Wildlife and Nature

Will you be lucky enough to spot Scotland’s Big 5?

Lochaber is a nature lovers paradise with wildlife abound and is home to Scotland’s highest mountain – Ben Nevis 1344m. Deepest Freshwater Loch – Loch Morar 310m, home to Morag a relative of Nessie! Longest Glen – The Great Glen 104km. Deepest Pothole – Uamh Nan Claig Ionn, Cave of the Skulls, pitches 5m, 12m, 6m and 9m. And the U.Ks most westerly mainland point – Ardnamurchan Peninsular. You can also take a boat trip from Oban to see Corryvrekan the third largest whirlpool in the world.

Scotland’s Big Five

Red Squirrel

We have not been lucky enough to spot any red squirrels in our garden, but just a short drive to Glen Righ/Inchree Waterfalls in Onich or Glencoe Wood Nature Reserve in Duror,  you are likely to strike lucky.  By the car park there is a wooden wall with circles cut away at various heights; if you pop your face up to one of these you will look onto an area where feeders have been set up and the squirrels are frequent visitors. The holes are also just the right size for camera lenses, however you can walk to the side of the boards and get the same view if you would like to set up a tripod.  Woodpeckers visit here too.

Red Deer

Red deer can be spotted on Rannoch Moor and through Glen Coe and Glen Etive.  Watch out for them at the roadside at night especially in the winter.

Golden Eagle

We believe there are golden eagles in the area, some living in the hills behind the Dragon’s Tooth golf course and in the Kinlochleven area.  Eagles are most likely to be spotted when out for a walk in the hills.  We’ve seen them soaring high at the back of the house.


David had some inquisitive otters come close to him while he was taking photos by the Ballachulish bridge.  Unfortunately he had the wrong lens on his camera to get a photo of them.  They have also been spotted on the Kinlochleven low road.

If you are familiar with Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water then a day out to Sandaig would be a good idea.  The trip involves driving towards Kyle of Lochalsh and then at Shiel Bridge take the turning for Mam Ratagan/Glenelg (twinned with Mars).

Harbour/Common Seal

We have spotted seals around Eilean Munde, the burial island by the Isles of Glencoe Hotel. However, the best place we’ve found is the Garbh Eilean Wildlife Hide.  To visit the hide you take the Corran Ferry and the hide will be on your left a short while after Strontian.

For a chance to see all 5 in a single day contact Ian MacLeod at Wild West Wildlife Safaris.

Photos with kind permission of Jan and Alan Wildlife Photography 

Other Wildlife


Buzzards – are often spotted at the side of the road usually perched at the top of trees, fence posts or telegraph poles, keeping an eye out for their next snack

Red  Kites – We have been hoping to visit the Argaty Red Kite Centre for some time, but time and weather never seems to coincide to allow us to do this.  We have to make do with visiting their website and Facebook page for the time being.

Red Kites can also be spotted in the skies while driving on the Black Isle.

Nature Red Kite flying over the Black Isle

White Tailed Sea Eagles

A white tailed sea eagle has a home somewhere around Loch Linnhe, he has been spotted near Duror on the A828.

A sea eagle called Victor has been feeding near the Glenelg Ferry, we haven’t been lucky enough to spot him on our visits but we live in hope. Visit their Facebook page to see a video of Victor hassling the gulls so that they drop their catch and he can steal it.

The best chance to see them is probably with Mull Charters who run wildlife trips.


There is a heronry by the Ballachulish Bridge, to get a good view, cross over the bridge and take the first turning on the right signposted to the Loch Leven Hotel and the Holroyd Gallery.  If you walk down to the slip way (take care as it can be very slippery) and look straight across into the trees on the opposite shore. You will be able to spot the herons coming and going and balancing precariously on the upper branches of the trees.  The birds tend to feed on the shoreline near to the Ballachulish Hotel, this is on the opposite shore underneath the bridge.  Before the bridge was built a ferry used to operate between the Loch Leven Hotel and the Ballachulish Hotel.  This ferry, the Glenachullish, now operates from Glenelg over to Skye.   Herons are timid creatures and it is quite hard to creep up on them and take a photo.

Sea Birds

Oyster catchers are frequent visitors to the Shinty Park opposite the house, but I think they are looking for worms rather than oysters!

Cormorants and Shags can be spotted on Loch Leven perched on rocks and buoys.

There are various gulls always about and most annoyingly they like to congregate on our chimney pots and have arguments early in the morning.

Visiting Birds

Goldeneye ducks visit the Glencoe Lochan in winter/spring.  These are very shy birds and each time you try to get near them they swim to the opposite side of the water.

Redpoles visit the garden in the spring, these look very similar to sparrows apart from the blush on the head.

Northern Divers have been spotted in Loch Linnhe near to Onich.

Nature Redcap in tree at Fern Villa Ballachulish

Garden  Birds

We have feeders at the front and back of the house and frequent visitors to the garden are robins, sparrows, siskins, blue tits, cold tits, chaffinches, blackbirds and lots and lots of Starlings.  Rarer visitors are long tailed tits, wrens, red wings, field fayre, gold finches and bull finches. And a naughty Sparrowhawk  took some of our guests by surprise when he snatched a blackbird from the front garden tree.

Nature blackbird feeding young

Roe Deer

Roe Deer are resident in the hills behind the house and can sometimes be spotted during the evening/night munching away in the back garden, although sometimes the only evidence that they have been there is the missing flower heads.


This would be a day out but well worth the journey.  Just north of Inverness is the Black Isle, travel to Fortrose and follow the signposts to Chanonry Point.  There is a lighthouse here, a stony beach and a small spit of land which is quickly covered by the sea so care must be taken.  Check out the tide times as the best time to see the dolphins is when the tide is coming in and the pod is busy catching salmon.  It is easy to spot the spit as there is usually a crowd and lots of cameras waiting for the show to start.  The dolphins come so close to the shore that you can almost touch them. Take warming clothing with you as even if it is a nice day a cold wind tends to whip up on the point.

Wild Goats

There is a herd of wild goats on the A87, the road to Kyle of Lochalsh, they can sometimes be spotted on the roadside between the Cluanie Inn and the Glenelg turning.   You will probably smell them before you see them!

We have recently been told that there is also a small herd near to the Lochleven Seafood cafe.


Visit the Arkaig Butterfly Reserve by Loch Arkaig to get the chance to see the rare Chequered Skipper and the Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly

On a trip down Glen Etive we were surrounded by Scotch Argus butterflies.  We stopped for a picnic and the butterflies flew all around and landed on us.   One in particular was particularly fond of a bottle of orange juice, no doubt after the sugar.   There are some pretty big dragonflies down there too. (See Deer)

Visit the butterfly conservation website

Nature Scotch Argus butterfly in Glen Etive

Nature Reserves

Ariundle Oakwood National Nature Reserve

Ariundle Oakwood National Nature Reserve (NNR) is a precious fragment of ancient oakwood. A lush covering of mosses, lichens and liverworts flourish here in this Celtic rainforest. In spring, the woodland is rich in wildflowers. Listen to the amazing birdsong in the early mornings, look for butterflies and dragonflies or simply enjoy the paths and trails.

Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve

Glasdrum Wood NNR is a remnant of the specialist ancient oakwoods of the west coast of Scotland. Situated on the shores of Loch Creran, Glasdrum is the best part of more extensive woodland stretching through Glen Creran. The reserve extends into the open ground on the slopes above.

Glencoe National Nature Reserve

Cared for by the National Trust for Scotland. No description can recreate the impact of seeing Glencoe for the first time. It has long been one of Scotland’s most famous places, known equally for its rare beauty and sorrowful past. Discover its remarkable history, landscape and wildlife.

Highland Titles Nature Reserves

The Glencoe Wood Nature Reserve near Duror, is a 4* Visit Scotland attraction.


Lochaber Geopark

A geopark must contain several geological or geomorphological sites of national and international importance. These may be significant because of their scientific quality, rarity, aesthetic appeal or educational value.

A geopark can include not only sites of geological importance, but also sites of archaeological, ecological, historical or cultural interest. A geopark territory must be large enough to allow for true economic development. Geoparks are driven by local communities that want to celebrate their Earth heritage and thereby achieve sustainable development of their area through ‘geotourism’.

Mythical Creatures

I am sure that most of you will be aware of the Loch Ness Monster, although we’ve not seen Nessie ourselves there is a very good exhibition at Drumnadrochit where you can find out more about the beastie.

A cousin of Nessie lives in Loch Morar, she is called Morag.

Loch Achtriochtan in Glencoe was the home to a water bull or tarbh uisge.  These creatures were quite small, black and slippery, shaped like a bull and were apparently harmless.

And a bit nearer to home, a dragon lived on Beinn Bheithir (this mountain overlooks Ballachulish).  She was partial to the unwary traveller, however when she had 7 young the locals got a bit worried.  A young man called Charles managed to slay the dragon with the lure of a roast pig on a boat to which he set fire.  The locals killed off the 7 young. All that can be seen now is the Dragon’s Tooth just behind the golf course.