Wildlife bathroom, decorated in an artist’s drawings depicting the variety of animal life guests may spot on the Estate at Aldourie Castle, is just another example of the uniqueness of this Scottish Highlands, private hire property. An exclusive use castle 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 the shores of Loch Ness 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.
Nonetheless, private castle guests are encouraged to venture further afield in order to truly experience Scotland’s amazing and wonderful wildlife in a variety of landscapes. From woodland walks to mountain peaks, here’s where you may spot your favourite animals.
See the almighty Sea Eagle on the western coast
The sea eagle is the largest bird of prey in the UK and the fourth largest in the world. It was hunted to extinction in Scotland until the 1970s when a Norwegian breeding pair were released on the Isle of Rum. Since then, the white-tail or sea eagle has thankfully firmly re-established itself in the country. The Isle of Skye, Mull and Rum are generally regarded as the best places to spot a sea eagle, but because of their huge range (which can span up to 2.5 metres and their height to 1 metre) they can actually be spotted anywhere along Scotland’s western coasts and beyond. Sea eagles will take small rabbits, seabirds and fish but are generally scavengers. They are easily distinguished from other birds of prey by their huge wing span, their white tail and pale head. They also have broad, rectangular shaped wings and a wedge-shaped tail.
This tiny forest-found mammal is now find right across the Highlands so during your exclusive use castle stay you don’t have to travel far for the mainly nocturnal pine marten. Just opt for the coniferous and mixed woodland trails north of Inverness and Aldourie. But wait till the late, light summer nights when they’re likely to be out hunting. Red squirrels are their choice of prey but they are again scavengers and can be found raiding bins and garden treats left for birds! If you want to go further afield, the pinewoods of Strathspey and parts of the Black Isle are also scenic hot spots for the pine marten.
The pine marten is part of the otter and badger family featuring a dark brown coat and a bushy tail. Perhaps it’s best recognised by its unique bib pattern that starts under its chin and reaches down its chest, coloured almost yellow to white. It has small dark eyes and large rounded like ears which give it a teddy-bear-like cuteness. The pine marten may stand upright on its haunches to get a better view, a bit like a meercat.
Minke whales in the Moray Firth as summer hits
One of the most commonly spotted of our native whales (most UK sightings are in Scotland) minke whales are found right across the west coast, especially during May and June. They are one of the smallest of their species, between 8.5 and 9 metres long, and best seen in calm seas and sunshine. You may spot their breaching backs glistening under a hot sun. Just like the legendary lochs against a mountainous Highlands backdrop, Minkes are a spectacular sight to behold. They frequently visit the small Isle of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna.
Minkes feed on fish, squid and krill. They often approach boats and can breach beside them as they breathe through their blowholes. A medium sized whale, the minke whale is defined by its sleekness and pointed head. It is dark grey to black in colour with white undersides and white patches behind its head.
A symbol of Scotland, the peaceful deer
The deer is one of the most iconic of all Scotland’s mammals, depicting a beauty and innocence incomparable to any other species. You may spot deer, particularly the red variety, throughout the Highlands. They’re easily spotted on rough moorland and the edges of forests. Deer can also be found standing very still on Highland roads – be sure to look out for the reflection of their eyes to give you time to stop. In summer, male deer (stages) sport their newly-grown, velvet-covered antlers in anticipation of the autumn rut when they will battle to dominate the herd and the right to breed with the hinds (female deer).