Guide to otters and where to see them on Skye

The coast of Skye is home to many otters and seeing an otter will be the highlight of many people’s stay on Skye.  This short guide provides some information about these fascinating animals and where you might see them in south Skye.

Otter in Loch Slapin

Otter in Loch Slapin

Otters are captivating and although elusive they are definitely not impossible to see.   The rocky shores around the Strathaird peninsular, where Springbank Cottage, our self catering holiday let in Elgol, is located, have lots of nooks and crannies that make perfect landing sites for otters.  The animals need to wash regularly in fresh water and so easy, but secluded, access to and from the shore to get to small burns are a major attraction to otters.

otter

First glimpse – unmistakable profile of an otter

So, the first thing to get in your favour is watch in a good place.  Find a good vantage point that gives you a wide stretch of coast to watch over.  Good binoculars are very helpful and a telescope even better.  Happily, as part of our environmental activities offer at Springbank we provide both for our guests to use!  Good sites include Loch Slapin, the bay at Kilmarie and Strathaird Point.  There is also an otter hide at Kylerhea which is always worth a visit for the variety of wildife you may see in the area, including golden eagles.  There’s more detailed location information at the cottage.

Once you spot an otter stalk it to get as close as you dare before trying to get photographs.  The tried and trusted technique is to ONLY move towards the animal when it is UNDER WATER.  It might, of course, swim away while under water but, if you are lucky, they will often stay in one place for a little while, especially when engrossed in feeding, so when it comes to the surface, you’ll be that much closer to it.

The state of the tide has also to be considered.  At low tide it requires less effort on the part of the otter to get down to where prey items live.  The downside that it can be harder to get closer to them as there are, inevitably, a lot of weed-strewn rocks between you and them.  Feeding on an incoming tide seems to be when they are most active but this is not a hard and fast rule by any means.

Vantage point for an otter watch

Vantage point for an otter watch

While otters cannot be said to be confiding they are certainly well aware that they are fairly safe in the water and that your presence is not an immediate threat. Look at just how close people are able to get when photographing otters.  Nevertheless, do not to disturb them and, if possible, get away quietly once you have seen them.  If you do there’s a good chance they will be active in the area again – and then you’ll know exactly where to look.

There’s lots more information and fantastic pictures on the UK Wild Otter Trust website.