Wildlife bathroom, decorated in an artist’s drawings depicting the variety of animal life guests may spot on a Loch Ness holiday at the Estate at Aldourie Castle, is just another example of the uniqueness of this Scottish Highlands property, available only for private hire.
An exclusive stay at Aldourie certainly brings you closer to Scottish wildlife; from its walled kitchen garden abundant in insects busying themselves from flower to flower, to the arboretum, a sanctuary for birds and red squirrel, to striding through long grass across wide, open parkland where you quietly seek out rabbits and deer in their private habitats.
Take a woodland walk and follow the line of flight of a bird of prey soaring high above the tall trees. During a private stay on a Loch Ness holiday you may sight some more unusual wildlife such as the cuckoo or the pine marten. Roe deer are such gentle, beautiful creatures who bring calm and instant joy to the watcher. Through Aldourie’s commitment to conservation we shall encourage wildlife to thrive on this Highlands Estate for generations to come.
Although our magnificent Estate boasts some wildlife treasures guests are encouraged to venture further afield in order to truly experience Scotland’s amazing and wonderful wildlife in a variety of landscapes. From the coasts to the mountain tops, we are privileged to share this landscape with a variety of incredible animals.
As elusive a mammal as the pine marten the otter is hard to pin down. Can be spotted on the west coast seashore of Scotland during the day. It’s over a two hour drive to Kylerhea, a village on the east coast of the stunning and mesmerising Isle of Skye, but once you’re on a Loch Ness holiday in the Scottish Highlands everywhere is a drive away! It depends how keen you are to spot an otter in Scotland!
Mostly active at night, they are best spotted in sheltered bays in the late evening or early morning. Head out at low tide and you may be rewarded with the sight of a female and her cubs scouring the rock pools for crabs and other crustaceans. Delightfully playful, otters are a genuine treat for those lucky enough to spot one.
Located in Find Horn Valley 26 miles from a Loch Ness holiday
Extinct from Scotland until the 1970s when a Norwegian breeding pair were released on the Isle of Rum, the white-tailed or sea eagle has firmly re-established itself along the west coast. There are several pairs on Mull, which is generally regarded as the best place to see them but with their huge range they can be spotted anywhere along our western coasts and beyond. Generally scavengers, sea-eagles will also take small rabbits and fish. They are easily distinguished from other birds of prey by their huge wing span which can reach 2.5 metres, and from the golden eagle by their distinctive white tail feathers.
North of Inverness you don’t have to travel far just opt for the forest trails. The pinewoods of Strathspey and and parts of the Black Isle (blog link)This tiny forest-dwelling mammal is now find right across the Highlands and, being largely nocturnal, is best spotted on the late, light nights of summer. Pine martens are adept at hunting and can take down red squirrels with ease. They are also expert climbers scavengers and are not immune to raiding compost and rubbish bins as well as stealing treats left out for garden birds.
Moray Firth in May or June
One of the most commonly spotted of our native whales, minkes are found right across the west coast. Best spotted in calm seas and sunshine – when their breaching backs glint off the sun – minke whales are a sight to behold. Growing up to nine metres long, they are frequent visitors to the seas around the Small Isle of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. Minkes feed on fish, squid and krill, which they gulp into their huge mouths and filter. Inquisitive mammals they often approach boats and can breach beside them as they breathe through their blowholes. Beware though, their breath is not the most pleasant.
One of the most iconic of all Scotland’s mammals, deer, especially red deer are found throughout the Highlands and are easily spotted on rough moorland and the edges of forests. Unfortunately, they are also especially fond of roads but the sharp-eyed driver will spot the reflection of their eyes before any damage is caused. In summer, stags will be sporting their newly-grown, velvet-covered antlers in preparation for the autumn rut when they will battle for dominance of the herd and the right to breed with the hinds, as the females are known.
These delightful creatures are our native squirrel and were once prevalent throughout the UK. Now, however, they have lost out to the non-native grey squirrel in most of the country but continue to thrive in the Highlands. At home in the coniferous forests of the west and, the Caledonian forest of Strathspey and the central Highlands, they are active during daylight hours but are shy and will freeze if startled.
Another of our native marine mammals, an encounter with dolphins is always a special experience. Frequently found riding the bow waves of boats across the west coast, bottlenose dolphins travel in small pods but on occasion pods can join up to make huge groups of playful, breaching animals. Common dolphins travel in larger groups, sometimes consisting of more than 100 animals, and are distinguishable from their cousins by the white hourglass markings on their flanks. Dolphins are especially fast-moving, travelling at up to 20 miles an hour and feed upon fish such as mackerel and salmon.
Highland Wildlife Park is your best bet – mainly because you’ll be able to admire them more close up than in the wild and you are in a safe environment as the wildcat can be aggressive if provoked. That said, they are a diminishing and threated species so we must do all we can to preserve this magnificent, solitary wild creature.
It’s probably the most threatened of all our native species, the Scottish wildcat is now confined to a few spots in the far north and west a victim of lost habitat and, more especially, inter-breeding with its close cousin the domestic cat. Despite their familiar looks, wildcats are not simply feral cats, they are true wild animals. One of the hardest to spot of all our native species, wildcats, in addition to being rare, are shy and nocturnal. They hunt voles and mice and, like their domestic relatives, prey on small birds.