Scotland boasts some seriously epic wildlife. With the vast majority of the population based in the central belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are home to some of the most diverse range of wildlife anywhere in the United Kingdom.
In this guide, we’ve looked at the best wildlife to spot when you’re on the Isle of Raasay – from the basking sharks that roam the waters around us to the incredible Sea Eagles that can be found flying in the skies above Raasay.
Otters can be seen all over Scotland, and especially the west coast, with its many miles of coastline and low waterways for otters to hunt and thrive.
These semi-aquatic animals live in holts (shelters/burrows) where they can hide from threats and predators. They are incredible hunters, and can swim at 12km/hr as well as hold their breath for 4 minutes!
Although it can be hard to catch otters in action, it’s easy to see where they have been as they like to leave spraints (droppings) to mark out their territories and help find mates. Otters are also a very common sight around Raasay, on the shoreline and in people’s gardens. Cubs are often spotted swimming with their mothers along the shoreline of Suisnish in Raasay.
Minke Whales are very common around the Hebrides over the summer months. These pointy-shaped cetaceans mostly migrate south over the winter and return when feeding is good from July to September.
They are a key cornerstone of the ocean ecosystem alongside other whale species as they bring up nutrients to the surface when they come up to breath after feeding, and excrete nitrogen rich faeces. The Hebridean Whale Trail has some fantastic spots to sight whales from land all up the west coast without the need to venture out into the open seas!
The world’s second largest eagle, and UK’s largest: sea eagles are a magnificent beast to watch thermal soaring in Scotland. After being reintroduced to Scotland in 1975, these birds of prey have managed a stellar revitalisation, and spread from their initial home on Rum up and down the coast to iconic locations such as Mull, Skye, the Western Isles and more. Sea eagles can often be spotted in the north of Raasay, or nesting in the woodland around the distillery. You may even spot one high up in the air during a distillery tour!
The Basking shark is the second largest shark in the world and is an annual visitor off Scotland’s coasts. These great beasts can be seen in particular hotspots off the islands of Coll and Tiree, where upwelling from the deep Atlantic brings nutrient rich waters to feed plankton growth – the shark’s favourite and only meal of choice!
Basking sharks are also a frequent visitor to the deep waters around the Isle of Raasay. These gentle giants can be identified by their large dorsal fin and tail appearing out the water.
The name “Raasay” is derived from the Gaelic “Ratharsair”, which comes from the old Norse for Isle of the Roe, or Red Deer, the UK’s largest land mammals. Fun fact: have you spotted the embossed ‘RATHARSAIR’ and ‘ISLE OF RAASAY’ on the bottom of our whisky bottle yet (pictured below)?
There is a large population of wild deer on Raasay, concentrated in the north but often found roaming all over the island’s hills. Each autumn, the male red deers, or stags as they are known, can be heard roaring during the rutting season when they clash over the female hinds using their large branching antlers. They truly are a thing of majestic beauty and definitely one of my favourite Scottish animals.
While not technically wildlife, visitors to the Isle of Raasay should keep an eye out for our local fair cow living across from the distillery under the spectacular views of Glamaig. A hardy breed, Highland Cattle would have traditionally been the livestock here.
We source all our water for production from a well known as ‘Tobar na Bà Bàine – the Well of the Fair Cow’. Our water flows across volcanic rock and filters through Jurassic sandstone, adding minerals that are crucial to creating flavour in our whisky and gin.
We also take a very circular approach to waste, and feed our fair cow the spent barley (also known as draff) from our whisky production!
The Isle of Raasay, an island rooted in centuries of illicit distilling, provides the ingredients for the perfect dram. Our lightly peated Isle of Raasay Single Malt is an expression of this magical place.
Our zesty, smooth and refreshing Isle of Raasay Gin combines an exciting selection of ten Raasay and traditional botanicals, including Raasay juniper, sweet orange peel, rhubarb root and our double distilled spirit.
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