From the distant cliffs of Unst in the north of the Shetland Islands to the muddy creeks of Rockcliffe in the Solway Firth, The National Trust for Scotland owns some 20 properties around the coast of Scotland.
Together they hold almost a fifth of all of the seabirds breeding in Scotland. Seven of them have been designated as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the European Birds Directive and three of them are National Nature Reserves (NNR).
Of these, St Kilda NNR is undoubtedly the foremost, being the largest seabird colony in the North-east Atlantic with around a million seabirds. Mingulay, Canna and Fair Isle are other island properties that are internationally important for their seabirds, while St Abbs NNR is one of the most readily accessible colonies on the mainland. Trust properties on Unst and Fetlar fall within the Hermaness and Fetlar Special Protection Areas, while the Trust’s Mains of Dun farm at Montrose Basin Local Nature Reserve holds one of the largest colonies of Eider Ducks in Scotland.
Less well known, the Murray’s Isles, off Gatehouse of Fleet, are nonetheless regionally important for their colonies of gulls and cormorants while Iona and Staffa are best known for other aspects of their cultural heritage. Staffa NNR, though visited mainly for the spectacular Fingall’s Cave, is one of the easiest places to see and photograph puffins.
On the mainland, Torridon and Kintail are famous for their high mountains, but Balmacara has a complex coastline from Plockton to Kyle of Lochalsh that includes a number of small islands used by seabirds and otters alike.