Wester Ross is blessed with some of the most diverse wildlife in Europe. We have a multitude of habitats from the snow covered peaks of the Torridons, right down to the coast and out into the North Minch - This is where you can still find some of the most elusive and fascinating native wildlife in the UK.
Pine Marten Mountain Hare Hielan Coo
Starting in the high peaks where Ptarmigan roam, grazes the largest of our native British land mammals, the Red Deer - above, patrols the Enigmatic Golden Eagle. As we lose altitude towards the tree line, hidden valleys and native Caledonian forest harbour Scotland’s Pine Martin and Wild cat…..and where this meets enchanting lochs like Loch Maree, an abundance of rare wildlife is on offer with the highest concentration of Black-throated Divers in Scotland.
The extensive lowland heath and moor land are home to Hen Harriers and Red Grouse, with Red Deer moving down through these areas to rut and overwinter.
Where the land meets the sea, the diversity increases with the highest concentration of Otters in Europe. The sheltered bays, deep tidal Lochs, and open sea hold mirror images of the land, with huge under water mountains that combine with the Gulf Stream to create the most diverse Marine environment in Europe.
Pine Marten filmed near Loch Maree, Wester Ross
So, what can you reasonably expect to see here? First of all, forget the "tourist board" type of information that leads many visitors to expect hordes of Eagles darkening the skies, while you battle your way along woodland trails festooned in Otters and Wildcat. They are all there! But many of them are solitary, secret animals - and they see you well before you can see them!
Even living here, it can be difficult enough to spot deer while on a walk, or watch a Pine Marten going about its business. However, if you take a walk up into the hills it would be a reasonable expectation to see deer, at least signs of Pine Marten (if you see a dark, curly clump of material lying in a fairly obvious spot such as the middle of a pathway or trail, then there has almost certainly been a Marten there just a short while before! Do we need to explain further?) If you find you are walking beside a small lochan up in the hills - have a look in the shallow water. There may well be Newts swimming around, or perhaps the fierce "Water Beetle". If you are an insect, newt, or even a small fish, then you really want to avoid these - they are among the top predators of many a pool.
Otters.....look around some of the sea lochs such as Loch Gairloch, Loch Ewe, and Loch Torridon or Loch Broom. Otters are often seen playing and hunting around places where small streams or rivers empty into the main loch itself - have a look and see. And while you are about it, watch for Dippers or small wading birds in the same areas.
Red Squirrel Common Lizard Wild Goats
The main point to make is that we DO have a really fantastic mix of wildlife here, some of it amongst the rarest in the Uk, if not Europe. But you MUST look for it - there is rarely a correct response to a question such as "Where can we see the deer today". And herds of Wildcat do NOT roam the forests hunting down prey!
It's all about getting out of the car, going for a walk and appreciating the relative solitude and scenery of one of Europe's last remote areas....enjoy. And if you see some Pine Martens as well, enjoy it all the more!