It’s time to get out on the road and discover (or rediscover!) some of the many nature reserves which Scotland has to offer. From geoparks in the Highlands, to RSPB reserves in the Outer Hebrides, there’s plenty of reasons to plan an outdoor getaway in Scotland.
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourites to inspire you for your next trip. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the views!
1. Forsinard Flows, Caithness
Have a date with nature as you explore the wonders of Forsinard Flows in Caithness. Stop by the visitor centre where you will discover more about how important peatlands are to Scotland’s landscape, and if you think you have what it takes to help protect them, then why not have a go at the Peatland Management Game?
The nature reserve is also home to several nature trails too. For a gentle walk, we recommend that you try the Dubh Lochan Trail. Outdoor lovers will certainly be in their element when they discover the Flows Lookout Tower en route, giving you a unique perspective on the pool system as well as great views out over the surrounding landscape.
Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for a wide variety of wildlife set to make an appearance throughout the seasons, or if you fancy a longer walk, why not take on the Forsinain Trail? Remember to bring sensible walking boots with you as the route can get very wet!
2. Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve, North West Highlands
If you’re a sucker for all thing’s geology, then this really is going to rock your world! Situated in the North West Highlands and part of the first UNESCO Global Geopark in Scotland, Knockan Crag is an adventure waiting to happen.
Did you know the Moine Thrust was created by the force of two continents crashing together many millions of years ago and that a Norman MacCaig poem can be found carved into the rock? These are just some of the things that you will uncover as you delve deeper into Scotland’s rich, geological past.
Fancy staying just that wee bit longer? No problem! Take on the Rock Route where you will explore amazing rocks and landscapes. Make sure you have your camera at the ready too as you will be treated to some of the most spectacular views.
3. St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve, Scottish Borders
With its dramatic coastlines and stunning array of wildlife, it’s certainly no surprise that St Abbs managed to make its way to the big screen in the blockbuster film Avengers: Endgame. The Scottish nature reserve which makes a starring role as the fictional village of New Asgard is also the perfect day out to explore the very best of Scotland’s natural bounty.
Put on your walking boots as you head along the Mire Loch. You’ll be greeted with spectacular cliff-top views while overlooking the crystal-clear waters, and the local lighthouse which has been in service since 1862.
4. Glen Affric, Highlands
Switch off from the real world and escape to your own Highland utopia at Glen Affric. Home to one of the largest ancient Caledonian pine woods in Scotland, take a wander through its natural forest, shimmering lochs and rugged hills while being accompanied by the sweet song of woodland birds often heard trilling through the pine trees.
When the weather is nice, have a picnic by the picturesque Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain or if you adventurers are up for a challenge why not bag a Munro or two? After a day full of adventure, you will no doubt be looking for a place to rest your head. Book a stay in a luxury cabin at Glen Affric Holiday Park where you will certainly feel right at home.
5. Ben Wyvis, Highlands
Feel on top of the world as you climb the dizzying heights of Ben Wyvis. This Scottish nature reserve provides the perfect blend of wildlife and scenery with many Munro baggers flocking here during the summer months to take in the incredible views from the summit.
If heights aren’t your thing, take in the sights and sounds of nature by going on a woodland walk where you will discover many different species of trees including aspen, birch and rowan.
6. Cairnsmore of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway
Known as one of the wildest places in south west Scotland, escape the busy bustle of everyday life by heading to Cairnsmore of Fleet. A favourite amongst walkers, take on the low-level Inbye Trail or why not challenge yourself along the mountain route to the Clints of Dromore – a definite must if you want to check out the beautiful sculptures. Search for roe deer along the woodland fringes of the reserve and red deer on the hills.
7. Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway
Recognised internationally as a world class environment for people and nature, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve offers a truly authentic experience to visitors. Be at one with nature where a friendly guide will take you around some of the biosphere’s most unique and memorable sites with a series of biosphere itineraries to help you plan a jam-packed holiday.
Will it be a day full of outdoor fun at Galloway Activity Centre on the Loch Ken and River Dee route or will you let out your inner adventurer and climb up The Merrick along the Loch Trool and the Cree Valley Route? Whatever you decide to choose, it will no doubt be a memorable trip for the whole family.
8. Craigellachie, Aviemore
Experience your own slice of paradise at Craigellachie. No matter what time of year you decide to visit, the Scottish nature reserve truly comes to life with its diverse range of flora and fauna and the opportunity to catch a sight of some rare butterflies and moths.
Take a stroll along one of the four nature trails situated within the reserve or climb to the top viewpoint while you take in the spectacular views across the Spey Valley to the Cairngorm Mountains.
9. Great Trossachs Forest, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Forth Valley
One of the UK’s largest National Nature Reserves, The Great Trossachs Forest is a natural playground for all ages to come and enjoy. Wood you believe, that in the first 10 years of its restoration project, more than 2.5 million trees have been planted?
An example of just one of the many fantastic things the nature reserve has done to help wildlife continue to thrive within their natural habitats. The Great Trossachs Path also gives you the opportunity to explore Scotland’s great outdoors, from walking and cycling to just taking in the beautiful scenery that surrounds you.
10. Moine Mhor, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll & the Isles
Carve out time for a road trip to see this natural showstopper! One of Scotland’s oldest landscapes, you could quite easily spend hours admiring the natural beauty of Moine Mhor. There is always a hive of activity to the nature reserve – go wildlife spotting or spend a lazy day by the river and go fishing.
11. Balranald Hebridean Nature Reserve, North Uist
Escape to a Scottish island and add the Balranald Hebridean Nature Reserve to your list of places to visit. Brace the sea breeze as you walk along the nature reserve’s waymarked trail where you will come across beautiful sandy beaches and rocky shores with the chance to see an incredible variety of wildlife.
12. Eskrigg Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway
Open all year round, Eskrigg Nature Reserve is located in Dumfries & Galloway and is home to many species of wildlife and flourishing flora and fauna. The reserve, as well as the adjacent dense woodland, offers the perfect setting to relax, snap up a few pics with your camera, explore the mountain biking trails, or just wander around at your own pace.
Keep your eyes peeled and you may be able to spot red squirrels, tawny owls, kingfishers, mandarin duck, and even adder’s tongue fern.
13. Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, Dumfries & Galloway
Nearby, Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve boasts dramatic coastal scenery and a spectacular array of birdlife. Located on the north shore of the Solway Firth in south east Dumfries & Galloway, it’s the perfect environment for the pintail, shelduck, oystercatcher and wading birds to delve for food in the mud. Thousands of geese graze the saltmarsh in autumn and winter, but come spring and summer, the natterjack toad’s noisy call can be heard.
14. Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, Ballater
Situated in the stunning Cairngorms National Park, the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve is home to a mosaic of wetlands, woods and moors, creating the ideal habitat for a range of wildlife, and has a wealth of connections to Scotland’s past too.
Visit the Vat Gorge, where the Burn O’Vat flows, a cauldron-shaped pothole that was shaped by rocks tumbling along in a stream beneath a glacier thousands of years ago. Keep an eye out for birds, animals and delicate woodland wild flowers as you stroll through the trails of this nature reserve.
15. Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve, Fife
On the east coast, Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve is located in the north east section of Fife and overlooks the mouth of the River Tay. Here you will find a whole host of coastal habitats, and if you’re lucky you may even see seals lazing in the sun on the golden sands. A variety of birds feed on the rich mix of food in the mudflats here, and you may even spot an elusive otter on the reserve too! Whether you want to explore the paths and trails, take a leisurely walk along the beach or lookout for rarities in one of the bird hides, Tentsmuir reserve is the ideal location.
We hope that you enjoyed our roundup of Scotland’s most beautiful nature reserves. If you’re still looking for some much-needed inspiration for future days out, find out what other beauty spots and wildlife Scotland has to offer, explore our eco accommodation, or make the most of the great outdoors by trying out these great walks.