Famously known as ‘Scotland in miniature,’ Arran is packed with lots of the brilliant things that make Scotland so great.
That includes massive mountains, hike-worthy hills, charming villages, and lots of outdoor adventures—but the island also has lots of varied wildlife, with loads of different animals living on and around various parts of the island.
So in this beast-brimming guide, we’ve brought you all the best wildlife on the Isle of Arran. We’ve included land mammals, fish, sea mammals, birds, and all the best critters and creatures you’re in with a chance of seeing.
Hope you’ve brought some top-notch binoculars, cos you’re gonna need them!
Land Animals on Arran
Like lots of Scotland, Arran has some incredible land animals roaming around its confines. Some of the most famous and impressive land animals you’ll find on the Isle of Arran include…
1. Red Squirrels
In the UK, red squirrels are notorious for being pretty elusive. And though they’re also pretty elusive on Arran, they’re a little more common here than they are in many other parts of the UK.
So if you want to see a red squirrel, you should definitely head to the island—it’s known as one of the best red-squirrel-spotting locations in the whole region.
For the best chance of seeing a red squirrel on Arran, wander to any of the low-lying wooded regions. The areas around Brodick Castle and Lamlash are particularly good. It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit, but it’s best to venture out in the morning when they’re at their most active.
Arran is home to absolutely no gray squirrels at all—which is probably why the claret critters are so abundant on the island.
2. Red Deer
My favorite wildlife on the Isle of Arran, I absolutely love these guys.
Arran’s red deer are surprisingly plentiful and confident—so while it’s pretty difficult to spot some deer in other parts of the world, you can easily stumble upon these guys without them fleeing away.
To have a near-guarantee of seeing them, you want to head north out of Lochranza, to the big field between the campsite and the sea. Here, you’ll probably see plenty of them—I’ve never been to the area without seeing them.
Best of all, they’re pretty fearless, so you can get up close (which I love doing). But don’t blame me if they try to headbutt you or chase you into the sea or whatever.
There’s a famous white stag on Arran. The iconic guy is thought to be the only one of its kind currently living on the island, but no one knows for sure.
Yep, Arran is home to snakes!
You’ll usually find them lurking around under dead leaves, on top of hot rocks, or in heathery moorland, especially in remote areas. While they’re way less active in colder months, it’s pretty common to spot them in spring and summer.
They’re usually gray or reddish-brown, with a zig-zag pattern on their backs. They’re famous for being the only venomous snake in the UK.
Though Arran’s adders are venomous, it’s super unlikely that you’ll ever be bitten by one. They usually only bite if they’re attacked or disturbed, so don’t pick one up and try to get a selfie with it.
Scottish adders have transparent eyelids, and everyone has a different distinct pattern on their head.
Allegedly the only Scottish island with badgers, there are quite a lot of the stripey guys on Arran—they don’t have any natural predators on the island, so they’ve been able to grow without much disruption.
You’re most likely to see badgers in the rural areas in and around Lamlash, but some of them also nest on Arran’s moorlands (which is pretty unusual behavior for badgers). That said because badgers are hypersensitive to human activity, the chances that you’ll see them are still very slim.
(NOT-So) Fun Fact
Badgers caused chaos in 2018 when they started making a habit of digging up bits of a Lamlash cemetery (source).
5. Slow Worms
Slow worms look a lot like snakes and a lot like worms. But despite those two facts, they’re neither worms nor snakes. Weird!
Instead, they’re legless lizards, and they hopelessly writhe around on their silly little bellies. Lots of people get all spooked out when they see slow worms because they assume they’re venomous or dangerous, but they’re neither of those two things.
So, yep, you can pick them up and play with them, if that’s the sort of stuff you like doing. They very rarely bite—and even when they do, it’s not gonna hurt.
You’ll find slow worms in the same places you’ll also find Arran’s adders: among the heather, in leaves, and on rocks (but only in warmer months, and in rural areas). They hibernate in colder months.
One of the cutest critters on the planet, I’ve always been pretty lucky in my otter-spotting attempts on Arran. I’ve seen them twice—and both times, I wasn’t on the hunt for them, so it’s not like you have to seek them out.
Spend enough time on the coast, and you’ll probably see them eventually. Some people reckon there are resident otters on every part of Arran’s coastline.
That said, if you do want to maximize your chances, head to the south coast, (between Lagg and Kildonan), or to the quieter parts of the northeast coast. Wherever you go, it’s best to try your luck at dusk and dawn, when otters are at their most active.
Otters hold hands with their mates while sleeping, so they don’t drift apart and lose one another as they snooze.
Fish on Arran
For fishing, Scotland is one of the best nations on the planet.
That said, Arran (surprisingly!) isn’t one of Scotland’s best destinations, but you can still catch some meaty specimens. The three fish you’re most likely to see are…
7. Trout, Carp, and Salmon
Most fish-keen travelers come to Arran to snare themselves some trout. On the island, you can find and fish for sea trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, golden trout, and tiger trout. That’s a lot of trout!
Despite trout’s popularity on Arran, you can also find carp and salmon. Salmon are most common in rivers, and carp are more common in lochs. Sea fishing is also possible, and you can also find mackerel and pollock among other species.
For advice on when and where to fish, it’s best to get some local insight. I’ve never been fishing in my life, and I don’t know many people who have. So here’s my advice: start your search with Arran Angling Association, and go from there.
Sea Animals on Arran
For spotting sea animals, Scotland is absolutely incredible—it’s genuinely one of the planet’s best destinations for seeing a variety of marine life.
Some of Arran’s must-see sea creatures include…
Because it’s an island, seals are pretty common on Arran, it’s one of Scotland’s best locations for finding them.
The best places to see Arran’s seals are the shoreline areas around Lochranza (where I’ve seen them), along with both Kildonan and King’s Cave. Usually, you have a higher chance of seeing them at low tide.
If you’re on Arran during fall or late spring, you should definitely go seal-spotting—there’s a good chance you’ll see some cute seal pups!
Most of the UK’s seals live off Scotland’s various coastlines. So if you want to see some, it’s the best nation in the region.
It’s surprisingly pretty common to see dolphins splashing around in Scotland’s seas.
Arran isn’t the nation’s best place to see them, but you still have a decent chance if you head to some parts of the east coast. The coastlines in and around Lamlash are a good place to start, as is the entire stretch of coast between Brodick and Corrie.
You can see dolphins year-round, but they’re usually sighted between May and September. If you see a dolphin from Arran, it’ll probably be a bottlenose dolphin, but common dolphins sometimes hang around close to the island too.
Scottish bottlenose dolphins are the biggest bottlenose dolphins in the world. Must be cos of all the haggis!
Less impressive versions of dolphins (but don’t tell them I said that, obviously), porpoises also like hanging around close to Arran.
Broadly speaking, if it’s a place where you might see dolphins, it’s also a place where you might see porpoises. So head to the east coast, anywhere between Lamlash and Corrie.
And just like dolphins, though you can see porpoises year-round, the best time to search for them is summer. During this period, they like to breed, and then pop out little baby porpoises.
Because porpoises are less mysterious and iconic than dolphins, people assume they’re a more common sight. In fact, the exact opposite is true: porpoises are less sociable, and they hang around in smaller groups. So you’re actually much more likely to see dolphins than porpoises.
11. Basking Sharks
If you want to see some basking sharks, Arran is a surprisingly good place to do it—they’re (relatively) often seen off some parts of the island’s coast. The best two spots are Corrie, on the east coast, and close to Lochranza, on the north coast.
The best season is usually summer. Basking sharks typically hang around Scotland between April and early September, then drift over to warmer waters when Scotland cools down. They often breed around Scotland in July and August.
Some basking sharks grow as big as 12 meters (39 feet) long! They’re the biggest beasts you’ll ever see in UK waters.
12. Minke Whales
If you’re hoping to spot a minke whale in Scotland, Arran is a good choice.
Like pretty much all of the sea animals on Arran, the best location for seeing minke whales is the east coast—plonk yourself somewhere between Corrie and Lamlash, and you might see one. Though a small few are thought to stick to Scotland year-round, the best period is between July and September.
Minke whales often come surprisingly close to the shoreline, so if you’re lucky enough to see one, it probably won’t be from some disappointing distance.
And it’s a pretty impressive sight—minke whales are bigger than most people expect. Fully-grown adults usually measure in at around 10.5 meters (35 feet).
Birds on Arran
There are more than 250 species of birds on Arran, including herons, bullfinches, goldfinches, and plenty more. But some of the island’s most impressive specimens are its birds of prey.
Some of the birds of prey you might see on Arran include…
13. Golden Eagles
Arran is home to many pairs of nesting golden eagles, and there’s a surprisingly good chance you’ll spot one.
If you’re gonna see a golden eagle, it’ll probably be in the summer—and in the mountainous areas close to Goatfell. The walk in and around Glen Rosa is a particularly good choice.
The golden eagle population on Arran is the most important and significant golden eagle population in the south of Scotland. They nest here, then fly onwards to spread to other parts of the UK (usually in northern England and southern Scotland).
Most people don’t realize just how massive golden eagles can get. They usually measure in at a length of 66 to 102 centimeters (that’s 26 to 40 inches), with a gigantic wingspan of 180 to 234 centimeters (between 71 and 92 inches).
Buzzards aren’t quite as interesting or exciting as golden eagles, but they’re still pretty big, with a typical wingspan between 109 and 140 cm (43 and 55 inches).
They’re much more common than golden eagles, and it’s really not unusual to see buzzards swooping around various parts of Arran. If you want to see one, there’s not a particular place to look—they’re equally present on pretty much every part of the island.
Buzzards are the most common and widespread bird of prey in the UK, so there’s a good chance you’ll see one (or a few!) in many of the region’s remote and rural areas.
For largely-unknown reasons, kestrel numbers have massively dwindled across the UK over the past few decades, so they’re nowhere near as common as they once were.
That said, you’ll still find quite a few of them on Arran. They’re pretty easy to spot, with their distinctive hovering hunting style. They’re a little smaller than your average pigeon, and they’re always on the search for tasty little rodents.
Very widespread, you can see them any time of year, and in most locations across Arran. That said, some people claim they’re more prevalent in the south of the nation, close to lots of the southern coastline.
16. Short-Eared Owls
Despite their misleading name, short-eared owls are bigger than most people expect, with a wingspan between 90 and 105 centimeters (that’s between 35 and 41 inches).
Most of the time, you’ll find these guys on the more remote stretches of Arran’s open moorland. They’re particularly visible during early morning and early evening when they do the majority of their hunting. They largely munch on small rodents.
They can be seen year-round, but they’re surprisingly more prominent in winter.
Unlike most owls, short-eared owls aren’t exclusively nocturnal, and actually hunt during both the day and the night. Of course, that makes them easier to spot.
Final Words and Further Reading
There you have it—all the wildlife you might see on the Isle of Arran!
If you want to know anything else about traveling and adventuring around Arran, check out our guides to the island’s best hikes, the best hotels to stay at, all the reasons you should visit, and where you can find the best beaches.
Or for more information about Scotland’s creatures and critters, check out our big guide to all the wildlife you can see across the entirety of the nation: Wild Animals in Scotland.
Thanks for reading, you intrepid explorer, and we’ll see you next time!