The headland at the southern most tip of Shetland combines cliffs that host a breeding colony of more than 10,000 seabirds, including gannets, kittiwakes, puffins and shags, with sea-cliff grassland with breeding birds such as wheatear and oystercatcher. Also a good site for viewing cetaceans. Nature trails and interpretative panels available, and disabled parking available at the lighthouse to enable easier viewing of the cliffs.
Sumburgh, Mainland Shetland.
This 410 hectare island is home during the summer months to breeding Arctic terns, arctic skuas, great skuas, eider ducks, black guillemots, oystercatchers, ringed plovers, snipe and redshanks. The highlight of the site is the Iron Age broch which provides a nesting site for some of the 6,000 storm petrels that nest on the reserve. Access is by boat from Leebotten, Sandwick.
Sandwick, Mainland Shetland.
Tel 01950 460800
This shallow loch is home to long-tailed ducks, whooper swans, snipe and lapwings. Best viewed from the road, and access to the loch side is not permitted to avoid disturbing this sensitive area.
Sumburgh, Mainland Shetland.
Tel 01950 460800
This rocky landscape is home to a community of special plants including northern rock cress, hoary whitlow grass, Norwegian sandwort and Edmondston’s chickweed. The underlying Serpentine rock weathers into angular fragments, making this site one of the largest expanses of serpentine debris in Europe. Best to visit in May,June and July.
The perfect place to view a seabird spectacular of breeding gannets, guillemots, skuas, puffins and fulmars. Accessible by inflatable boat from the neighbouring Isle of Bressay during the summer months. Ring the Noss Line on 0800 1077818 to check access before setting out.
Off Bressay, Shetland.
Tel: 01595 693345
The main habitat at Fetlar is upland serpentine mire, which provides a nesting site for a nationally important population of red-necked phalaropes. The hides on the reserve overlook this area. As well as breeding snipe, curlews, redshanks, lapwings and teals there are also good displays of flowering wetland plants. Also look out for arctic and great skuas, as well as red-throated divers
Reknowned as much for its location and history as for its stunning wildlife, St Kilda is a “must visit” destination for anyone interested in Scotlands wildlife. The archipelago supports Europe’s most important seabird colony, including the world’s biggest gannet colony and Britain’s largest fulmar colony.
A number of charter boats make the trip each year, travelling from the western isles or the Scottish mainland. Access can be difficult, and tends to be restricted to the summer months.
Location: 66km west of Benbecula
The five low-lying islands that make up the island group are renowned for their machair, breeding grey seals and sea birds, including one of the largest single black guillemot colonies in the UK. Although difficult to access, they are well worth the journey.
4 miles west of North Uist
These isolated islands provide a breeding site for the rare Leach’s and storm petrels as well as fulmars, gannets, razorbills, guillemots and puffins.
As the most remote NNR in Britain access is extremely difficult. To land on the islands could cause great disturbance to the nesting birds there. To quote from the NNR’s leaflet “Please contact SNH in advance if you intend visiting and take a reserve supply of food in case bad weather stops you leaving. High winds are frequent and often violent, whilst the rocks, sheer cliffs and steep slopes can be very dangerous.”
There are a small number of liveaboard wildlife cruises that include North Rona in their itineries, including Eda Frandsen from Mallaig, Kilda Cruises from Harris. See our wildlife tours and trips page for more information.
Location: 45 miles north of the Butt of Lewis
A reserve of great contrasts between the sandy beaches and machair of the western edge of the reserve, and the heather moorland and rough grassland of the eastern stretches. Breeding birds include corncrakes, dunlin, redshank, lapwing, ringed plover and greylag geese.
Access to the south west corner is restricted during the breeding season to avoid disturbance.
Further information: NNR website on Loch Druidibeg Reserve. View reserve leaflet online.
Location: Spans the A865, South Uist
The reserve provides a cross section of sandy beaches, sand dunes, machir and moorland. The rocky foreshore and shallow lochs add to the wide variety of habitats.
Spring and summer brings the breeding birds, including corn crakes, skylarks, redshanks and lapwings, set of beautifully against the stunning machair. Barnacle geese start arriving in the autumn and overwinter here, joined by whooper swans, wigeons and teals.
Facilities include an information centre, 3 mile nature trail and guided walks between May and August.
Further information: RSPB website on Balranald Reserve or call 01463 715000.
Location: 3 miles north of Bayhead, North Uist
Located at the south-eastern tip of the Isle of Seil, close to Oban, the hazel woods are renowned for their lichens. Also of interest are the colonies of Marsh Fritillary butterflies, resident otters and breeding woodland birds. Best to visit during the spring and summer.
This is the largest of the SWT reserves, and is a wild place with spectacular views of the coastline and surrounding landscape. The landscape is typical of the area and is still under croft use. Located north of Ullapool, access is from the road to Achiltibuie.
Habitats: upland, peatland, coast
Species: juniper, salmon, red deer
OS Landranger Map: 15
OS Grid Reference: NC075065
Reached by passenger ferry from Tarbert, north of Scourie. The island is spectacular with cliffs, sandy beaches and exposed grassland. It is best to come during May, June or July to see the breeding seabirds. It is possible to volunteer here on a short or longer term basis.
Facilities: Ranger, information point,
Species: nesting sea birds, puffins, arctic skuas, great skuas, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes
OS Grid Reference: NC138480
Located on the small island of South Walls, accessible by ferry to the Isle of Hoy and then causeway.
Facilities: car park, waymarked paths
Habitats: cliffs, caves
Species: nesting sea-birds, eider duck, scottish primrose
OS Grid Reference: ND313885
The steep cliffs provide breeding sites for puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, shags, guillemots and razorbills. The adjoining coastal grasslands are rich in wild flowers, particularly in the spring. Managed by the National Trust for Scotland, contact their Ranger on 0844 493 2256 for more information.
The raised bog is home to a wide range of birds and butterflies, as well as lichens, mosses, insects and amphibians. Access to the bog is on a boardwalk,and it is not advised to stray from this due to the sensitive nature of the habitat.
Facilities: car park
Habitats: raised bog, peatlands
Species: dragonflies, damselflies, flowering plants
The marsh and shallow loch provide a breeding site for around 15,000 black-headed gulls, plus a haven for over wintering wildfowl. The hide is wheelchair accessible.
Facilities: car park, hide, wheelchair access to hide
Habitats: freshwater, marsh
Species: otters, overwintering wildfowl
OS Landranger Map: 74
OS Grid Reference: NT614340
The basin is an extensive enclosed estuary of the South Esk river, providing tidal mudflats much favoured by overwintering wildfowl and waders, including approximately 40,000 pink-footed geese and 1,000 greylags.
The visitor centre is well worth a visit, expecially for families. It offers uninterupted views across the basin and a selection of high powered telescopes with which to view the wildlife, plus nest box cameras.
Facilities: hides, visitor centre, shop, walks
Habitats: wetland, tidal estuary
Species: overwintering wildfowl, waders
OS Landranger Map: 54
OS Grid Reference: NO700564
Loch Leven is Scotlands largest lowland freshwater loch and during the summer holds largest concentration of breeding freshwater duck in Britain. Winter time sees the arrival of overwintering geese and wildfowl, including up to 20,000 pink-footed geese.
See also the information on Vane Farm RSPB Reserve and Visitor Centre.
The SNH website gives further information about Loch Leven Reserve, plus access to the reserve leaflet.