Boasting unspoilt wilderness and some of the best hillwalking in the country, Cairngorms National Park is Britain’s largest National Park. It incorporates nine National Nature Reserves (NNR) and plays host to 25 percent of the UK’s threatened wildlife species, like the golden eagle.
Discover the breathtaking landscape of Corrie Fee NNR, home to the scarce arctic-alpine plants, rare mountain willows, golden eagles and peregrines, or head to Glenmore Forest NNR by Aviemore, where you can spot red squirrels, crossbills and crested tits.
Head south to the Abernethy NNR, where you will find a mosaic of Caledonian pinewood, moorland and bog, and where imposing ospreys nest high in the tree tops near Loch Garten.
To the west of the Cairngorms National Park lies Glen Affric NNR. This long, thin reserve changes significantly from west to east and offers visitors a great range of different experiences. Look out for the red and black-throated divers and the elusive otters and dippers which inhabit the tumultuous River Affric, and when in the west end of the glen, watch out for the golden eagles hunting over the slopes.
For a complete mountain experience, head to Creag Meagaidh NNR on the north shore of Loch Laggan. It is an important breeding ground birds such as dotterels, and rare mountain plants like Highland saxifrage. The area has been designated as both a Special Protection Area and a NNR.
Further north, do not miss Beinn Eighe NNR near Kinlochewe. Enjoy the great trail network of Britain’s first National Nature Reserve and discover the amazing diversity of wildlife including secretive crossbills and golden eagles.
You can follow the scenic trails at Craigellachie NNR and try to spot peregrine falcons, admire the rare butterflies and dragonflies at Ariundle Oakwood NNR, while Glen Tanar NNR is a popular breeding area for Scottish crossbills, capercaillies and black grouse.
Or why not venture to the far north of the Scottish Highlands to the North West Highlands Geopark in Assynt? Situated north of the busy ferry and fishing town of Ullapool at the shore of Loch Assynt, the park is the first in Scotland of its kind and takes in around 2,000 square km of stunning and varied terrain. From mountain landscapes to sandy beaches, forest to coastline, the area provides shelters to a great diversity of wildlife and is also home to the country’s longest cave, Uamh an Claonaite.