony of birds. The cliffs overlook the Moray Firth, providing a chance of seeing bottlenose dolphins and other marine mammals.
Although Troop Head can be a little difficult to get to, the dramatic coastline location between Pennan and Gardenstown is worth the effort. Aside from the gannets, other species that are regularly found are guillemots, razorbills, puffins, and kittiwake. Troup Head is a coastal cliff top reserve about 4km in length and the cliff-face rises to more than 90m and support more than 38,000 seabirds. From Aberdeen it will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to the reserve. The last part of the journey is a short section off the main road and follows a farm track but there are small signs to point the way.
Discover a new hobby in nature
As a new convert to birding and nature watching, it is surprisingly easy to find sites around the northeast of Scotland to learn more about our wildlife and species that call this part of Scotland home. For those who are well practiced and want to find some of the rarer and more difficult to find species, there are guided tours and experiences available to work on ticking some of those of your list.
Whether you are new of have been exploring our wildlife for years, Aberdeenshire and the Northeast Coast of Scotland is a wonderful place to spend a long weekend exploring.
To find out more about the nature you can find in and around Aberdeenshire be sure to visit the NatureScot website for local and national nature reserves. If you are especially interested in bird our RSPB reserves, then visit the RSPB website for more information. You can also find very handy bird identification sheets from The Wildlife Trust to help you get started in identifying different types of birds or other animals out in nature.