Scotland's Big 5

Quick Finder

Search for Places

Search Accommodation

Or
Room / Property
If booking self-catering accommodation please select 1 room/property for the total number of adults & children.
Advanced Search

Search What's On

Or
Start Date
End Date

Search things to do

Or

Search Food & Drink

Or

Search Scots Agents

Watch our TV ad
Watch our TV ad

See Scotland's stunning scenery brought to life

  • * also known as the golden eagle
    * also known as the golden eagle

As part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013, VisitScotland joined forces with Scottish Natural Heritage to showcase some of the country’s best loved wildlife. For the past few months you've been voting in your thousands and we're delighted to announce details of the winner below.

Read on to find out more about our worthy winner, the other species in Scotland's Big 5, and a few other suggestions too.

Scotland's Big 5 resultsScotland's Big 5 winner - the golden eagle

The golden eagle - one of Scotland's largest birds of prey

The sight of a soaring golden eagle, one of the best known birds of prey, with a wingspan of over 2 metres, is not to be missed.

Scotland's habitat, particularly the Highlands, is the ideal place for them to thrive, as they can feed over the vast open land.

Best places to spot  - In low lying moorland, peat bogs and mountain ranges.

Did you know? -  They can reach speed of up to 80 mph.

A red squirrel © Scottish Natural Heritge

Red squirrel

The red squirrel is the UK’s only native species of squirrel and Scotland boasts over 80% of the UK’s population. As well as their native Scots pine and oak woodland areas, they have also adapted well to living in commercial forestry plantations.

Best places to spot - The central Highlands in and around the Cairngorms. There is also a dedicated Red Squirrel Walk through Dalbeattie Forest in Dumfries & Galloway.

Did you know? - Young squirrels moult their ear tufts once a year.

A red deer roars as part of the annual autumn rut on the Isle of Rum

Red deer

The majestic red deer is Britain’s largest land mammal. In summer, their hide is a dark reddish brown colour, while during the winter months, it turns a darker brown or grey shade.

Spending most of the summer months in Scotland’s hills and remote glens, red deer can be spotted on lower ground during winter, where food is more readily available.

Look and listen out for the impressive autumn deer rut, when stags lock antlers and jostle for power.

Best places to spot  - Large numbers can be found in the hills of Dumfries & Galloway, but other hotspots include Perthshire, the northwest Highlands and the islands of Rum and Jura.

Did you know? - Stags use their loud roar to ward off competition from other stags.

An otter searches for prey © Scottish Natural HeritageOtter

Scotland is a stronghold for the Eurasian otter which can be spotted across the country in freshwater rivers, canals and marshes, as well as in the sea.

They live in holts, such as burrows or caves, which they find ideal for shelter or breeding. Known for their shy nature, spotting them requires luck, patience and silence. 

Clear signs that otters are in the area include webbed footprints in the sand and droppings, known as spraints.

Best places to spot - Particularly high densities are found in the waters around Shetland and Dumfries & Galloway.

Did you know? - Otters’ whiskers are highly sensitive prey detectors.

Harbour seal A seal relaxes on a seaweed covered rock © Scottish Natural Heritage

The harbour or common seal is a popular sight in the sheltered waters around Scotland's coast. They feed on everything from shrimps to herring and can usually be seen on the rocky outcrops of the west coast or on sandbanks and around estuaries.

Best places to spot - The waters around Shetland, Orkney and the east coast of the Outer Hebrides and along much of Scotland's west coast, as well as around the Moray Firth and Firth of Tay.

Did you know? - When seal pups are born they instinctly know how to swim.


Three other wildlife species also proved very popular. Find out more information about the Scottish wildcat, pine marten and puffin.

Download Scottish Natural Heritage's free iPhone app for tips on how to identify and where best to discover these amazing animals across Scotland.

Share