MUST SEE SCOTLAND - Must See Scotland has all you need to know for your Scottish travel plans. With an independent viewpoint, it offers impartial advice in an entertaining style. It strips away ‘destination marketing hype’ to inform about what you really should see. (You could, for instance, give Loch Ness a miss!)


Natural Scotland lists some great but vulnerable habitats

Natural Scotland as tourist bait is promoted heavily with all that 'last wilderness' stuff. Read here about some of the least spoilt habitats in Scotland.  And be assured, in spite of golf course building, there are still some fine pieces of countryside around: natural pinewood, machair, seacliffs, tundra, moorland and empty beaches. 

Natural Scotland

It is ironic that I originally wrote this page on natural Scotland, immediately after watching the simultaneously breathtaking and unsettling documentary film ‘You’ve Been Trumped’.

How embarrassing that such an individual as Donald Trump has Scottish roots.

You might have seen the movie. A mature dune system in Aberdeenshire, a wild place, a precious and rare habitat and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, was destroyed because Trump with an apparently limitless cheque-book wanted a golf course in Scotland.

There is a sequel to this first Trump horror movie 'You've been Trumped Too', though you may get sued, apparently, if you watch it.

Anyway, back then, many spineless councillors in Aberdeenshire, also the Scottish Government, as well as VisitScotland, the main body responsible for promoting wildlife tourism in natural Scotland, went along with it, in spite of the vociferous opposition of every conservation body in Scotland.

Still, we got a nice golf course, in a country with more golf courses per head of population than anywhere else in the world, as well as, overall, a falling-off in the take-up of golf as a leisure pursuit. 

(And, since I wrote that, obviously the role of Donald Trump has gone far beyond throwing money from his father at a piece of Scotland. We are small fry indeed, compared to the global destruction that may now come about on his watch.) 

So, back in this little place, anything your read on this site about natural Scotland, about Scotland’s habitats and environment, should be seen in the context of its vulnerability.

Wildlife is fine, unspoilt environment is good – but now we have had the precedent of a designated ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ - colloquially often called a ‘triple S-I’ - destroyed for commercial gain.

Scotland has many areas set aside for the protection of nature. But what was allowed to happen at the Menie Estate, in Aberdeenshire, is a reminder of the vulnerable aspects of natural Scotland. 

So, here are some habitat photos, of places that are still good for wildlife and bio-diversity in Scotland.

East coast dunes

East coast dunes

(Pictured here) A classic, mature, though eroded, dune system, Aberdeenshire. Och, I’m not going to say exactly where in case Trump needs another golf course. (This picture title wins the ‘Grumpiest Caption on the Website’ award.)

Now, where was I? Well, about to recommend places in Scotland where you can see wildlife and enjoy fine landscapes. Here are some of my favourite places that, so far, haven’t had golf courses built on them yet.

Natural Scotland – islands

Sgurr of Eigg, from near Arisaig

Sgurr of Eigg, from near Arisaig

Orkney- Marwick Head – follow the link for more information, as it’s on another must see list! Not for the vertigo prone. (I think Vertigo should be the name of a small fishing port in Caithness.)

Scots Primrose, Orkney

Scots Primrose, Orkney

(Pictured here) Scots primrose Primula scotica photographed ‘somewhere on Orkney’. And if you see it, take care a) you don’t stand on it, as it’s very small, and b) if you are taking pictures, don’t kneel on it. The focusing is tricky as well!

North Ronaldsay – when bird migration sat-navs go wrong, some very exotic birds end up on this wacky island. Follow the link for far too much information.

Shetland – Island of Noss. Take a boat trip from Lerwick. Gannets galore.

Hermaness, Shetland – wild, wild, wild – keep an eye on those fierce bonxies – and it’s at the very end of Scotland.

Outer Hebrides – Loch Druidibeg. Habitats? This magnificent place has got the lot, in Scottish terms. Otters a near-certainty. Oh, all right, a distinct possibility.

Colonsay – yup, just Colonsay. Oh, and add in Islay and Jura, plus Rum and Mull for sea eagles. You’re not expecting me to choose just one from the Scottish islands, are you? They are all great. (Skye, Skye, yes, I almost forgot Skye.)

Natural Scotland - mainland

– I’m going off this listing already. Where do I start? Uhmm, roughly in the north and work south. The first three places are all in the north-west Highlands.

Handa – this little island is brilliant for birds again. A fine excursion on the rugged north-west seaboard.

Inverpolly – for deer, eagles and all the big names, oh, and Norwegian mugwort, if you know where to look. (Well, I’ve seen it.  Artemesia norvegica – insignificant wee thing but nice to have it.)

Beinn Eighe, Torridon

Beinn Eighe, Torridon

(Pictured here) Beinn Eighe – Scotland’s first national nature reserve, long before environmental conservation and respect became a concept widely understood – though obviously, if you’re Donald Trump’s henchmen, it still isn’t.

Troup Head, Aberdeenshire – round the corner into the Moray Firth – Scotland’s largest mainland gannet colony. 

Loch of Strathbeg – an excellent autumn and winter visit to this bare coastal strip in Aberdeenshire. Flighting pink-footed geese always worth seeing.

Corrie Fee – the Angus Glens, with their u-profile glacial valleys dissecting the granite massif (ooh, get him and his geology) are sometimes overlooked, but this place is great for alpine plants. One of Scotland’s very rarest alpines grows somewhere here (Possibly. At least it did the last time I looked.) More on Scotland’s flowers here.

St Cyrus – also in Angus, another good botanical spot, with an overlap of southern things at their most northerly and northerly things at their…well you get the picture. Super beach as well.

Loch Garten, Speyside, Highland – original focus of the return of the osprey success story. Now you’ll find ospreys widely distributed far beyond this loch with its excellent viewing facilities from the visitor centre. (Though I know of at least one main road in Scotland from where you can see an osprey nest from your car.)

Ben Lawers in winter

Ben Lawers in winter

Ben Lawers , Perthshire (pictured above) – another good hill for alpine flowers, though it’s a big hill. Neighbouring Meall nan Tarmachan is good as well. Picture dated 1st January 2009. Unusually small amounts of snow then. Next two years made up for it though!

The 'Atlantic woodlands' of Ariundle.

The 'Atlantic woodlands' of Ariundle.

Ariundle oakwood, near Strontian, Argyll – (pictured above) The Caledonian pine forests at places like Rothiemurchus on Speyside get a lot of attention – but these old western broad-leaved woodlands are just as much part of Scotland’s tree heritage, and sometimes as ancient as the pinewoods.

Moist, mossy and very green. Visit as part of an Ardnamurchan trip.

St Abbs, Berwickshire – back in the east – actually Scottish Borders – fairly close to the A1 road en route to Edinburgh, an easy to reach seabird city experience. (And on another must see Scotland list on this site.)

Wood of Cree, Galloway – there are lots of good and wild bits in Galloway, if you ignore the squared-off bits of conifer plantings, and the Wood of Cree is the largest chunk of ancient woodland in the South of Scotland – bluebells, warblers, pied flycatchers etc. Great in late spring.

Caerlaverock, Galloway – another winter wetland, notable for views of overwintering barnacle geese and other wildfowl.