The latest in our map series for family-friendly days out takes you on a tour of the wildlife waiting to be discovered on your doorstep.
Browse the clickable map below, and read more on our pick of wild days out.
The Shetland pony experience – Burra, Shetland
Lead the world-famous Shetland ponies on an idyllic walk in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt landscapes in the UK. You will meet the foals and their mothers outside, before going inside to lead the ponies through a short obstacle course. Children can have a short ride here, then walk the ponies down to the picturesque Burra beach for a photo.
Note: Experience costs £30 per person.
Dolphin spotting on the Moray Firth – Black Isle
The choppy waters around the Black Isle, Highland, are home to around 200 bottle nose dolphins. The village of North Kessock and Chanonry Point are both good places to spot them playing in the sea, or you can book a boat tour for a closer glimpse. You may also spot other marine wildlife including seals, otters, red kites and ospreys.
Red deer at Loch Muick – Balmoral
The Balmoral estate has a wild, romantic feel. The area around Loch Muick is particularly evocative, with the Widow’s House built for Queen Victoria, vast sweeping hills and the tranquil loch. The sight of majestic red deer drinking from the fresh waters is one you will never forget.
Sea stack puffin spotting – Orkney
Affectionately nicknamed Tammie Norrie by the locals, colourful puffins can be found in their thousands on the Orkney Isles. Take a day out to discover the famous Orkney wildlife. One of the best places to spot them is the island of Westray. On the east side of the island, Castle O’Burrian is a short sea stack home to hundreds of nesting puffins from late April to mid August. Travel to the cliffs on the west coastline and you will also spot guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes and gannets.
Hairy Heilan Coos – Sutherland
Highland cows can be found all over Scotland, but this day out is a great opportunity to see them in their natural environment. Kirkton Farm, near Melvich, Sutherland, is a family-run cattle farm which offers a unique experience – buggy tours to see the livestock up close! Visitors will be taken around the farm on an open-sided four wheel drive buggy, and meet the resident Highland cows, sheep and pygmy goats. You will also hear about farming in the far north and some of the history of the area.
Hazlehead Pets’ Corner – Aberdeen
You don’t have to leave the city to discover wildlife. Hazlehead is an expansive, peaceful park right in the heart of Aberdeen and it also features the ever-popular Pets’ Corner. Visitors can meet everything from pigs and donkeys to reptiles and fish – not forgetting Vader, the Burmese python! Pets’ Corner is open April-Sept 10am to 5.30pm with limited numbers and enhanced health and safety provisions – check ahead before visiting in case restrictions change. Note, this is a paid attraction.
Red squirrels, Ballater
This Aberdeenshire woodland is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geological features, and the landscape is dotted with lochans, picturesque bridges, pine trees and heather. Yet it’s the wildlife that will really steal the show on this family day out. Cambus o’May is a great place to spot red squirrels, dragonflies and even the golden eagle.
Alpaca trail, Caithness
Meet the friendly alpacas of the NC500. Ulbster Alpaca Trekking offers farm visits and treks on the north east coast of Caithness. After meeting ‘the boys’ and giving them some treats, you can lead them on a slow wander around the rugged north east Caithness coast. Back at the farm, there’s a chance to meet the lady alpacas (and maybe their babies, or ‘cria’) and feed the ducks.
Note: Experience costs £20 per adult and £10 per child.
Bird watching on Loch Spynie – Moray
This RSPB reserve is one of Moray’s hidden wildlife gems, found just 10 minutes from Elgin and Lossiemouth. The loch is surrounded by wet woodlands, fen meadow and the largest freshwater reedbed in Scotland. The loch is a haven for swans, duck, geese, heron and gulls. It’s also home to a rich variety of woodland birds as well as otters and red squirrels.