Skye and Lochalsh Wildlife and Birdwatching Holidays
Big enough to hold the world-famous mountains of the Cuillins and have plenty of room to spare, Skye also has a huge coast. Several peninsulas, each with its own blend of wildlife, add to this otter-rich shoreline. From mountain flowers, eagles and corncrakes by the crofts of the north-west to the lush bluebell woods and sheltered bays of Elgol and Sleat is a journey with many wild variations. Beyond, the nearby mainland has classic mountain walks over ground where red deer roam.
- Otter Spot
- Bluebells and Dolphins
- Seals and globeflowers
- Orchids and eagles
- Woods and waterfalls
- Wildlife from the water
- Woods with a view
- Red deer and eagles
Otters can be tricky creatures to see. That’s part of the fun. But you can up the chances by going to a good location like the Otter Haven at Kylerhea (summer ferry from Glenelg or go west for 4 miles on the A87 from the Skye Bridge and take the Kylerhea road). Walk a short way from the car park to reach a hide overlooking the Kylerhea narrows - good for common seals and grey seals, oystercatcher, common sandpiper and (with luck) otter.
To the south-west of Kylerhea, accessible on the A851, is the Sleat peninsula. More wooded than much of the rest of Skye, this is an area to see bluebells, wild garlic and other woodland flowers. Catch some of the colour and scent of these on trails around Armadale Castle. Marine wildlife tours (chance of common dolphin and other sea-going mammals) leave from nearby. See the listing for Sea-fari Adventures .
Where the B8083 curves around Loch Slapin 6 miles south-west of Broadford, the shapely mountain of Blaven rises above the crofting community of Torrin. Limestone rock here helps ash and hazel trees to thrive. You might be surprised by their small size, weird shapes and rich growth of lichens. Look for the butterball blooms of globeflowers among the rocks in summer. Another surprise is that you can see arctic-alpine plants such as moss campion close to the road near the innermost end of the sea loch. Go further south along the B8083 for stunning views across to the Black Cuillin and a seal spotting trip from Elgol to amazing Loch Coruisk. Oranised trips can be arranged through Bella Jane Boat Trips.
The Trotternish peninsula (north of Portree) still has hay meadows (now rare elsewhere in Britain) in its croftland. Look for orchids and listen for corncrake in them, and enjoy the spring show of primroses on sunny banks. Trotternish is also the best area in Skye for mountain plants. Use the car park by the cemetery west of Balmeanach on the minor Uig to Staffin road as a start point to walk among the crags of the spectacular Quirang. Keep alert for yellow saxifrage, the calls of ring ouzel and golden plover and the soaring shapes of golden eagle or sea eagle.
Close to the major ferry terminal for the Western Isles at Uig, you can walk through native woodland of ash and wych elm to the foot of impressive falls. Park at the eastern end of the village, then follow a way-marked trail beside the River Rha along Rha Glen to enjoy the colours of trees, mosses and lichens. There’s also a path through nearby Conon Wood, less than half a mile to the south, beside the river of the same name.
These days, most visitors to Skye use the bridge between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin. The island used as the support for the bridge’s central section - Eilean Ban - was the last home of Gavin Maxwell, otter enthusiast and author of ‘Ring of Bright Water’. Otter crossing points are a feature of the bridge’s design. Coastal wildlife in these narrows is good. For a closer impression take a boat-based wildlife tour from Kyle & Lochash or Broadford. Trips can be arranged through Seaprobe Atlantis Glassbottom Boat Trips.
For access to walks through contrasting areas of plantation and natural woodland (including native birch and oakwoods at Coille Mhor), try the hamlet of Balmacara. Reach it off the A87, 5 miles east of Kyle of Lochalsh. There’s a visitor centre in the square and good views across to Skye from the upper forest trails.
If you’ve the stamina and skills for hill-walking, Kintail is a rewarding area to explore for scenery and wildlife. The Morvich Countryside Centre at Inverinate, roughly 16 miles east of Kyle of Lochalsh off the A87, is a good access point for the mountains. Look for red deer, wheatear and golden eagle on routes to the Five Sisters of Kintail or to the Falls of Glomach (at 113m, one of the highest waterfalls in Britain).