7 Top Scottish Wildlife Experiences for Winter

Get ready to wrap up warm and look for these seven amazing animals this winter. Scotland’s landscapes entice many visitors during the winter months – there’s nothing like a winter walk in the countryside. Remember to stay responsible and treat nature with respect!

  1. Astonishing Orcas Shetland

    A pod of orcas off the coast of Shetland

    © Brydon Thomason

    Travel north this winter to Shetland for the best chance of seeing an orca in Scottish waters. Orcas are spotted virtually every week around Shetland during the winter months and you can take an exciting trip in the hope of seeing a pod off the coast. There are lots of great coastal viewing spots around the islands reachable by road and on foot. Shetland has become an orca hot-spot but like all wildlife don’t be disappointed if you don’t see one – it’s a chance worth taking!

  2. Cute Highland Cows Nationwide

    Highland Coo Safari at Rothiemurchus

    © VisitScotland

    With their big hairy coats and distinctive horns, Highland Cows are instantly recognisable. Scotland’s winter weather doesn’t bother these big and gentle creatures – they even have a long fringe to keep the wind and snow out of their eyes. The coat is shed in spring in preparation for warmer weather so be sure to catch them in winter at their cutest and hairiest. You can see Highland Cows across Scotland – check out our article on the best places to see them.

  3. Magical Mountain Hares Highlands

    Mountain Hare

    © Neil McIntyre

    Mountain hares undergo an amazing transformation each year. In the summertime their coats are grey-brown to camouflage them in heather moorland, while in winter they turn completely white to hide in the snow. They can typically be seen in the Highlands, bounding across snowy moorland in a zigzag pattern – so keep your eyes peeled if you’re out for a winter walk. They are also found on some of Scotland’s islands including Skye, Mull, Jura, Lewis and Harris.

  4. Amazing Otters Nationwide

    Otter cubs on Yell, Shetland

    © Neil McIntyre

    Scotland’s rivers, lochs and coastal areas are home to otters which, while elusive, are a joy to behold. Their thick fur is warm and waterproof, they are great swimmers and like to speak to each other in high-pitched squeaks! Conservation organisation Forestry and Land Scotland recommends heading to the west coast for the best chance of seeing an otter. You could head for the shores of Loch Sunart, woodland trails on the Isle of Mull or even Galloway Forest Park. The Shetland islands also have a thriving otter population.

  5. Majestic Stags Nationwide

    Stag in Glencoe

    © VisitScotland

    Spotting red deer in their natural habitat is exhilarating, especially stags with their unforgettable antlers. These noble creatures are most likely to be seen in forests during the winter months – early morning or evening being the best time to see them when it’s quiet. There’s a chance you’ll spot deer in any large Scottish forest – so head out for a bracing winter walk and keep your camera at the ready. Why not head to one of Scotland’s great national parks such as the Cairngorms?

  6. Wonderful Wildfowl Highlands

    Ptarmigan in winter

    Catching sight of a beautiful bird can brighten up any winter day! Birdwatching or ‘birding’ has become increasingly trendy over the last few years and Scotland is a popular destination. From waxwings to pink-footed geese, you can spot all kinds of birds during a Scottish winter. Perhaps one of the most exciting is the ptarmigan – found exclusively in the Scottish Highlands, these plump white creatures are a must-see. Find out more about birdwatching and plan a visit.

  7. Stunning Seals Orkney

    Seals in North Ronaldsay

    © VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins

    It is estimated that around 15% of the world's seal population make the Orkney islands their home. More than enough reason to pay these fascinating islands a visit! Grey and Common Seals can be spotted in the winter months relaxing on the shore, as well as in the water. Have your camera at the ready but remember not to get too close and respect their space.

For more information on Scotland’s animals and year-round experiences check out our Scottish Wildlife page. 

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