Argyll wildlife trail

With numerous precipitous cliffs, sandy beaches, rocky coves, large sea lochs, rolling glens and hills and more, Argyll & The Isles offers the ideal habitat for a variety of animals and birds. From red deer to wild white goats and fantastic marine creatures, uncover the wealth of Argyll & The Isles' wildlife.

  • A bluebell wood by Loch Eck, Argyll & The Isles
    A bluebell wood by Loch Eck
  • A family enjoys the view from the hills at Cowal Peninsula, Argyll & The Isles
    A family on a walk in the hills
  • Highland Cow, Argyll
    Highland Cow, Argyll
  • Looking across the sea to the sillhoutte of three rounded peaks at sunset
    The Paps of Jura
  • Puffins perched on a clifftop on the Isle of Staffa
    Puffins on the Isle of Staffa

Why not begin wildlife spotting on the Isle of Mull? With only 2,800 human inhabitants and precipitous cliffs, sandy beaches, rocky coves and large sea lochs, Mull is the ideal habitat for a variety of animals and birds. Red deer roam the hills and wild white goats can be found at Grass Point.

Mull is one of the best places to see a variety of birds of prey, including golden eagles, hen harriers and the majestic white-tailed sea eagle. Based at Glen Seilisdeir, Mull Eagle Watch is one of the best places in Europe to enjoy spectacular views of white-tailed sea eagles. The dedicated Sea Eagle hide is a popular attraction so booking is essential if you want to visit it.

For a chance to spot sea life, head to the rugged Mull coastline which is home to bottlenose dolphins, minke whales and harbour porpoises. Seasonal visitors include orcas, white sided dolphins and even humpbacks. Explore the island for yourself or book a place on one of the many wildlife safari tours that go around Mull, where local wildlife experts will help you to see and understand the lives of these animals.

From Mull, take a wildlife cruise to the Isle of Staffa, a remarkable little island, home to a variety of wildlife and the famous Fingal’s Cave. Staffa is a rich natural habitat and one of the best places in Scotland to see the fascinating puffins. Visitors can watch puffins fishing, diving and raising their young during the spring and summer months. Other seabirds who call Staffa home include gannets, guillemots, fulmars, skuas and razorbills. On the boat journey to Staffa there are plenty of opportunities to see a variety of sea life including dolphins, porpoises and minke and fin whales.

As the cruise continues to the Treshnish Isles, keep an eye out for orcas, regular visitors to the west coast in the spring and summer months. Fast swimmers and few in number, Hebridean orcas are a rare find, but absolutely exhilarating to see.

Begin your second day discovering wildlife in the Taynish National Nature Reserve, situated on the mainland of Argyll. The peaceful oak woodlands of Taynish are interspersed with grassland, heath, salt marsh and shoreline to give a truly amazing variety of wildlife.

Admire the spring time carpet of wildflowers or search out evidence left by a secretive otter as it slips through the wood. Follow the Woodland Trail around the reserve, home to a variety of rare butterflies and dragonflies or head to the shoreline and watch otters swimming in the tidal rapids at the tip of the peninsula.

The forest is home to an abundance of birds, insects and animals and visitors may even spot pine martins through the shrubs and trees.

From Taynish, head north on a short drive to Moine Mhor National Nature Reserve, situated just outside of Lochgilphead. Moine Mhor is a speckled mixture of mossy hummocks and open pools rising in a shallow, peaty dome. Fast moving hen harriers quarter the moss in search of prey whilst summer light catches on the glint of a dragonfly.

In autumn the reserve is dominated by the deep red tones of sphagnum moss, soaking up water like a sponge. Older than many of the standing stones in the surrounding glen, Moine Mhor has locked many years of history into its silent layers of peat. Raised wooden platforms across the peat give visitors a chance to get close to the wildlife in their natural habitat while protecting the biodiversity of the park.

Spend your last day wildlife spotting on the isles of Islay and Jura.

The Isle of Jura’s name comes from the Norse ‘island of the deer’. This is especially fitting for Jura whose 200 human residents are outnumbered by more than 6,000 red deer. As the deer graze in the valleys and on the flanks of the hills and mountains, the skies are patrolled by majestic golden eagles and sea eagles. Hen harriers and buzzards frequent the skies as well looking out for prey in the grass and bracken and at dusk the owls take over this task.

At daytime many other birds can be spotted, depending on the habitat you are in. Jura is fortunate to have a lot of different habitats. Woodland, bogs, heather, grassland and coastal bays and sandy beaches are present on Jura's east coast where you will find many species of song birds.

The west of the island is more rugged and mountainous providing excellent habitats for sea birds such as shags and guillemots nesting on the cliffs and sea stacks. In the bracken and between the heather adders warm themselves in the sun before they go out to hunt for prey such as voles, shrews, mice, frogs, lizards and small birds.

Jura can be enjoyed alone or as part of an organised wildlife tour, where local rangers will assist you in finding the best places to spot each animal.

Next pay a visit to Loch Gruinart RSPB Reserve on Islay, perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of the island, offering stunning views combined with unique wildlife, rare birds and thousands of geese in the wintertime. The spring migration is a good time to look out for unusual birds which have made a wrong turn.

From the hides in spring time there are good views of great white egret, marsh harrier, wood sandpiper and blue-winged teal .The floods are full of activity as breeding ducks and waders nest and raise their young during spring and summer. Tiny roe deer fawns are reared among the rushes and magnificent red deer stags feed close by. Otters often swim through the shallows hunting for prey and causing lapwings and redshanks to dive-bomb and scream to attract them away.

There are plenty of hides, vantage points and information leaflets to help guide your viewing experience and there are ranger led tours throughout the daylight period.