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Thinking about your next adventure to Scotland? Why not go on a wildlife trail? See if you can spot any of the more unusual animals you can find in Scotland, including the ones we have picked out below.

Scotland’s landscape is so vast and varied; from the mountainous region of the Cairngorms to its many beautiful lochs, beaches and everything in between, you can find an exciting array of marine life, birds and wild cats, amongst many other fascinating wildlife species in Scotland. (Spoiler – the Loch Ness Monster does not feature I’m afraid!)

Discover 6 of the most unusual Scottish animals…

1. Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

There are many magnificent birds of prey that inhabit Scotland, including red kites, ospreys and kestrels, but perhaps none are more spectacular than the golden eagle, the largest-winged bird in the UK that are completely mesmerising to witness gliding through the sky.

The best place to spot a golden eagle is thought to be along Scotland’s west coast, including the isles of Skye and Mull, which coincidentally are some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland to explore.

So even if you aren’t lucky enough to see one, you can bask in the beauty of your surroundings. Alternatively, there are many guided tours to be enjoyed with expert leaders, should you wish to be accompanied along the way.

Be sure to have your binoculars at the ready!

2. Puffin


The distinctive markings and colourings of the puffin make it unmissable; you won’t mistake this bird for anything else! Affectionately known as the clowns of the sea, these charming, bright-beaked and bright-eyed birds need to be seen up close to be believed.

Puffins are quite shy and like to stick together, often nesting together in burrows, making them one of the rarer unusual animal you can find in the UK. They migrate to Scotland each year and can be found all along the coastline – from north to south – and usually arrive around April time, spending the spring and summer there, before heading off again towards the end of August.

Your best chance of spotting one is on a cliff where the area is grassy and green. The Firth of Forth, just north of Edinburgh, is also known to be a great place for puffin sightings.

3. Basking Shark

Basking Shark

Basking sharks can be seen along the west and east coasts of Scotland, particularly around Oban, where tours frequently take place during peak season. It’s the biggest fish to frequent Scotland and the UK, and its unusual mouth means it’s easily distinguishable from all other marine life.

Basking sharks are not your average shark; they are one of just three plankton-eating species of shark, plus their mouths can be open up to 1 metre wide, not revealing a set of razor sharp teeth, but gill slits, specially adapted bones which filter out any plankton from the water, whilst allowing the water to pass through.

Normally arriving in Scotland in April, the peak season for spotting basking sharks in the Hebrides is July – September. Hop on a boat tour for you best chance of seeing them in action!

4. Adder


The only poisonous species of snake known to inhabit the UK, the adder is also the only species of snake you’re likely to find in Scotland. Although poisonous, they are not usually dangerous and tend to hibernate from October through to March.

The best time to spot an adder is from March onward, when they’re out basking in the warmer weather, usually on logs or rocks. They are best found in mainland Scotland; you’ll struggle to spot one nearer to the coast.

Adders are actually a protected species in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and are classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

5. Lynx


It may seem unlikely to find these animals in Scotland, especially since Lynx became extinct in the UK more than 1300 years ago, but they were reintroduced into Aberdeenshire and Argyll in  2015 by the Lynx UK Trust.

The lynx is actually Europe’s third largest predator, behind brown bears and wolves, and hunt deer, mountain hares and other small mammals. They are quite difficult to spot, moving swiftly and often at night time, to avoid humans.

If you are lucky enough to spot one, the lynx is distinguishable by its triangular ears with black tufts at the tip, along with its short, black-tipped tail.

6. Mountain Hare

Mountain Hare

An animal native to Scotland, the mountain hare is known for its magnificent coat, which provides camouflage during the summer months when they blend into the heather-clad moorland with their grey-brown coat often tinged with blue. In the winter they turn almost completely white, making them difficult to spot in the snow.

Mountain hares can be found throughout the Scottish uplands, from Shetland to the Cairngorms. They can be found in Scotland all-year-round but are best spotted in early spring when their coats are still white but the snow has melted. They are also found in Scandinavia and Siberia, but are only native to the Highlands of Scotland.

As seen on Autumnwatch…

kentish glory moth

If you’ve been tuning in to the BBC series Autumn Watch, you’ll know that the Cairngorms was one of the locations featured for being home to many rare and precious species, whose habitats are increasingly coming under threat. The dark bordered beauty moth, whose brown colouring allow it to blend in quite easily, has seen its habitat diminish over the years, while the Kentish glory moth (pictured) can only be found in the Scottish Highlands between the months of April and May. Find out more about the unusual Scottish animals as featured on Autumnwatch.

For more things to see and in Scotland on your next Scottish cottage holiday, browse through our Scotland Travel Guide.

Image credits: Marco VerchCC BY 2.0jidanchaomian – CC BY-SA 2.0; Bernard Dupont – CC BY-SA 2.0Tambako The Jaguar – CC BY-ND 2.0; John Johnston – CC BY-SA 2.0

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