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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 20/10/2021

Scotland has ranked top in the UK for water wildlife experiences, a new survey has revealed.

YouGov* research, which we commissioned as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, discovered that two thirds of UK adults think Scotland is the best part of the UK for exploring:

  • rivers (60 %)
  • opportunities to see dolphins and whales (34%) and
  • watching coastal wildlife (32%). 

The survey showed that the most popular activity for UK adults on holiday in Scotland to help them relax and unwind, would be walking along a deserted beach. This was considered the most popular by 63% of respondents. 

The total sample size of this research was  2103 adults.

Previous research which we commissioned has shown that day trips that include watching wildlife/ bird watching generated a collective spend of £54 million. 

As the season changes, there are plenty of places for people to learn about the many creatures living in and around our coasts and waters and how to enjoy nature in a responsible way.  

Some suggested locations for your visitors include:

  • Loch of Kinnordy, Angus. This shallow loch – an RSPB nature reserve - is situated in a natural basin surrounded by farmland and attracts all types of wildlife. Wintering populations of whooper swans, pink-footed and greylag geese return from their northern breeding grounds making it a great place to wildlife watch at this time of year.
  • Coastal Connection, Argyll.  Trips that provide a great way to get on the water and combine history with nature with plenty of wildlife and local castles to spot. Visitors can also stop off at islands including Mull, Lismore, Iona, Staffa, Treshnish and many more.
  • WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre, Moray Speyside. With free entry, a visit to the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre is a great day out participating in a range of activities and it also gives you the opportunity to learn all about the whales and dolphins that are regularly seen in the Moray Firth. 
  • Wild Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway. Offering a range of wonderful wildlife experiences and tours in Scotland. The hills, rivers and valleys around the town of Langholm provide plenty of things to see and do during the tours. With three rivers meeting in the town, be on the lookout for kingfisher, goosander, grey heron and possibly even otters.  
  • Scottish Seabird Centre, East Lothian. The award-winning attraction looks over the incredible Bass Rock which is home to the largest colony of northern gannets in the world. The centre offers guided tours including coastal wildlife walks and educational trips around climate change with boat trips available again next year between April and the end of September.  
  • Willowgate Kayak Tours, Perth. Experience Perth from a different perspective by taking this kayak tour along the River Tay with a qualified guide. Check out the local wildlife including herons and beavers as you paddle under the city’s bridges. Plus navigate your way around Moncrieffe Island, home to the only island-based golf course in Scotland.  
  • In Our Nature, Scottish Borders. Personalised guided tours for people of all abilities; on foot, by car or by boat. The tours include a seal spotting cruise, seashore and seabird safaris plus a nature ramble through Berwickshire countryside. 

Other recent findings from our research highlighted that a desire to connect with nature and the outdoors the motivation for over 50% of visitors as the reason they travelled to Scotland as restrictions eased last year. 

Autumn brings a new dimension to the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and it’s a brilliant time to get out wildlife spotting as the scenery changes. Scotland’s coastline is stunning, brimming with spectacular wildlife, full of golden sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and lots of history and heritage. 

It's  where families have holidayed for generations and there’s no better place to spend the Autumn than at our coasts, seaside towns and villages, lochs, rivers and more.

In the wake of COVID-19, there will be a focus on improving our well-being and taking time to appreciate the wealth of wildlife around us is a great way to do this.

Chris Greenwood, Senior Tourism Insight Manager, VisitScotland

Scotland has some of the most amazing habitats and landscapes that support a wide variety of plants, insects, animals and birds.

It's well known that being out in nature brings great benefits for the mental and physical health of us all, which is why it is so important that we can get out and enjoy Scotland’s green spaces, coasts and waters.

But it's equally important that in doing so we don’t ruin our green spaces, coasts and waters both for others who want to enjoy them and also for the wildlife that lives there.

Accessing nature in a responsible way, by leaving no trace and following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, means that we can protect Scotland’s unique nature for future generations.

Anna Pugh, Visitor Experience and Marketing Manager, RSPB

For more inspiration on how to engage with the remainer of Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters, take a look at our dedicated page. 

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2103 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 20th May 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).  

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