Best time to visit Scotland

Birdwatching in Scotland 2024

Thousands of skuas, auks, dotterels, ptarmigans, and eagles highlight Scottish birdwatching season

Best time: May–June | September


Diverse landscapes from the tranquil pinewoods of Caledonia, the Cairngorn mountains, Highlands, and lengthy coastline result in the great variety of birds and hence year-round bird watching opportunities. However the peak season is quite short and runs from May to June. At this time Scotland hosts a great number of migratory birds and summer visitors nest and breed all across the country. The most impressive are probably seabird colonies that settle in Handa Island with thousands of skuas and auks. The high plateaus are abundant in ptarmigan and dotterel. Hen capercaillies, golden eagles, and white-tailed eagles are also plentiful in Scotland during this season. Ducks and geese are bountiful in the Scottish countryside, particularly around the historical site of Phantassie Doocot boasting a 16th century Preston mill and 18th century stone buildings. Plenty of birds also inhabit local millpond, and guided tours run from May to September.

Practical info

When is the best time to go birdwatching in Scotland?

Visitors to Scotland can make the most of birdwatching from May to June, and September. These months are considered the peak season because a large number of migratory birds fly over Scotland, and thousands of summer visitors nest and breed throughout the country. You can see a diverse range of seabirds on Handa Island, high plateau birds like ptarmigans and dotterels, and rare bird species like golden eagles and white-tailed eagles. Show more

Where are the best places to see seabird colonies in Scotland?

The top location for observing Scotland's seabird colonies happens to be Handa Island, located on the northwest coast of the country. The Scottish Seabird Center is a one-stop destination for live exhibits and seamlessly blends remote webcams, offering real-time views of the neighboring seabird colonies situated on the Bass Rock island, the Isle of May, and Firth of Forth. The webcams make birdwatching possible year-round, providing you uninterrupted and natural views of Scotland's famous seabird colonies. Show more

What unique bird species can be found in the Cairngorn mountains?

The Cairngorn Mountains boast some bird species that are only found in these extreme conditions. One of the unique creatures that are adjusted to the snowy, cold, and wind-prone mountain range environment is ptarmigan and dotterel. Ptarmigans that are exquisite white birds turn grey-brown in summer, while dotterels are social birds that flock in large numbers only during summertime. Ptarmigan or dotterel sightings during other parts of the year in these rocky mountain ranges are rare to find. Show more

Where is the historical site of Phantassie Doocot located?

Phantassie Doocot is situated in the Scottish countryside, near the 16th-century Preston Mill and 18th-century stone structures. It is located south of Edinburgh, and the nearby millpond provides birdwatchers with numerous opportunities to spot ducks and geese living in their natural habitat. Guided tours of the millpond are operated between May and September, providing a unique and pleasant way for visitors to watch the birds in an area commonly visited by a diverse bird population in the peak season, from May to June and September. Show more

When are guided tours of the local millpond available?

Guided tours of the millpond near Phantassie Doocot are accessible between May and September. Located in Scotland's countryside, south of Edinburgh, the millpond is an ideal place for birdwatching, and visitors can easily spot various duck and geese species there. If visiting during the peak season from May to June and September, visitors can even watch rare birds flocking around the area. These tours enrich visitors' visit by allowing them to observe the abundance of bird species in their natural habitat. Show more

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