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17 September 2014
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Culzean Country Park

Spectacular setting

Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle enjoys a spectacular setting perched on top of cliffs and surrounded by 600 acres of country park run by the National Trust for Scotland.

The wealth of wildlife makes this a great winter attraction for nature lovers.

 

Culzean Castle - dramatic setting and great wildlife


The impressive Culzean Castle with its turrets and battlements is one of the last great masterpieces of Robert Adam, one of the most important British architects of the late 18th Century.

The view from the castle across the Firth of Clyde is equally stunning - on a clear day you can see the island of Arran in the distance.

Culzean Country Park extends over 260 hectares and boasts a rich mosaic of different wildlife habitats from cliffs and seas to parks and woodland, all bursting with wildlife delights.

Spring highlights

CulzeanThe 300 acres of mixed woodland and the coastal setting results in a great variety of birds in the spring.

Seventeen miles of pathways through the woodland provide a great opportunity for bird watchers.

There are around 120 species of birds, of which 50 are breeding.

An early start is recommended, around 4.30am, if you're going to catch the dawn chorus - listen out for Goldcrests, Thrushes and Robins.

As you walk deeper into woodland, you may hear Willow Warblers, Green Fiches and the Chiffchaff with its simple, repetitive song.

Spring is a good time to hear this spectacle when the males are proclaiming their territory and trying to attract females.

Also look out for Jays, Buzzards and Woodcocks.

Bat watching

BatAt the other end of the day - the evening - there's a great opportunity to see a very different sort of wildlife - bats.

A fantastic spectacle is watching a swarm of Pipistrelle Bats coming back from night time feeding.

These are the most common and smallest bats and they resemble small flying mice.

The bats roost in the attic of a farmhouse near the car park.

In winter they go elsewhere but return in late spring to their roost where 300 or more females have babies.

The bats eat midges and flies.

It's worth taking along a bat detector although they are visible to the naked eye.

Rocky shores

Marine lifeCulzean has a great variety of scenery and if you head down to the shore, you'll see rocky lava platforms, the product of volcanic action millions of years ago.

Wildlife hunters can spend endless hours in the rock pools in search of underwater goodies.

Because the rocky shore is relatively sheltered, there is good seaweed coverage which provides food and shelter for all sorts of creatures.

Rockpoolers can find a wealth of marine creatures including crabs, lobsters, sea hares and shrimps.

As well as the marine life, there are three different types of seaweed according to area of the shore.

Green seaweed can be found at the top of the shore - it can cope with freshwater and sunlight.

The brown variety is most likely to be seen half way down the beach as it can cope with a good battering from the sea.

Red kelp can be spotted at the lowest part where the sea never goes out.

Behind the rock pools, there's also a wealth of bird life including Fulmars which nest on the cliffs.

If you go near them, they squirt a disgusting substance of fish oils and acids so don't be tempted to get too close!

Labyrinth of caves

RavenThe Firth of Clyde was once a notorious centre for smuggling - its fortified caves were ideal for hiding contraband.

For centuries the Culzean Kennedys, the family who once owned the estate, were involved in smuggling or turned a blind eye to others dealing in illegal goods such as rum, spirits, Congo tea or exotic spices.

Today the area around the caves is home to some great wildlife.

Don't miss the pair of Ravens that come back year after year to nest on the cliffs.

They're early nesters so at the beginning of May the young will have already fledged.

But if you keep looking near the nest, you'll see the chicks following the mother along the cliff side.

 

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