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  • Writer's pictureSpeyside Wildlife

Scotland’s Big 5 – Wildlife in the Cairngorms

There is no doubt that people visit Scotland for it’s wildlife. It is no African safari, but Scotland has its own unique ‘Big 5’ wildlife species, that are said to be the reasons why wildlife enthusiasts visit this varied country. Out of the five, four of the species can be seen in the Cairngorms National Park, and with only an hour’s drive you can tick off the final one on the list too!

Strath (JH)

Speyside Wildlife gives you the opportunity to go on a Day Guidewith an experienced wildlife guide. We have seven itineraries that can form the basis of your day out, depending on what species and areas you hope to see during your visit. These itineraries include habitats such as the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest or the high tops of the Cairngorm Mountains; wide open Moorland and the coastal Moray Firth; dramatic Highland Glens; tranquil Woodland Walks; the banks of the River Spey, or our own, unique Cairngorms National Park. Picking one or more days with us could get you views of one or all of Scotland’s Big 5.

So, what are the Big 5?

Red Squirrel

It is no surprise that these small charming mammals are a popular sighting in Scotland with a large population calling the Cairngorms National Park their home. On a ‘Pine Forest’ day guide, we can take you to areas of Caledonian Pine Forests here in the National Park, where the equally unique Crested Tit could make an appearance as well as Red Squirrel. Red Squirrels are recognised by their dusty red fur, tufted ears and long bushy tails, as they jump from tree to tree in search of food. Admittedly they are normally found clinging to a peanut feeder in woodlands or outside a kitchen window!

Winter Red Squirrel (Kate Mennie)

Golden Eagle

These ‘high flyers’ are majestic in flight as they soar over the mountain tops, of which the Cairngorms has many. On one of our ‘Cairngorm Mountain’ days, you could be lucky enough to have a Golden Eagle giving you a fly-by! The two mountain ranges in the north west side of the National Park are the Cairngorms and the Monadhliaths, these along with local straths (wide mountain valleys) surrounded by high hill tops, give a perfect environment for the Golden Eagle to hunt and soar.

Golden Eagle (Mary Braddock)

Harbour Seal

Harbour, or Common Seal live along the mere six thousand miles of coastline around mainland Scotland and our islands. An hours drive from the park takes you to the coast of the Moray Firth, where sightings of seal can be regular and often in close quarters. These sea mammals aren’t as common as you may think, the ‘pup’ in mid-Summer and can often be found living in groups, favouring beaches to rest.

Harbour/Common Seal (Simon Eaves)


The largest of the Mustelid family, Otter fish and live on the edge of rivers, lochs and coastlines in Scotland. A day guide around our straths and lochs, or along the River Spey could reward you with a glimpse of these mammals. They are very secretive, most active at dusk and dawn, swimming through water diving to catch their food.

Otter in the seaweed (Craig Round)

Red Deer

The Red Deer Stag (male) is an iconic Scottish figure recognised everywhere, with shooting lodges and hotels showcasing their impressive antlers on their walls. Red Deer roam the hill tops all over Scotland, in large herds. Often the first sight of them are the stag’s antlers sticking up above the horizon of a Highland Glen and sometimes, a bit of luck or patience can get you up close to these mammals, famous as the ‘Monarch of the Glen.’

Red Deer Stag (David Braddock)

Does this sound like perfect combination of wildlife for your visit to Scotland? Then you can check our availability for the dates that suit you. Whether you want to see one of the ‘famous five’ or have other wildlife species on your dream list, get in contact with us to enquire, and check our social media pages for inspiration.

Highland Glen (Duncan Macdonald)

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