Outside Crimond village sits the Loch of Strathbeg Nature Reserve, a site of international importance for various bird species. The Loch of Strathbeg is Britain’s largest dune freshwater loch (otherwise known as a slack pool) and has a diverse ecology that makes it home in the surrounding sand dunes, wetlands, and grasslands.
The site is essential for the pink-footed geese, among other bird species. Nearly 20% of the world’s pink-footed geese population fly in during winter, making the Loch of Strathbeg a destination you shouldn’t miss if these birds are on your list.
Its species of ducks, geese, and swans make the Loch of Strathbeg one of the best places for budding birders to stop by as they travel through Scotland.
In This Post
Located just 20 minutes outside Fraserburgh, the Loch of Strathbeg is a beautiful nature reserve. The Strathbeg RSPB partly manages the Loch of Strathbeg due to the thousands of birds that flock to the Scotland loch yearly.
It’s an excellent destination for bird watchers and is generally quieter than Scotland’s other significant bird-watching nature reserves. There are clean and quiet hides from which you can easily observe and survey the birds.
Covering about 849 hectares, of which half is designated for preserving swans, geese, and ducks on the loch.
Details to Know
The Loch of Strathbeg is flush with unique places to watch birds from, but the Loch of Strathbeg visitor centre is the best. You can enjoy panoramic views out to the Strathbeg loch and the surrounding landscape, and thankfully, the visitor centre is open all year round (except on Christmas and Boxing Day).
The centre opens at 9:00 and closes at 17:00 on most days, and it’s a great place to learn about the nesting birds. Volunteers at the centre are happy to tell you about the most recent sightings, what to watch for, and the best routes to take.
The nature reserve has several rough routes to walk around this RSPB Scotland Loch, but it’s recommended you constantly refresh yourself with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code before you stroll through the area. Responsible access is the only way to use the reserve entrance and should consistently be enforced. During the ground-nesting breeding season (April – August), always ensure your dog is close to you and cleaned up afterwards.
When to Visit
The Loch of Starthbeg is a fantastic destination at any time of year. During the summer months, mainly April through August, guests can look forward to common terns, herring gulls, and plenty of other warbling birds.
During winter, 30,000 pink-footed geese flock to the Loch of Strathbeg and stay there until spring. They are joined by whopper swans and mallards soon after, creating a diverse collection of birdlife to enjoy.
How to Get There
There are ample ways to reach the Loch of Strathbeg from all over Scotland, including train, car, and bus. If you’re driving from A90 in the village of Crimond, follow the brown tourist sign to the nature reserve. At the T-junction at the end of the road, turn left. After approximately 500 metres, turn right at the reserve entrance.
The nearest bus stop is at the town of Crimond village. There is a brown tourist sign that sits beside the church.
Many tourists come from Aberdeen up to Loch of Strathbeg, and the easiest way to do so besides driving up to Crimond village is to reach Aberdeen’s rail station and then drive, parking by the car park in Crimond village.
Top Birds to Look Out For
Once you’ve followed the brown nature reserve sign and reached the visitor centre, you can enjoy a wide variety of birds. Here are the birds to look out for while you’re here.
Pink Footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus)
The prized jewel of the Strathbeg reserve, the pink-footed goose, is a beautiful species of wild goose. Their mundane brown markings may be difficult to identify amongst the other birds, but their pink feet give them away immediately.
Over 30,000 of these wild geese flock to the loch during winter and are a delight for any avid birdwatcher.
Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus)
The long, thin neck of the Whooper Swan gives an elegant impression to anyone lucky enough to see these giant swans. Otherwise, their yellow bill with a black tip is another easy way to identify them.
They are a scarce breeding species but tend to fly from Iceland to various European spots. Watch for them the next time you’re stopping by the Loch of Strathbeg.
Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
The small and agile tree sparrow, and in most cases, you’ll only be able to see a chestnut-brown streak racing past your binoculars. If you are lucky enough to catch yourself resting on the branches, quickly snap a photo.
The Strathbeg Nature Reserve is quite close to several excellent accommodation options, and the towns of Fraserburgh, Crimond, and Peterhead can provide comfortable self-catering accommodations, bed and breakfasts that offer delicious Scottish breakfasts.
If you plan to visit different places, stopping by bustling places like Aberdeen and Inverness makes it easy to take trains to the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland.
Things to Do Nearby
If you’re looking for things to do nearby, the towns of Peterhead and Fraserburgh offer unique things to do once you’ve completed your birdwatching. You can also see the herd of wild Konik ponies and other wildlife like otters.
We’ve written articles detailing the top things to do in Peterhead, so feel free to check out the external links!