Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve
The Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve is located on the north coast of the Isle of Islay, the most southerly of Scotland’s Western Isles, known for its rugged beauty. The loch after which the reserve is named extends up to four miles inland toward, but two miles short of, Loch Indaal. Cared for by the RSPB since 1984, the shallow waters, stunning white beaches, mudflats, saltmarsh, grasslands, peat bog and moorland of Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna and is the perfect destination to be at one with nature.
Open all year round, the reserve’s visitor center is situated in a farmhouse and features interesting information about the reserve, as well as a gallery with large windows providing spectacular views of the reserve. Just north of the visitor centre is a viewing platform offering scenic views over the head of Loch Gruinart, while the hide at the foot of the valley allows visitors to view the abundant birdlife found in the reserve. The hide has plenty of space and provides wooden benches for visitors to spend extended periods of time viewing the surroundings in comfort.
In addition to permanent residents, Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve is a haven for migrating birds and it is estimated that up to 45% of the world’s Greenland barnacle geese and 4% of Greenland white-fronted geese visit the reserve in winter every year, with a count of up to 24,000 geese filling the fields. Other birds found on the reserve include lapwings, redshanks, corncrakes, hen harriers and choughs, as well as large numbers of birds commonly found throughout Scotland, such as swallows, curlews and snipe.
Cycling is a great way to explore Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve, with circular routes taking visitors to the Gruinart flats, the visitor centre, the beaches at Ardnave and the ruins of an ancient Celtic chapel. Between 5 April and 25 October each year, the reserve features weekly guided walks leaving from the RSPB visitors’ centre. While the Isle of Islay is likely best known for the superb whisky distilled there, the Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve offers visitors the opportunity to find out why it has been voted as “one of the best places for wildlife in the UK” by SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest); ASSI (Areas of Special Scientific Interest; Natura 200; and Ramsar.