Renowned for its incredible natural beauty, the West Highland Way doesn’t just play home to stunning landscapes, but it’s also home to some fabulous Scottish wildlife. As you venture up one of Scotlands best-loved walking trails, you’ll no doubt encounter some of the friendly animals that dwell within the surrounding areas. Here are just a few creatures and critters you may stumble upon, and where you can find them!
Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers
Commonly spotted throughout the spring and summer months, if you keep your ears open, you’re likely to hear the chirps and murmurs of these very similar birds. Do you know how to tell the difference between a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler? Chiffchaffs have black legs, and willow warblers have light brown legs, and chiffchaffs always flick their tails whereas willow warblers only do it occasionally.
Right near the start of the West Highland Way is Mugdock Park which is where you’ll most likely spot these chirpers. However, you may also be lucky enough to spot a few birds of prey too!
Red Grouse and Red Squirrels
As you approach Conic Hill, you’ll have to pay special attention to the surrounding heather as this is where you may be fortunate enough to spot a Red Grouse. Buzzards and ravens are commonly seen in this area also. Scotland is home to over 100,000 red squirrels, but as their numbers decline, they can be challenging to spot. The woodland areas of Balmaha and Conic hill are where you’ll have your first opportunity to spot these cute critters on the trail.
Between Balmaha and Rowardenna, magnificent Ospreys are often spotted prey-fishing this area. Also known as Sea Hawks and River Hawks, these birds are one of the most widespread in the world, primarily eating fish, they have been known to nibble on small land critters too.
If you keep still, quiet and look upwards, then you’ll likely spot the erratic flying twitches of bats around Inverarnan and Crianlarich. If you’re not yet a fan of bats, you soon will be.
Spotted mainly at dusk and dawn when bats are out hunting, the Daubenton Bat has a taste for midges, making them a much-loved critter of Glen Falloch.
The West Highland Way is home to both Roe and Red Deer, and if you’re quiet enough, you may just spot a few. Hiding in the woodland surrounding Rowardennan and Inversnaid is Britain’s smallest deer, the Roe Deer. These deer tend to forage for food in the lower woodlands while the much larger Red Deer graze the peaks to avoid being disturbed.
As you venture further along the trail, your chances of seeing red deer are increased as you approach Inverarnan and Crianlarich. Still, Kingshouse is where the Red Deer, even stags, can be quite friendly as they’ve become more accustomed to humans, they can get very close!
Between Inversnaid and Inverarnan feral goats roam the beaches of the loch. Thought to have arrived from Europe many years ago, these feral goats are a point of contention amongst the locals as they can be very destructive, which requires population control every few years. However, these goats are lovely to witness, often lazing around while you take photos of them with the stunning loch behind.
These are just a few of the commonly seen critters and creatures spotted on the West Highland Way. However, there are so many more animals to behold on your journey, including mountain hares and Peregrines Falcons. Some walkers have even spotted the majestic Golden Eagle soaring high above the peaks between Rowardennan and Tyndrum.
Suffice to say that there is plenty of magnificent wildlife to behold along the West Highland Way. Of course, these creatures and critters are in their natural environments, so please treat them and their habitats with respect.