The reserves in East Lothian are particularly popular with birdwatchers. Aberlady Bay, near to Gullane, is a Local Nature Reserve and home to large colonies of pink-footed geese and waders. There are also a substantial number of breeding ducks including eider and shelduck plus a thriving number of species which are in decline elsewhere such as skylarks and reed bunting. The bay has good shoreline trails and a hide from which to spot the various offshore species.
Many of the islands in the Firth of Forth host substantial 'seabird cities', with perhaps the best known being Bass Rock, sitting around 2 miles north east of North Berwick. This remarkable island is home to around 150,000 gannets, the largest island colony in the world, which can be visited by boat or viewed at the excellent Scottish Seabird Centre courtesy of a live video feed. Puffins, cormorants, guillemot and other species can also be found here and at several other islands in the Forth such as the Isle of May, Fidra and Craigleith.
West and Midlothian
Elsewhere across the region, there are various reserves that are havens for woodland wildlife of all sorts and which are great places to lose yourself in the peace and quiet.
Ravelston Woods Local Nature Reserve is an atmospheric, ancient woodland with native oak, ash and holly trees. In spring, a carpet of bluebells dominates the landscape. Stop and listen for woodland birds or gaze out across the Firth of Forth.
Almondell and Calderwood Country Park near Broxburn has plenty of open spaces for you to explore. Wander through the bluebells in early summer or take a stroll by the river. Ranger-led walks are available and the visitor centre has displays of local wildlife. There are also ranger-led walks at Muiravonside Country Park near Linlithgow.
Polkemmet Country Park near Whitburn also offers waymarked trails where you’ll encounter grey squirrels, rabbits, foxes and badgers while Straiton Pond Local Nature Reserve is a beautiful watery wildlife sanctuary where you can watch coots and dabchicks from the bird observation post.
Browse the selection of listings below to start planning your visit to a nature reserve in Edinburgh & The Lothians