Loud, frenetic and deeply primal, the red deer rut is one of Scotland’s most impressive wildlife spectacles. Here are five of the best places to enjoy the action.
Photograph by Ian Macleod/Nevispix
1 Isle of Arran, Ayrshire
Experienced golfers will have come across many hazards in their time, but having to wait for a roaring stag to vacate the green will be a novelty for most. But that is exactly what can happen at Lochranza in the north of Arran, where stags take to the local golf course â€“ and much of the village â€“ to claim groups of hinds attracted to the valley floor by good grazing. At times it can be very entertaining, says Kathy Mawson, who runs the nearby campsite and golf course. “We have our usual golf course stags [year-round] but do see more in the autumn. The deer are quite an attraction for people staying with us.” www.visitarran.com; www.arran-campsite.com
2 Isle of Jura, Inner Hebrides
Wild and rugged with large tracts of uninhabited land, it’s no surprise that Jura’s population of red deer far outnumber the island’s human inhabitants. Deer can be encountered almost anywhere, including by the main pier at Feolin where the animals come down to the beach to feed on seaweed. Walkers heading into the island’s interior will almost certainly come across deer, while even a drive or cycle along the one public road that winds along the east coast will bring plenty of encounters.Â A wilder place in which to experience the rut is hard to imagine. www.jurainfo.com
3 Isle of Rum, Inner Hebrides
Home to the world’s longest running study of red deer and also a star location of the BBC’s Autumnwatch programme, Rum is well-known as a top spot for experiencing the red deer rut. Deer can be found all over the island, but it’s around Kilmory in the north of the island where much of the action is. It’s a lovely spot, with hinds grazing on distinct rutting â€˜greens’ with the Cuillin on Skye in the distance. It is here that the stags congregate and attempt to round up groups of hinds and mate with as many as possible â€“ all the while trying to fend off advances from other would-be suitors. For more details, contact [email protected]Â Â www.isleofrum.com
4 Beinn Eighe, Torridon
A fabulous place to be at any time of year, the Torridon hills are at their most atmospheric during the rut, when the sound of roaring stags carries through the glens. It’s not unusual for the animals to be found at road level â€“ they are partial to grazing on seaweed along the shores of Loch Torridon â€“ but it’s in the hills where the true grandeur of the rut can be felt. Beinn Eighe, that great cluster of peaks and ridges between Loch Maree and Glen Torridon, is as good a place as any to try. The higher you go, the better, with the trails that start from the Coire na Glas Leitr car park by the shores of Loch Maree, or from the nearby Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre all providing good access to the surrounding area. Beinn Eighe is a National Nature Reserve and Scottish Natural Heritage rangers often run events to coincide with the deer rut each year. Ask at the visitor centre (open April to 31 October) for details. www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/beinn-eighe
5 Lochaber and around
With plenty of quiet, hidden glens to explore, Lochaber is a great spot for enjoying the rut. It’s also an area that’s particularly well-equipped with wildlife tour providers who can get you close to the action without disturbing the animals.Â Glenloy Wildlife, based at Glenloy Lodge near Fort William, is running a red deer rut weekend from 1st to 4th October as well as aÂ fully inclusive wildlife holiday week from 5th to 12th October with a specific focus on red deer. Throughout October, Lodge guestsÂ will also have the opportunity to join day trips to see red deer and other wildlife.Â Another operator, Wild West, is offering photo and wildlife watching safaris to see red deer throughout October. Run by photographer Ian MacLeod, safaris are available twice-daily, while private photography trips (for up to four snappers) can also be arranged. www.glenloy-wildlife.org.uk; www.wildwestsafari.co.uk
The red deer rut usually starts in late-September and lasts until the end of October. Be aware that the stag stalking season runs from 1 July to 20 October. During this time, walkers are advised to check Scottish Natural Heritageâ€™s expanded Heading for the Scottish Hills website. There are also â€˜captiveâ€™ opportunities to enjoy the rut, including a ranger-led experience in the Galloway Forest ParkÂ and special Autumn Watch safaris with Highland Safaris near Aberfeldy. The latter also offers a daily Red Deer Encounter at its deer park. And if in the Deeside area, check out the range of tours available from Braemar Highland Safaris, led by experienced guide Neil Bain.