National Nature Reserves in the Lowlands of Scotland

14 National Nature Reserves In The Lowlands of Scotland

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Scotland has many nature reserves to discover. This post lists the best National Nature Reserves in the Lowlands of Scotland that are worth visiting.

From geo parks in the Highlands, to RSPB reserves in the Outer Hebrides, there is plenty of reasons to plan an outdoor getaway in Scotland.

National Nature Reserves in the Lowlands are an excellent place to go to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities. Also, it is a great opportunity to connect with nature and view some wildlife. 

This post explores nature reserves that are not in the Highlands and closer to civilisation – Angus, Fife, Perthshire, Central Belt, Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

Lowlands

Some of Scotland’s national nature reserves in the Lowlands are some of the finest nature reserves. This part of the country has a never-ending abundance of nature reserves, parks and woods.

Some nature reserves are located on the coasts of Scotland and have the most beautiful beaches. Others have the largest bog area in the UK or the largest lochs in the country.

Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve

Location: Angus

Starting Point: Glen Doll Car Park & Ranger Base

Nearby Accommodation: Rottal Bothy

Corrie Fee is a dramatic location, a massive bowl scooped out from a rugged mountainside by a glacier during the Ice Age.

Corrie Fee is simply breathtaking, a national treasure. There are some easy trails that are well-marked. 

There are some rare plants and wildlife in the forests of Glen Doll. From the foot of the Corrie, a fantastic climbs climbs up the side of a Corrie where you can get an amazing view of the waterfall.

Mayar and Driesh are two Munro’s which are accessible from Corrie Fee. These are great walking options for the more keen walkers. 

At the car park, there is a rangers base with information boards on the nature and wildlife in the area. Dundee is the closest city to Corrie Fee, the city is an hour’s drive away. 

St Cyrus National Nature Reserve

Location: Angus

Starting Point: St Cyrus Car Park & Visitor Centre

Nearby Accommodation: Greve Cottage

St Cyrus National Nature Reserve is located on the east coast of Scotland, between two cities, Dundee and Aberdeen.

The inland cliffs and ridge of sand dunes protect the St Cyrus grasslands from the harsh weather conditions that batter the nature reserve.

This has led to a warm strip nestles on the north-east coast. St Cyrus is one of the richest and most diverse reserves in Britain

In the summer months, the reserve has blooming wildflowers, and species of breeding birds and is a haven for insects. In the winter, there are large waders, ducks, geese and swans in the estuary.

The nature reserve has a good car parking area for campers and motor homes.

Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve

Location: Fife

Starting Point: Tentsmuir Forest Car Park

Nearby Accommodation: Vicarsford Farmhouse

Located in the Kingdom of Fife, on the east coast of Scotland is Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. The nature reserve features tracks through the woodlands and a sandy beach at the month of the River Tay.

The nearest city from Tentsmuir is Dundee which is a twenty minute drive. There is a wide range of paths and trails to explore.

Also, visitors can explore the Time Line Trail to discover fascinating history There are some crumbling structures left in the forest which were in use during World War II.

Also, visitors can view Morton Loch which is surrounded by wetland and woodland. Here you can see all the wildlife that lives there, including birds and otter.

If you are there in the summer, you have a high chance of witnessing seals lazing on the sandy beach in the sun. A variety of birds feed on the rich mix of food in the mudflats here, also, you might spot an otter or two. 

National Nature Reserves in the Lowlands of Scotland
Photo by AJ Wallace on Unsplash

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

Location: Kinross

Starting Point: Burleigh Car Park

Nearby Accommodation: West Wing at Hatchbank House

Loch Leven is a huge expanse of open water which is home to a large number of freshwater breeding ducks. This loch has an intense history with links to Mary Queen of Scots.

This is such a wonderful place to stop for a walk around the loch or just sit and relax admiring the stunning views and wildlife. There are over 20 kilometres of trails around the loch.

Also, this loch is popular with canoeists, cyclists and walkers. Otters and kingfishers are usually seen around the reserve with the occasional visit from the more elusive white-tailed sea eagle. 

The RSPB Centre is located at the south side of the loch. There are toilet facilities, a shop and a cafe.

At Kinross Pier there is the Boathouse Bistro which has leaflets on the reserve and heritage trail. Also, there is a cafe and cycle hire.

During the summer, Historic Environment Scotland runs a boat to Castle Island from the pier at Kinross Harbour. Loch Leven National Nature Reserve is located between Edinburgh and Perth.

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Location: Isle of May, Fife

Starting Point: Anstruther

Nearby Accommodation: The Lookout

The Isle of May is a small island located in the Firth of Forth. There are boat trips organised from the small fishing village of Anstruther in Fife.

Alternatively, you can take a longer trip from North Berwick. The island itself is stunning, unspoilt and peaceful. 

Four hours is easy to kill here, there is so much to explore. Vikings and smugglers have been here and played a part in the dark history of the island.

Near Bishops Cave, you might get to see a few high-flying puffins. Also, there is a lighthouse on the island and you can usually see birds flying around that. 

Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve

Location: Stirlingshire

Starting Point: Thornhill

Nearby Accommodation: Old Leckie Farmstay

A looped short 900-metre boardwalk makes this nature reserve very accessible. There are information boards displaying the local flora and fauna.

Also, there is a tower which gives you lovely views of the bogland. Apparently, Flander Moss is the largest lowland peak bog in Europe

There is a wide range of wildlife that you can spot. You can spot dragonflies and butterflies zipping about.

Also, there are plenty of other bugs to see, birds fly from scrub to tree and if you are lucky you might be able to see adders and common lizards in the summer.

Great Trossachs Forest

Location: Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Forth Valley

The Great Trossachs Forest is of the UK’s largest National Nature Reserves. Set in the heart of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park sound Loch Katrine.

The forest is a huge landscape-scale woodland restoration project which is planned to take place over the next 200 years. 

In the Great Trossachs Forest, there is 165 kilometre of short, long and circular routes of various lengths and challenges. The forest is home to a range of habitats and is home to stunning scenery along loch shores. 

Conic Hill Loch Lomond. National Nature Reserve in the lowlands of Scotland
Conic Hill Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve

Location: Stirlingshire

Starting Point: Balmaha Car Park

Nearby Accommodation: Loch Lomond Waterfront Luxury Lodges

Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve sits on the dividing line of the Highlands Boundary Fault. The nature reserve beautifully captures both the highlands and the lowlands.

From native oak woods, wetlands, scenic mountains to Scotland’s largest freshwater loch, there is so much to explore. 

Also, you can enjoy an old-fashioned wooden ferry to wooded Inchcailloch Wood. Inchcailloch Island has the best views of Loch Lomond.

On the island of Inchcailloch there is a path network, ranger base and toilets. Visitors can see wildflowers, birds and explore the ancient kirk yard and burial ground. 

There are a public car park, toilets and visitor services at Balmaha. The nearest city to Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve is Glasgow, the journey from Glasgow to Loch Lomond NNR takes approximately one hour in the car. 

This national nature reserve in the Lowlands is one of the closest to Glasgow.

Blawhorn Moss National Nature Reserve

Location: Bathgate

Starting Point: Bathgate Moss Car Park

Nearby Accommodation: The Snug

An oasis of windswept moors hidden in the lowlands. This is a perfect place to escape the modern world and enjoy peace and tranquillity.

This is one of the few remaining places in Scotland that are covered by blanket bogs. Bogs used to cover much of central Scotland

Don’t worry there are special boardwalks that are used to cross the peat. Beneath you are over 8,000 years of history, locked into the peat layers of the raised bog.

Onsite car parking is free. This national nature reserve in the Lowlands is one of the closest nature reserves to the main cities in Scotland.

Blawhorn Moss National Nature Reserve is only a forty minute drive from Glasgow, or an hour drive from Edinburgh

Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve

Location: Lanarkshire

Starting Point: Clyde Valley Woodlands

Nearby Accommodation: Rosemount Boutique B&B

Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve is also known as Cartland Crags. A dramatic gorge with an old and rich forest.

There are way-marked trails through the gorge. Visitors can walk along the river side from Cartland Bridge to Cleghorn Bridge which is a total of 9 kilometres there and back. 

The reserve is now home to a wide variety of birds, mammals and invertebrates. In autumn, the colours from the leaves of the trees are spectacular, and in Spring, the woodland is carpeted in bright colourful flowers.

The nearest town to Clyde Valley is Lanark, the nearest city is Glasgow which is a 40-minute drive away. 

St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve

Location: Scottish Borders

Starting Point: St Abbs National Nature Reserve

Nearby Accommodation: St Abbs The Flag House

Walkers, nature lovers and birdwatchers will love exploring this coastal haven. Some of you might recognise this nature reserve from some movies, such as the Avengers: Endgame.

There is a lighthouse located near the cliff-top which has been standing since 1862. Also, from the coast you will be rewarded with spectacular cliff-tops views, while overlooking down at the crystal-clear waters. 

You can easily spend hours in the summer months listening and watching the thousands of seabirds who nest in the cliffs.

Away from the cliff’s edge is a carpet of wildflowers spread out among the grassland – look out for the sea of colours pink, rose and purple.

Head inland to walk around Mire Loch, while you are at Mire Loch make sure to look out for swans, ducks, dragonflies and butterflies. 

St Abbs is on the east coast and is one of the lovely national nature reserve in the Lowlands of Scotland. Cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

The nearest town to St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve is St Abbs, the nearest city is Edinburgh which is an hour’s drive away along the A1. 

Eskrigg Nature Reserve

Location: Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway

Starting Point: Eskrigg Reserve Car Park

Nearby Accommodation: Somerton House Hotel

Eskrigg Nature Reserve is maintained by a local charity and is located on a site of an old curling pond. It is a well kept reserve with a good variety of species of birds.

Also, there is a wide variety of flora and fauna. There is plenty of opportunities to relax, do some photography or explore the mountain biking trails.

The reserve is adjacent to dense woodland. There is a wide variety of wildlife to spot, keep an eye out for red squirrels, tawny owls, kingfishers, mandarin ducks and even adder’s tongue fern.

There are donation boxes on site so make sure to drop a coin when passing. 

Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve

Location: Dumfries & Galloway

Starting Point: Caerlaverock Nature Reserve

Nearby Accommodation: The Curve at Caerlaverock Estate 2

A very flat expanse with mudflats and coastal salt marsh. Over the centuries, this has lead to a large population of wildfowl and wading birds to live here.

The land here is named ‘Caelaverock’ which translates to the ‘land of the lark’. Caerlaverock Castle is a triangular medieval fortress located in the nature reserve. 

This is one of the most southern national nature reserve in the Lowlands of Scotland. Visitors can enjoy great views across the Solway Firth and as far as England on a clear day.

Visit at sunrise or sunset for breathtaking wildlife and scenery. There is a wide path network with raised boardwalks, a viewing platform, picnic areas, cycle racks and a viewing hide.

The nature reserve has a visitor centre, toilets and a cafe. 

Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve

Location: Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Starting Point: Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve

Nearby Accommodation: Cally Palace Hotel & Golf Course

This is a wonderful off the beaten track destination. Cairnsmore of Fleet is one of the wildest places in southwest Scotland. There is an informative visitor centre and public toilets on site. 

There are several trails cross the Fleet Valley, some which cross the national nature Reserve. Also, there is a disused railway viaduct that is worth checking out. 

Hillwalkers love the mountain route of Clints of Dromore. En route you can witness the stunning sculptures.

From the top of the hill visitors will be rewarded with brilliant views across the Cree Estuary and the border towards the Lake District. You might be able to catch sight on the many roe deer on the slopes.

Also, the moorland supports a wide range of wildlife including golden eagles and red and black grouse. Car parking at the Cairnsmore of Fleet is free. 

How many national nature reserves are there in Scotland?

Scotland is home to 43 National Nature Reserves. All of the National Nature Reserves are very special and unique.

They showcase the best of Scotland’s nature. Interestingly, the nature reserves cover under 2% of Scotland’s land area.

Can I Camp at Nature Reserve Scotland?

Camping is allowed at National Nature Reserves in the lowlands of Scotland. However, wild camping must be in line with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and campers should leave no trace.

Also, please note, fires should not be lit on land during prolonged dry periods. In addition, fires should not be lit in any forest, woodland, scrub or meadow or on peat ground.

Final Note

This post detailed the best National Nature Reserves in the Lowlands of Scotland. Nature Scot manages a good number of nature reserves in Scotland

In the Lowlands of Scotland, the Nature Reserves are home to some of the most unique landscapes in the whole of the UK.

There are great views on offers over the coast and estuaries. Also, there is a lot wildlife waiting to be discovered.

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