Find your wildlife adventure in the Outer Hebrides: Wildlife Festival embraces local culture and discovery
A seven-day celebration of the wildlife and landscapes of the Outer Hebrides takes place from 24th June to 1st July, with a huge array of activities and events for all ages.
Whether your idea of nature is, dolphin spotting, discovering a million seabirds by boat, going on a bumblebee safari or watersports in crystal clear waters, communities from all over the islands have pulled together an amazing array of activities for this, the second annual festival, taking place across the island archipelago.
Make sure you check the website regularly, as more activities are being added and many need to be prebooked.
Festival co-ordinator, Màiri Carrey, says there are activities suitable for someone completely new to wildlife-watching or a more seasoned nature-lover, ready to quench their thirst for knowledge.
The festival is being co-ordinated by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust on behalf of Species on the Edge, a new multi-partner and multi-species conservation programme. And the entire community has joined in, making it an inclusive festival for all.
Kate from Wild Harris, which offers wildlife watching walks, snorkelling and sea kayaking said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to see more of the wildlife here.
“We will be doing taster sessions for snorkelling at Huisinis, a lovely place for snorkelling and a wonderful habitat within easy reach of a beach and with great facilities for showering afterwards.
“It’s so colourful with different varieties of seaweed, sea anemonies, starfish, crabs and silver sand eels.”
“And we’ve teamed up with Isle of Harris Sea Tours to offer an exclusive adventure into the untouched wilderness off the West Coast of Harris to Loch Resort – a sea loch where ancestors from the island had their home, they could only get to and from it by boat even though they lived on the mainland.”
Enjoy a guided walk with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust finding more species of bees than you might imagine and what plants they like, in and around The Sunken Garden, Lews Castle Grounds. Walks take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, June 27, 28 and 30, at 11am.
Meanwhile, also on June 27 and at 10am, the RSPB will be guiding a walk at Loch na Muilne reserve, and at the same time next day around Loch Stiapabhat local nature reserve.
Head off on a bumblebee safari at the beautiful Europie machair on Thursday, June 29, at 10.30am to discover why bees and flowers survive and thrive together, thanks to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Harris and Scalpay
The North Harris Trust has arranged walks and talks, as well as shorewatch training, to help identify and record whales, dolphins and porpoises. On Saturday, June 24, Shorewatch training takes place with the North Harris Ranger, while the sea mammal survey Shorewatch live, takes place at Eilean Glas lighthouse, Scalpay, at 1pm that afternoon. Join a local ranger at the lighthouse again at 10am Monday for a walk that brings the culture and history to life, with the chance to spot whales and dolphins as you go.
Fancy the chance of spotting a golden eagle, and learning more about their habitats. Join a ranger at Gleann Bhiogadail on Wednesday, June 28, at 10am. There’s also a chance to visit the Eagle Observatory on the Isle of Harris on the 27th, from 1.30pm onwards in the company of the North Harris ranger. Other highlights in Gaelic-medium are a walk starting in Bogha Glas on 28 June and an evening talk about flora, fauna and place names to be held in Tarbert on 29 June.
Other events include exploring stunning Luskentyre on a guided walk, learning about the history of whaling and walks and talks for Gaelic speakers and keen learners. Full details on the website.
Head to South Uist to find where eagles dare, as the RSPB take you on a tour of the Loch Druidibeg Community reserve – it’s one of the best places to see both golden and sea eagles, alongside hen harriers, short-eared owls, merlin and rare divers as well as a wonderfully rich variety of plants.
Go wild with adventure
There are boat trips and water sports galore for those who love to balance nature with adrenaline.
Uist Sea Tours will be taking people to one of the remotest parts of the British Isles, St Kilda.
Explore Britain’s most remote island coast
For those who want to get closer to our seas and wildlife, there are a number of boat trips and watersports activities. See the world from a different perspective aboard Uist Sea Tours on a St Kilda boat trip and discover the remotest part of the British Isles, St Kilda, where the cliffs are home to an amazing array of wildlife, including one of the biggest seabird breeding stations in North West Europe … see puffins, petrels, gannets and shags, with one million seabirds on the archipelago. Booking is essential for these early morning events on Saturday, June 24, Monday, June 26, Tuesday, June 27, Wednesday, June 28, Thursday, June 29.
An adventure by boat and by boot
Discover the Island of Scarp and the fjord-like Loch Resort, including the bothies and blackhouse ruins of Dirascal, on this unique collaboration between Isle of Harris Sea Tours and Wild Harris. Booking is vital for this June 27 adventure trip (June 28 is a back up date incase of poor weather).
This will be a combined boat trip and guided walk with a chance to see golden and sea eagles, deer and much more. Kate, from Wild Harris explained: “This is a special adventure for the festival. The boat will take a party by sea and we are going to meet them there, at Dirascal, the place where there was once a settlement, which was only accessible by boat. Then we will guide them on the walk back, across this unspoiled landscape and along with cliffs of Glenaladale.”
Surf Lewis is offering the chance to try stand up paddle boarding in the inland freshwater loch at Aline Community Woodland on June 24, learn to surf at Niseabost, Isle of Harris on June 29, and again at Traigh Mhor/Gary Beach in Tolsta on Friday, June 30.
Festival co-ordinator Màiri added: “As well as walks and talks, boat trips, and bumblebee safaris, wildlife artists, painters and photographers will be exhibiting their wildlife artworks, while workshops will also take place.
“The community and local businesses have worked really hard to pull together an exciting array of activities over the full week – we’d be delighted to see visitors and locals alike taking part.”