One of the best places to look for wildlife is in the Cairngorms National Park. The largest in the UK, this outstandingly beautiful expanse of rugged moorland, lush forests of Scots Pine and majestic mountains is home to a myriad of rare creatures. The golden eagle, osprey, dotterel, Scottish crossbill, pine marten, red deer and badger are just a few of the species you can spot here.
The region is blessed with a number of beautiful nature reserves where other rare birds and animals thrive. At Glen Tanar, south west of Aboyne, you can explore one of the last remaining remnants of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian pine forest. Black grouse, goshawk and the elusive capercaillie all breed here and red squirrels are a common sight on this National Nature Reserve.
A unique mosaic of wetland, birch woodland and heather-clad moor, the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve is a haven for wintering wildfowl including whooper swans, goldeneye, wigeon, and ospreys can sometimes be glimpsed fishing on the lochs.
The equally varied habitat of the Forvie National Nature Reserve with its windswept sand dunes also supports a diverse array of flora and fauna. Located by the Ythan estuary, here you’ll find grey seals and nesting eider ducks alongside diving terns, oystercatchers and delicate flowering plants.
Watch migrating salmon battle their way up stream at the cascading Falls of Feugh, one of the region’s best natural salmon leaps, and pay a visit to Scotland's only mainland gannet colony at Troup Head. These spectacular cliffs are also home to thousands of kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills, along with several other species, including puffins.
The region’s dramatic coastline, in particular the northerly stretch known as the Banffshire Coast, is a fantastic place to look for dolphins, seals, porpoises and even the occasional whale. You can get a closer look at these remarkable marine creatures by joining one of the many boat tours or wildlife cruises available.