Birdwatching, Wildlife, Seasonal Guides

If you’re keen on birdwatching and wildlife, the northwest Highlands are awesome in every season. Unmissable highlights include the magical Handa Island Wildlife Reserve, the Old Man of Stoer, Culag Woods and Culkein Bay. Golden eagles are regulars around Kylesku, along with otters, seals and deer. Or visit the whales and dolphins on a boat adventure!

Go bird-watching, seal-spotting, fishing, or sit by a window in the bar and let the wildlife come to you.

Britain’s Best Hotel Rooms With A View
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Birdwatching & birdlife

Handa Island Wildlife Reserve

Dramatic cliffs with spectacular seabird colony

Incredible bird city. If you’re even remotely interested in wildlife and bird life, it’s a must.

  • Walk distance: 3 ½ miles on Handa island.
  • Distance to start point: 16 miles.
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
  • Handa Ferry doesn’t carry dogs.
  • No ferries on Sunday.
  • Larger groups book in advance.
  • Cover your head.
  • Cash only.
  • Check the Handa Ferry times

See also:

Culkein Bay

One of Assynt’s best birding locations

Sheltered bay, really good for spotting migrant birds. Amazing during the spring and winter passage.

Culag Woods

Community woodland on shoreline

Breeding herons, great spotted woodpecker, wood warbler, tawny owls. A huge variety in a small woodland.

  • Various.
  • Distance to start point: 18 miles.
  • Dog-friendly.
  • Kid-friendly.
  • See Culag Woods website

Wildlife & sea life

Meet the local shoreline, sea loch and marine life

Kylesku Boat Tours

Enjoy a gentle cruise on Loch Glendhu

Seal colonies, sea birds, occasional golden eagles and deer in gorgeous scenery. Find out more about the history of the place and its people.

  • Various.
  • Distance to start point: Right outside Kylesku Hotel.
  • Dog-friendly.
  • Kid-friendy.
  • See Kylesku Boat Tours
  • Phone: Kylesku Hotel 01971 502 231

    Common seals spotted from the Rachael Clare, on Loch Glendhu with Kylesku Boat Tours (trips depart from opposite the Hotel).

    Kylesku seasons

    A perfect Scottish break in every season

    Watch migrant birds make spring journeys.

    Visit Kylesku in Spring

    Spring in Assynt is amazing, with everything springing back to life and the passage of migrant birds such as whooper swans and geese. The birds start their mating rituals to pair up, and you can hear wonderful birdsong.

    A special highlight is the daily arrival and departure of dozens of eider ducks as they swoop in just above the waves. You can see this in the morning and evening from the hotel window.

    We see a huge variety of orchids, primroses, bluebells, and yellow forests of gorse with their sweet coconut scent. In springtime, the days are rapidly increasing in length, although the skies are still dark enough to see the Northern Lights if you’re lucky.

    Spring Highlights

    • Passage of migrant birds.
    • Eider duck displays.
    • Wildflowers and gorse.

    Razorbill with chick.

    Visit Kylesku in Summer

    Summer in Assynt brings the long days of light, when the night never gets completely dark in Scotland. It’s the best time for exploring the beaches around Kylesku, and going for a dip in the azure blue loch and sea waters. It’s also fantastic for trout and sea fishing.

    June/July is the best time to see the seabirds and chicks and visit the spectacular seabird colonies on nearby Handa Island.

    The Scottish summer is glorious for the swathes of purple heather and green mosses all around the hills. Wildflowers in their full glory at this time of year include wild roses and cotton grass.

    Summer Highlights

    • Handa Island seabird cities and chicks (June/July).
    • Purple heather displays.
    • Beaches, swimming and fishing.
    Stags roar during the autumn rutting season, captured by François Bertin.

    Visit Kylesku in Autumn

    Autumn in the Northwest Highlands is a spectacularly beautiful time of year.

    For landscape photography, it’s a wonderful season as the colours start to turn copper, orange and yellow, and you often get clear skies and the chance of a little snow on the mountain tops.

    Autumn is also the deer rutting season, and you can hear the roaring of the stags and the clash of antlers echoing round the glens.

    The air is beautifully clear, and you get all weathers – sometimes four seasons in a day. It’s the best time to see dramatic rainbows and double rainbows.


    Autumn Highlights

    • Autumn colours.
    • Highland stag rutting.
    • Peace and quiet returns.
    Loch Assynt.

    Visit Kylesku in Winter

    Assynt and the Northwest Highlands in winter are extraordinary and elemental. It’s a wild and empty space, with few visitors around, so you often have the best beaches entirely to yourself.

    The weather can also be wild in winter, though the days are often just as beautiful as at other times of year. It’s a lovely time for winter walks and cosy fires, and the best time for seeing the Northern Lights.

    Winter is an amazing time for photography, too, as the light is great and the landscape and weather so dramatic. The wildlife is at your fingertips, as there are so few people about. It’s a great chance to see otters, seals and deer up close.

    Winter Highlights

    • Dramatic and elemental.
    • Walks and cosy fires.
    • Northern Lights.
    • Beaches all to yourself.

    One of my all-time favourite spectacles is when the eider ducks are just starting to pair. You’ll see them flying in front of the hotel, almost skimming the tops of the waves.