Discover The Big 5 - Scotland’s most amazing animals

As part of the celebrations of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013, VisitScotland along with Scottish Natural Heritage, is placing some of our most iconic animals in the limelight.  During this special year, it’s the perfect opportunity to find out about some of the nation’s best loved wildlife and where they live. 

Scotland’s Big 5  is about giving each animal a unique personality  and encouraging people to enjoy these wonderful animals in their natural habitat.  as well as inviting people to vote and choose their own top 5 and to submit wildlife photographs and best wildlife encounters via social media channels. 

Scotland's Big 5 are:

Red Squirrel

Red squirrel

The red squirrel is the UK’s only native species of squirrel and Scotland boasts over 80% of the UK’s population. As well as their native Scots pine and oak woodland areas, they have also adapted well to living in commercial forestry plantations.

Best places to spot - The central Highlands in and around the Cairngorms. There is also a dedicated Red Squirrel Walk through Dalbeattie Forest in Dumfries & Galloway.

Red DeerRed deer

The majestic red deer is Britain’s largest land mammal. In summer, their hide is a dark reddish brown colour, while during the winter months, it turns a darker brown or grey shade.

Spending most of the summer months in Scotland’s hills and remote glens, red deer can be spotted on lower ground during winter, where food is more readily available.

Look and listen out for the impressive autumn deer rut, when stags lock antlers and jostle for power.

Best places to spot  - Large numbers can be found in the hills of Dumfries & Galloway, but other hotspots include Perthshire, the north west Highlands and the islands of Rum and Jura.

Golden EagleGolden eagle

The sight of a soaring golden eagle, one of the best known birds of prey, with a wingspan of over 2 metres, is not to be missed.

Scotland's habitat, particularly the Highlands and Northern Isles, is the ideal place for them to thrive, as they can feed over the vast open land.

Best places to spot  - In low lying moorland, peat bogs and mountains ranges.


Scotland is a stronghold for the Eurasian otter which can be spotted right across the country in freshwater rivers, canals and marshes, as well as in the sea.

They live in holts, such as burrows or caves, which they find ideal for shelter or breeding. Known for their shy nature, spotting them requires luck, patience and silence. 

Clear signs that otters are in the area include webbed footprints in the sand and droppings, known as spraints.

Best places to spot - Particularly high densities are found in the waters around Shetland, Skye and Dumfries & Galloway

Harbour SealHarbour seal

The harbour or common seal is a popular sight in the sheltered waters around Scotland's coast. They feed on everything from sandeels to herring and can usually be seen on the rocky outcrops of the west coast or on sandbanks and around estuaries.

Best places to spot - The waters around Shetland, Orkney and the east coast of the Outer Hebrides and along much of Scotland's west coast, as well as around the Moray Firth and Firth of Tay.

To find out more, download the FREE app  which features information, video and audio recordings of Scotland's Big 5.  You can also check out check out Scottish Natural Heritage , or follow @SNH_Tweets and @VisitScotland #scotlandsbig5 .

Year of Natural Scotland

Last updated 27 Apr 2015