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MAP – Family days out to explore the wildlife in north and north east Scotland

Discover the wildlife of north and north east Scotland
Discover the wildlife of north and north east Scotland

The latest in our map series for family-friendly days out takes you on a tour of the wildlife waiting to be discovered on your doorstep.

Browse the clickable map below, and read more on our pick of wild days out.

The Shetland pony experience – Burra, Shetland

Lead the world-famous Shetland ponies on an idyllic walk in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt landscapes in the UK. You will meet the foals and their mothers outside, before going inside to lead the ponies through a short obstacle course. Children can have a short ride here, then walk the ponies down to the picturesque Burra beach for a photo.

Note: Experience costs £30 per person.

Further info and directions

The Shetland Pony Experience

Dolphin spotting on the Moray Firth – Black Isle

The choppy waters around the Black Isle, Highland, are home to around 200 bottle nose dolphins. The village of North Kessock and Chanonry Point are both good places to spot them playing in the sea, or you can book a boat tour for a closer glimpse. You may also spot other marine wildlife including seals, otters, red kites and ospreys.

Further info and directions

Dolphins play in the incoming tide at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle.

Red deer at Loch Muick – Balmoral

The Balmoral estate has a wild, romantic feel. The area around Loch Muick is particularly evocative, with the Widow’s House built for Queen Victoria, vast sweeping hills and the tranquil loch. The sight of majestic red deer drinking from the fresh waters is one you will never forget.

Further info and directions

Red deer roaming the Cairngorms.

Sea stack puffin spotting – Orkney

Affectionately nicknamed Tammie Norrie by the locals, colourful puffins can be found in their thousands on the Orkney Isles. Take a day out to discover the famous Orkney wildlife. One of the best places to spot them is the island of Westray. On the east side of the island, Castle O’Burrian is a short sea stack home to hundreds of nesting puffins from late April to mid August. Travel to the cliffs on the west coastline and you will also spot guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes and gannets.

Further info and directions

An Atlantic Puffin looks up from a cliff in Orkney.

Hairy Heilan Coos – Sutherland

Highland cows can be found all over Scotland, but this day out is a great opportunity to see them in their natural environment. Kirkton Farm, near Melvich, Sutherland, is a family-run cattle farm which offers a unique experience – buggy tours to see the livestock up close! Visitors will be taken around the farm on an open-sided four wheel drive buggy, and meet the resident Highland cows, sheep and pygmy goats. You will also hear about farming in the far north and some of the history of the area.

Further info and directions

Hazlehead Pets’ Corner – Aberdeen

You don’t have to leave the city to discover wildlife. Hazlehead is an expansive, peaceful park right in the heart of Aberdeen and it also features the ever-popular Pets’ Corner. Visitors can meet everything from pigs and donkeys to reptiles and fish – not forgetting Vader, the Burmese python! Pets’ Corner is open April-Sept 10am to 5.30pm with limited numbers and enhanced health and safety provisions – check ahead before visiting in case restrictions change. Note, this is a paid attraction.

Further info and directions

Two new baby meerkats at Pets Corner, Hazlehead.<br />Picture by KATH FLANNERY

Red squirrels, Ballater

This Aberdeenshire woodland is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geological features, and the landscape is dotted with lochans, picturesque bridges, pine trees and heather. Yet it’s the wildlife that will really steal the show on this family day out. Cambus o’May is a great place to spot red squirrels, dragonflies and even the golden eagle.

Further info and directions

Red squirrels are a rare sight but can be found in Cambus O’May woodland.

Alpaca trail, Caithness

Meet the friendly alpacas of the NC500. Ulbster Alpaca Trekking offers farm visits and treks on the north east coast of Caithness. After meeting ‘the boys’ and giving them some treats, you can lead them on a slow wander around the rugged north east Caithness coast. Back at the farm, there’s a chance to meet the lady alpacas (and maybe their babies, or ‘cria’) and feed the ducks.

Note: Experience costs £20 per adult and £10 per child.

Further info and directions

Alpacas trekking at Ulbster, Caithness

Bird watching on Loch Spynie – Moray

This RSPB reserve is one of Moray’s hidden wildlife gems, found just 10 minutes from Elgin and Lossiemouth. The loch is surrounded by wet woodlands, fen meadow and the largest freshwater reedbed in Scotland. The loch is a haven for swans, duck, geese, heron and gulls. It’s also home to a rich variety of woodland birds as well as otters and red squirrels.

Further info and directions

Kingfisher sits above the water at the Loch Spynie Hide<br />Hazel Thomson, Elgin.

Looking for more ideas? Try our other maps

Find scenic walks around the north and north East

Find a touch of magic on these days out

Use our maps to find playparks in the north and north east

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