In the new BBC’s Wild Isles series Sir David Attenborough celebrates the natural wonders of the islands that we call home, revealing the surprising and dramatic habitats that exist right on our doorstep. The series features stunning footage, much of it shot on location in Scotland – here we highlight some Walkhighlands routes that may reveal the wildlife and landscapes seen in the first episode.
Killer whales- Hermaness, Shetland
Some of the most stunning scenes featured orca – killer whales. Although they can be seen in many places around the coast of northern Scotland, Shetland is their only UK breeding population. Wild Isles began its first episode by showing Muckle Flugga – the northernmost point – which can be seen on our walk around the Hermaness National Nature Reserve. The programme also showed the gannet colony at Heap, also featured in this walk. There’s a chance to see Orca from most coastal locations around Shetland.
Caledonian Forest – Glen Affric and Strath Spey
The Caledonian Forest is the ancient temperate forest that once covered much of Scotland, descended from the first pines to arrive in Scotland around 7000BC. Today only fragments of the great forest remain. Wild Isles featured stunning aerial footage of two of largest surviving areas – Rothiemurchus and Abernethy in Strathspey (Cairngorms National Park), and Glen Affric in the Northwest Highlands.
Walkhighlands features many walks in both locations; the Loch Affric circuit being a particular classic longer walk, or Dog Falls a shorter option. The Iron Bridge circuit is a great introduction to Rothiemurchus.
Barnacle Geese and White-tailed eagles, Loch Gruinart, Islay
Islay is famed for its over-wintering populations of geese, and the first episode of Wild Isles featured amazing footage of a white-tailed eagle – Britains’ largest bird of prey – taking a barnacle goose at the RSPB’s Loch Gruinart reserve on the island.
The reserve also has rare species including hen harriers and corncrake, as well as a population of grey seals. The latter are best seen from across the water to avoid disturbance – try our Killinallan Point circuit.
Puffins – Isle of May, Firth of Forth
The charming puffin sequences in the series were actually filmed on the Farne Islands, just over the border in Northumberland, and Skomer. But some of the very best places to see puffins are in Scotland. The Isle of May in the Firth of Forth is both unforgettable and accessible, with boat trips from Anstruther in Fife and North Berwick in East Lothian. In Shetland, our Sumburgh Head walk and Hermaness are both also excellent for puffin watching, as is the Castle o’ Burrian on Westray, Orkney.
Mountains – Torridon and Assynt
On the landscape front, the first episode had some stunning aerial footage shot over the mountains of Northwest Scotland. These included sequences over Beinn Alligin – one of the celebrated peaks of Torridon – and a great winter shot that climbed over Stac Pollaidh to reveal into Assynt and Suilven.
The Bass Rock, East Lothian
One of Scotland’s greatest wildlife wonders is the incredible gannet colony – the largest in the world – on the Bass Rock, off the coast of East Lothian. The Rock is a great landmark from much of the coastline in this area, but is perhaps best seen on our walk up North Berwick Law. You can round off the walk by taking a boat trip around the rock from the Scottish Seabird Centre in the town – which we highly recommend.