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Perthshire, Angus & Dundee - Wildlife, Birdwatching Holidays

Explore the hills of Perthshire, heart of mainland Scotland, to see arctic-alpine plants, mountain butterflies and moorland birds. Walk scenic glens and tree-fringed lochs and rivers to savour the varied fauna of oak and pinewoods. In the lowlands, use hides beside a cluster of wildfowl-rich lochs to see ospreys, grebes and ducks. Or go to the Angus coast to find colourful seaside plants and hear the wild calls of goose flocks in autumn and winter.


Bellflowers and little terns

A sweep of golden sand, a flower-rich plain and cliffs behind: that’s the scene at St Cyrus, off the A92, about 6 miles north of Montrose. Explore any part from the visitor centre (Apr-Oct) to see some of the huge variety of plants and insects that live here. These include some, such clustered bellflower, at or near their northern British limit and rarities such as maiden pink. See little terns in summer and big eider flocks offshore in winter.

Geese and waders

Watch skeins of pink-footed and greylag geese overhead in winter; hear the hum of mute swans’ wings from late summer to spring and the calls of many kinds of ducks and wading birds year-round. Those are some of the sights and sounds of the Montrose Basin beside the town of the same name. There’s a Scottish Wildlife Trust visitor centre with, wheelchair-friendly access, off the A92 at the southern fringe of this enclosed estuary.

Grebes and gulls

Just west of Kirriemuir, close to the B951 to Glen Isla, you can get one of the best chances in Scotland of seeing black-necked grebes at the Loch of Kinnordy. They nest (as do thousands of black-headed gulls) among floating mats of bogbean and cowbane. Take paths from the car park to two hides. Watch for osprey fishing in summer and for signs of otter.

Wildfowl and warblers

Balgavies Loch, 5 miles east of Forfar off the A932, is a good place to enjoy the balletic courtship displays of great crested grebes. Listen for sedge warblers in the reedbeds or walk in one of the few surviving oakwoods in Angus on higher ground above the loch. In winter, Balgavies can be noisy with migrant grey geese and duck such as wigeon.

Rock doves and fulmars

Keep walking northwards from the Arbroath promenade, up a brae beyond the car park, to follow a ribbon of red sandstone cliffs between farmland and sea. The coves, caves, pinnacles and ledges of Seaton Cliffs give nesting and perching space for wild rock doves, house martins, fulmars and gulls. Primroses and violets grow by the path. Look for the pink of thrift and the white of sea campion near the cliff-tops in high summer.

Osprey grandstand

Three fine lochs sit in the low ground between Dunkeld and Butterstone. Best for wildlife viewing is the Loch of the Lowes, whose visitor centre is accessible from a car park not far from the A923, just over 2 miles north of Dunkeld. Watch breeding ospreys here, live and on video link, look for great crested grebes and little grebes and ducks on the loch and listen for tree pipits, redstart and warblers in the fringe of lochside trees.

Watch a salmon

If you’d like to see eye-to-eye with a wild salmon, go to the fish ladder at Pitlochry Dam. This sits at the town end of Loch Faskally (where there are walks through mixed woods). You can get there after a short walk from car parks at the south side of Pitlochry. View fish through panels as they move up-stream between the dam and the loch.

Pied flycatchers and redstarts

Famous for the battle fought here between Jacobite and government forces in 1689, Killiecrankie also has a glorious mix of oakwoods, birchwoods and pasture. Reach way-marked trails from a car park at Balrobbie Farm, near the B8079 at Killiekcrankie. Savour a classic blend of oakwood birds, including pied flycatcher, redstart, wood warbler and woodpeckers.

Gentian and saxifrages

For more than two centuries, Ben Lawers has been known as an ace place for arctic-alpine plants. Get an inkling of the floral trove by going to the visitor centre (Apr-Sept) up the minor road to Glen Lyon off the A827, just under 6 miles north-east of Killin. Plants that like the high life here include alpine gentian, moss campion, mountain pansy and saxifrages. Especially in July, keep a look-out for the mountain ringlet butterfly, whose Scottish stronghold is in these hills.

Caledonian pinewood

Perthshire’s largest surviving Caledonian pinewood – the Black Wood of Rannoch - sits in the Tay Forest Park, beside Loch Rannoch. Use trails from the south side of the loch at Caie, a few miles west of Kinloch Rannoch, to look for red squirrels, Scottish crossbill, wood ant nests and (if you’re very lucky) the elusive Rannoch sprawler moth, which lays its eggs on old birch trees.

Greylag Geese, RSPB images