With all the different environments in our care comes an abundance of rare and remarkable wildlife. By careful monitoring and conservation efforts, we work to protect the habitats that support all kinds of animal and plant communities, from red squirrels and seabirds, to montane scrub and ancient trees.

Plan for Nature

The Trust manages land to protect nature and campaigns for its protection. We also provide access and education so that everyone can enjoy and benefit from nature.

Our Plan for Nature outlines our ambitions for conserving the nature in our care.

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Majestic stags roam the glens; golden eagles soar over ancient Caledonian pines; seabirds gather in their millions on storm-battered cliffs; and rare and endangered plants sprout from the mountainside. We’ve put together just a few examples of the variety of wildlife in our care on this page, but individual property pages often give more details about the types of wildlife you might spot on a visit.


Scotland’s land mammals come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the species at our places can be found in abundance, while others are so endangered that only a few still remain.

Did you know?

You can find red squirrels at more than 20 Trust places.

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Two Scottish wildcat kittens photographed by Laurie Campbell


From the cliffs of Unst in Shetland to the creeks of Rockcliffe in the Solway Firth, almost a fifth of all of the seabirds breeding in Scotland nest at our places. Seabirds spend most of their time far from land, but they have to come back to the coast and cliffs to breed. Our places play a crucial role in their survival and we have a huge responsibility when it comes to preserving these important colonies.

We count seabirds to give us an indication of the marine ecosystem. Since they depend on the sea for their sustenance, seabirds reflect the changes in our marine habitats. They can help us to uncover and understand what’s going on beneath the waves, and how climate change is affecting all kinds of other marine species.

We have dedicated conservation experts, as well as a great team of volunteers, that keep a close eye on all our seabird colonies – counting colony numbers and monitoring breeding patterns and trends – so that we know when and why certain species are in decline or on the rise. Our places are home to the bulk of the world population of species such as the great skua, the Atlantic puffin and the northern gannet.

Each colony has its own unique mixture of species. The sight of seabirds gathering in their thousands over the tossing waves and rugged cliffs is truly something remarkable to behold. St Abb’s Head is the ideal place to view a seabird city up close and is barely an hour’s drive from Scotland’s capital city. Walk around the cliffs in May or June and you’ll soon be lost in the sights, sounds and smells of 50,000 seabirds clamouring to raise the next generation.

There are 20 different types of seabird that breed on our properties: Atlantic puffin, black guillemot, common guillemot, razorbill, European shag, great cormorant, northern gannet, mew gull, great black-backed gull, herring gull, black-legged kittiwake, lesser black-backed gull, European storm petrel, Leach’s storm petrel, Manx shearwater, northern fulmar, Arctic skua, great skua, Arctic tern and common tern.

We care for miles and miles of coastline - home to over 1 million seabirds.


Trust places are a birdwatcher’s paradise. You can see eagles and ospreys in the Highlands, black grouse and capercaillie in the pinewoods, and an amazing range of garden birds in our lowland places.

Did you know?

Golden eagles breed at 6 different Trust places.

Two black guillemots on a rock photographed by Laurie Campbell


The rich grasslands full of common rock-rose at St Abb’s Head provide sustenance for rare populations of northern brown argus butterflies, while the bird’s-foot trefoil and thyme on the remote western coast of Mull at Burg give nourishment to the even rarer slender scotch burnet and transparent burnet moths. The short grasslands on Canna are also home to a rich assemblage of moths and butterflies, which fascinated the island’s previous owner, John Lorne Campbell. We also have an incredible variety of dragonflies and damselflies in our ponds at Castle Fraser and Inverewe.

Did you know?

The slender scotch burnet is one of the rarest moths in Britain. The majority of the British population (around 90%) can be found at Burg (on Mull).

Reptiles and amphibians

Reptiles that may be seen on a visit to a Trust place include adders, slow-worms and the common lizard. In our ponds we’ve got common toads, common frogs, smooth newts, palmate newts and the great crested newt – Scotland’s rarest and biggest newt.

Did you know?

Goatfell has an amazing adder population including (no joke) black adders!

Marine life

Scotland’s seas cover an area greater than the mainland and islands put together. In the water around our places you’ll find seals (thousands of grey seals line the beaches of Mingulay), whales, dolphins and basking sharks, not to mention coral reefs and other eye-catching marine organisms.

Did you know?

Atlantic salmon can make a journey of up to 2,000 miles, leaping up waterfalls and traversing fish ladders en route, to return to their breeding river in winter.

A grey seal mother and pup nose to nose in the waves photographed by Laurie Campbell

Thinking of going wildlife spotting?

Before you start looking for wildcats or rare mountain plants, please read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It’s full of great advice to keep you and our wildlife safe, as well as useful information on what to take with you on your adventure.

Recording wildlife

Recording wildlife has been a tradition in the UK since the 18th century and has led to in-depth knowledge about the plants and animals that we share our islands with.

We maintain a database of wildlife records from all the places in the National Trust for Scotland’s care, and use this data to inform our conservation work. More recently, thanks to modern technology, we’ve also been able to share this data with the National Biodiversity Network Atlas, where it informs the work of the conservation community as a whole.

The data can be used to guide land management, support government policy decisions, ask research questions, and educate both children and adults about the natural world and its importance to our environment, health and wellbeing.

Which species are recorded?

All wildlife sightings are valuable. Information about wildlife populations is always evolving, as new discoveries are made and our environment changes over time. It’s difficult to keep up with the effects that human activities are having on the planet, therefore the more information we have about a species or a place, the easier we can spot changes when they occur.

Often, it’s the most common species that go under-recorded, but these can be the first to indicate where changes, good or bad, are happening. We encourage all our staff to record the wildlife they see whilst at work, whether they’re on a mountain range managed specifically for nature conservation, or are in a city centre with a bird feeder next to the office window.

Records are obtained from a wide range of sources including our own specially commissioned surveys, annual monitoring and one-off surveys carried out by our countryside rangers. We also record ad-hoc sightings from staff, volunteers and visitors.

What does a species record consist of?

In its simplest form, only 4 pieces of information are required to create a species record.

1. What – eg robin or Erithacus rubecula
2. Where – eg The Georgian House or NT2465073936
3. When – eg December 2016 or 21/12/2016
4. Who – eg Mr Cornelius Smith

Other information can be provided if you have it (eg male bird feeding on earthworms). The more detail the better!

How can I help?

Big, green, furry, flowering, prickly, rare, flying, swimming, feathery, tiny, slimy, common, creepy-crawly – whatever you saw, we’d love to know!

Help our rangers monitor the wildlife at our places by recording what you see and where you saw it. Uploading a photograph will help us to confirm and verify your record.

Fill in the Biological Records Centre form and tell us what you’ve seen.

Where do the records go?

Wildlife records entered on the form are stored on the Biological Records Centre (BRC) iRecord database where they are verified by experts.

All the verified data that we have permission to share is sent to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN), an amazing collaboration of organisations and individuals who realise the importance of making biodiversity data widely available to conservation organisations, researchers, ecological consultants, teachers, policy makers and individuals like you.

The records themselves are accessible from the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas. From here, anyone can view, download or interrogate our wildlife data, along with that of more than 100 other conservation organisations across the UK. Our records are also shared internationally on the Global Biodiversity Information Forum.

For the iRecord privacy policy and terms & conditions, please visit

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