Guest blogger Lucy Cooke tells us all about her wildlife spotting visit to the beautiful Whitmuir Estate.
Deep in the heart of the Scottish Borders lies a very special secret – you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to find a piece of the Scottish wilds and some absolutely stunning wildlife. This rolling countryside contains valleys, lochs, mountains and forests all ready to be explored or simply appreciated from the comfort of your chosen cottage.
Past the picturesque Eildon Hills and near the lovely town of Selkirk sits Whitmuir Farm and Estate that is set in 176 hectares of wonderful countryside with exceptionally rich grasslands, wildflowers and a mixture of woodland with more deciduous trees being planted every year. The estate has an impressive range of biodiversity, boasting as many as 1,400 different species including badgers, wild orchids, butterflies and fungi like the out-of-this-world Smurf Blue mushroom.
Whitmuir offers the perfect base for further exploration of the area within easy reach of the best the Borders has to offer. Lovers of the untamed and uninhabited can take their pick from the many hill ranges in the area, from the Lammermuirs to the Cheviots, that each provide a different experience and reward walkers with uniquely beautiful views and scenery.
Several long distance foot paths wind their way around the region from the Southern Upland Way that skims the outstandingly beautiful St Mary’s Loch and the Border Abbeys Way that takes in 4 historic abbeys, to St Cuthbert’s Way that leads from Melrose all the way over to the east coast. If waterways are your passion, pick from the many walks along the River Tweed where salmon jump, osprey fish and kingfishers dart.
Take a drive into any of the Border towns to find excellent local food, quirky little shops and many museums, castles and abbeys celebrating the life, culture and history of the region. For sport enthusiasts there is horse riding, rugby, golf and fishing and a trip up to the capital is easily achievable within an hour by train for a day trip to enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer.
We have a range of properties on the estate to choose from with everything from the remarkable Whitmuir House which is great for families or larger groups right through to Meadowside Cottage that is a warm and cosy hideout for couples in search of peace and tranquillity. There is also Marl Moss Cottage, Whitmuir Steading Cottage and Knowpark Cottage to choose from. Teyl, the Estate Factor, shares the environmentally friendly ethos and will be sure to make your stay a pleasant one.
Waking up Wild
Whitmuir truly is a wildlife haven and every year improvements are made that encourage a rich mixture of environmental habitats across the estate. One of the recent ambitious projects was to remove large areas of Sitka Spruce and replace it with a diverse range of tree species including some from the International Conifer Conservation Program based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Examples of fungi from the estate
Fungi fanatics won’t have to go far to find a wide abundance of species such as penny buns, fly argaric, witches butter or scarlet elfcaps. The previously mentioned blue smurf (entoloma madidum) is a fabulous and rare fungus and the estate even boasts a species that was new to science when it was found in 2013. It was finally named Cortinarius brunneiaurantius in 2014 and has since been found a few more times but in Northern Scotland.
Over 90 species of birds have been recorded on the estate from warblers to water rail and goshawk to crossbill. Winter visitors may well spy waxwings and redwings feasting on berries or fields full of skylarks whilst those catching the beginnings of spring may hear the sound of the cuckoo call.
Those with a passion for wildflowers can walk through the gorgeous meadows in spring and summer enjoying a canvas of colour that attracts pretty pollinators like the common blue butterfly. Moth traps have been set up to attract and record the many varieties of moth that visit throughout the year including the beautiful emperor moth.
So whether it’s walking in the footsteps of St Cuthbert, listening to skylark singing overhead, or watching the mighty hares box outside whilst enjoying a roaring fire and a glass of something special, the Whitmuir Estate has something for everyone. Explore them for yourself and decide which Whitmuir property suits you best.