From the spectacular mountain scenery of Beinn Eighe and Loch Maree Islands in winter to the seabird cities of Noss in the Shetland Isles in summer, National Nature Reserves (NNRs) offer wonderful sights and sounds to enjoy at any time of the year.
NNRs are some of the most dramatic wild places in Scotland – perhaps even in the whole world – and help to protect a wonderful variety of wildlife and landscapes, including many rare species and habitats that are internationally important. They include some of the nation’s best-known natural assets, such as Glen Affric, the Isle of Rum, Loch Leven, and St Kilda.
NNRs are either managed by Scottish Natural Heritage or managed along with a private owner. Some Reserves are owned and managed by partner organisations.
So whether you enjoy wildlife watching, admiring stunning views or perhaps something more adventurous, then a visit to an NNR offers many opportunities for a great day out. And with over 40 NNRs located throughout Scotland, you will definitely find natural inspiration somewhere!
This winter here are just a few suggestions for NNRs to visit:
Within easy walking distance from the centre of Aviemore, Craigellachie NNR rises to over 500 metres above sea level to give stunning panoramic views of the white peaks of the Cairngorms and the surrounding countryside in winter.
Follow the viewpoint path that winds its way up through natural birch woodland and past quiet lochans. From the viewpoint, on the ridge above the birchwood and overlooking Aviemore, you have an uninterrupted view across the River Spey and the Scots pine forests of Rothiemurchus and Glenmore to the Cairngorm plateau.
Creag Meagaidh NNR
When snow fills the big gullies and the mountain buttresses glaze with cascades of steep ice, Creag Meagaidh NNR, near Newtonmore, offers some of the best winter walking and ice climbing in the country.
From the Aberarder entrance car park, a path rises up through the native woodland of birch, alder, willow, rowan and oak to scenic Lochan a’ Choire. Here in wintertime, amongst the high tops, you may catch a white flash of mountain hare or ptarmigan.
Flanders Moss NNR
Even in winter, the great bogland of Flanders Moss NNR, situated to the west of Stirling, is rich in wildlife. Pink-footed geese and greylag geese feed in the fields around the Reserve, while graceful kestrels and hen harriers hunt overhead. Short-eared owls also patrol over the moss in daylight searching for small prey.
Follow the path and boardwalk in to this bogland to see sphagnum mosses show up in beautiful winter colours. Look out for the hoofprints, especially in fresh snow, of red deer and roe deer which graze the moss.
On cool clear frosty or snowy days, the view north towards the Trossachs and the mountains of the Highlands behind can be quite spectacular.
Situated only a mile and a half east of Tayport, Tentsmuir NNR is a winter paradise for nature lovers. Take a walk here amongst the golden white sands and colourful dune heathland and experience a landscape that changes almost as you watch.
The largest gathering of eider ducks in Britain and Ireland is found here over winter, together with huge numbers of pink-footed geese, shorebirds such as bar-tailed godwits and grey plovers, and other wintering wildfowl and duck.
Look out for large numbers of grey and common seals hauled out on the sandbanks, while, at Morton Lochs in the adjacent forest you may spot otter, badger, red squirrel and wintering teal.
Clyde Valley Woodlands NNR
Close to the historic town of Lanark, the Falls of Clyde reserve, part of the Clyde Valley Woodlands NNR, is a winter wonderland of crashing white water.
A riverside walk leads along the side of the Clyde gorge, through mixed woodland, to a view point overlooking the spectacular Corra Linn waterfall – a 27-metre cascade of water that has inspired poets and painters for centuries.
Fantastic icicles form around the waterfall and along the gorge sides during prolonged cold periods.
For more information about Scotland’s NNRs, visit www.nnr-scotland.org.uk
You can also download the latest version of the Visitor Guide to Scotland’s NNRs