Places To Visit in Scotland For Bird Lovers

best birdwatching sites in scotland

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

It wasn’t until I moved to Scotland that I became interested in bird watching or ‘birding’.

I love hiking in Scotland, and so it’s only natural that I became curious about the wildlife around me. Because I’m from New Zealand, the birds of Scotland seemed so foreign to me, and I developed a desire to find out more about them.

Luckily, there are some fantastic birding sites in Scotland to explore and learn more about Scotland’s bird life.

Whether you are a local or tourist in Scotland, I hope my list of the best birdwatching sites in Scotland will give you some inspiration to visit!

>> Read more: 25 tips for sustainable travel in Scotland

Best Birdwatching Sites in Scotland

best birdwatching sites in scotland handa island
Bird watching on Handa Island

Handa Island

Handa Island was one of my highlights on the North Coast 500 and was the island that piqued my interest in birdwatching in Scotland. It’s a nature reserve and home to over 100,000 different species of birds during breeding season.

Just imagine this- lying down on the warm grass and peering over the cliffs’ edge to see and hear the caw of thousands of birds as they make their nests in the rock faces. It was a truly magical moment I’ll never forget.

To reach Handa Island you take a 10 minute ferry from the port of Tarbet. After a short safety and information session, you can explore the island. It takes 2-3 hours to walk around the island along a well-worn path.

Birds you might see here: Puffins [mid-May to July]; razorbills, guillemots, fulmars, razorbills, kittiwakes, oystercatchers, bonxies, Arctic skuas, Arctic tern, grouse, snipe [April-July].

Handa island is one of the best birdwatching sites in scotland
A pair of fulmars on Handa Island

The Bird of Prey Trail

The Bird of Prey Trail is a self-guided trail that runs the length of the Outer Hebrides beginning at Loch Stiapabhat on Lewis and finishing at Craigston on Barra.

The Outer Hebrides is one of the most off the beaten track places in Scotland; it’s home to several different birds of prey and has one of the highest densities of golden eagles. There are 11 viewing locations along the trail and two ferry crossings. You can drive or cycle the 130 mile trail, or combine walking with public transport.

Birds you might see here: Golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, hen harriers, merlin, peregrine, kestrels, sparrowhawks, buzzards, short-eared owls, long-eared owls.

>> Read more: 50+ things on my Scotland bucket list

The Isle of May

The Isle of May is one of the best birdwatching sites in Scotland to see puffins and a variety of other birds that isn’t too far from Edinburgh or Fife.

The Isle of May is located 8 kilometres from the Scottish mainland and is just under 2 kilometres long. You can catch the ferry to the island from Anstruther with Anstruther Pleasure Cruises or from the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick. The second option is slightly more expensive however you’ll get to explore the Scottish Seabird Centre as well!

Both trips last for around 4-5 hours in total which gives you enough time to explore the trails on the small island. The best time to visit is in spring during nesting and breeding season, and summer when the island is home to more than 250,000 birds! Grey seals also gather at the island to mate during autumn.

Birds you might see here: Guillemots, fulmars, terns, gulls, eiders and puffins.

the isle of may is one of the best birding places in scotland to see puffins
One of Scotland’s most quirkiest looking birds, the puffin

Visitor Centres

The Scottish Seabird Centre

As I mentioned before, the Scottish Seabird Centre is located in North Berwick, not far from Edinburgh. They have interactive live cameras you can control to see local wildlife up close, a cafe, gift shop and they also offer a range of seasonal boat trips.

They also have exhibits on local marine life and a virtual reality experience so you can ‘swim’ with dolphins. The Scottish Seabird Centre is a great activity for families or anyone interested in bird and marine life!

>> Read more: 22 of the best books about Scotland you’ll love

RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre

The Loch Garten Osprey Centre is located within the Abernethy National Nature Reserve in the heart of the Cairngorms. It’s the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ [RSPB] second largest nature reserve.

Osprey’s are one of my favourite birds in Scotland- and Loch Garten is one of the best places in Scotland to see them. Osprey make their nests right here at Loch Garten from early spring until September.to August or September. The centre is open seasonally when the osprey’s return to their nests!

You can catch a glimpse of the osprey’s and their nests from a viewing platform [make sure you bring binoculars] or on the CCTV cameras inside the centre.

Birds you might see here: Osprey [March/April to August/September]; capercaillie, crested tits, goldeneyes, Scottish crossbills, great spotted woodpeckers, siskin [spring/summer]; greylag geese, pink-footed geese, coal tits [autumn/winter]; further afield- golden eagles, ptarmigan, black grouse.

Places To Visit in Scotland For Bird Lovers
Osprey’s only feed off fish

Scottish Owl Centre

The Scottish Owl Centre is located close to where I live in West Lothian. It has the largest collection of owls in the world with over 100 owls!

Birds you can see here: Over 40 species of owl, including snowy owls, great grey owls, great horned owls and Western Siberian eagle owls.

Loch Lomond Bird Of Prey Centre

The Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre is located in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. They have 34 birds of prey and owls across 26 species, including all five of the British owls. They have daily flying shows and an education cabin so you can learn more about the birds at the centre.

The Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre is just a 30 minute drive from Glasgow- making it an ideal half day trip from the city!

Birds you can see here: Golden eagles, owls, red kites, goshawks, common buzzards, kestrels and more.

>> Read more: Overtourism in Scotland and where to go instead

Map

PIN FOR LATER

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ABOUT YVETTE

Blog posts fullwidth

Hello, I’m Yvette! I’m originally from New Zealand, I now call Scotland home. I left New Zealand three years ago to go on an adventure around the world. I help people to go on their own adventures, whether it’s travelling to a new country, hiking or outdoor activities.

FOLLOW ME

JOIN MY MAILING LIST

Keep up with my adventures by signing up to my monthly newsletter. I talk about my life in Scotland, dish out my best travelling tips, plus you’ll get my free Scotland travel planner when you subscribe!

NEED HELP PLANNING YOUR SCOTLAND TRIP?

Check out my itinerary planning and review service!

SUPPORT ME

Has my blog helped you with your travel plans? You can buy me a virtual coffee to help me to continue to bring you free content to inspire your travels. All donations go towards running this site and my caffeine fix. Thanks so much!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

DISCLOSURE

Disclosure: Wayfaring Kiwi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my disclosure page for more info.