Get up close and personal with some of the most spectacular wildlife in Britain. In Scotland you can see magnificent animals in every setting, from eagles soaring over seacliffs to wildcats hunting in the forest, stags standing proud on the mountain and killer whales cruising through the waves.

What rare animals can I see in Scotland?

Scottish Wildcat

Go exploring in remote corners of the Cairngorms and if you're very patient (and a little bit lucky) you might catch a glimpse of a Scottish wildcat (pictured). These secretive hunters look like supersized and very grumpy tabby cats, with much bushier tails and tufts on their ears. There may be as few as 100 left in the wild.

Male capercaillie close up

Walkers are often startled when they meet a capercaillie in the woods. This is a big bird - the size of a turkey - and the male has very distinctive plumage.

That cheeky little face peering at you from a rowan tree might be a pine marten. These swift little creatures are rare in the rest of Britain, but they have well-established habitats in the north of Scotland.

Where can I see unusual birds?

If you're a dedicated birdwatcher you'll already know how amazing Scotland is for spotting rare and beautiful species. If you haven't tried it before, this is the place to start!

Puffin rock Isle May

The Hebrides are home to unusual characters like the corncrake and puffin (pictured), and in Skye you can see two types of eagle. You can even see feathered wonders close to the cities. Just off the coast near Edinburgh are the Isle of May and the Bass Rock, both of which are home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds. David Attenborough called the Bass Rock 'one of the wildlife wonders of the world'. You can explore both on a boat trip.

When do stags perform their rut?

Red Deer Stag

You can see four wild deer species in Scotland: roe deer, red deer (pictured), sika and fallow deer. Red deer are the largest, and if you visit in late September and October you can watch the rut, one of the animal kingdom's greatest spectacles. To win the right to mate with the hinds, stags roar at each other then lock antlers in bloody battles that exhaust even the victor. Stags can lose 20 percent of their body weight from the effort. You can see the UK's only herd of reindeer any time of year at Glenmore near Aviemore.

Rangers can take you on rut-watching trips in the Beinn Eighe and Creag Meagaidh nature reserves in Wester Ross and Laggan.

Where can I see salmon leaping?

Black Linn Falls Hermitage

Every autumn salmon swim up Scottish rivers and leap up crashing waterfalls as they return to their spawning grounds. It's a spectacular sight and one excellent place to view it is on the River Braan in the Hermitage at Dunkeld. This riverside wood is also home to Britain's tallest trees - one Douglas fir is over 200 ft tall. Other salmon spots include the Falls of Shin in Sutherland, Philiphaugh near Selkirk, and Pitlochry fish ladder.

Is there any sea life to watch?

Oh, yes. Take a boat trip round our coasts and watch for that tell-tale dorsal fin breaking the waves. Dolphins love the Moray Firth, basking sharks often cruise round the island of Coll, and orcas are regularly spotted off Caithness.

When should I come if I'm keen on wildlife?

Anytime. The wildlife roll call changes every season, so you can meet new characters every time you come to Scotland. Birds arrive and depart, and many animals take on new guises. Every winter the mountain hares swap their brown fur coats for sleek white ones to camouflage themselves against the snow.