If you’re planning a road trip around Inverness, a stop at the Tollie Red Kites Centre is a must.
Nestled in the picturesque surroundings of Dingwall, this haven offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the majestic Red Kites in their natural habitat.
Join us here for personal insights, handy tips and a photo journey of our visit to the Tollie Red Kites.
*Note: Tollie Red Kites at RSPB has suspended feeding the red kites due to Scotland’s widespread Avian Bird Flu. Check their Facebook page for any resumption of this activity. This was still the case as of September 2023.
The car park is still open, though, and the walking trails in the area are still accessible. We took a lovely walk to the nearby Loch Ussie.
Tips for Visit to Tollies Red Kite Reserve
- Arrival Time: Get there about half an hour before feeding time to secure a good spot.
- Birdwatching: Don’t just watch out for the kites; enjoy the variety of other birdlife around the centre.
- Parking: Conveniently, there’s a car park right at the centre.
- Patience is Key: Sometimes, the red kites take their time to come down for the feed. It’s worth the wait!
- Camera Ready: Ensure your camera battery is fully charged – you won’t want to miss capturing these moments. For more tips on capturing the perfect shot, check out our road trip photography guide and our recommendations on the best travel photography gear.
- Nearby Attractions: While in the area, consider visiting the picturesque Brahan Dell and Arboretum and the intriguing Pet Cemetery. Also, if you are a bird lover, don’t miss the falconry display at Dunrobin Castle, just over an hour further north.
A Visit to Tollie Red Kites, Dingwall
During our many road trips near Inverness, we discovered a lesser-known spot that quickly became a favourite — the Tollie Red Kites reserve in Dingwall.
As wildlife lovers, this place was a natural magnet for us, offering a close-up experience with Red Kites in their natural setting.
A Serendipitous First Encounter
As we neared the reserve, we were greeted by two red kites perched together on a tree, almost as if welcoming us to their abode. We hastily reached for our camera to capture this serene moment, but they took flight as soon as we stepped out of the car.
This initial encounter was a gentle prelude to the grand spectacle that awaited us later in the afternoon.
Capturing the Moment
The true highlight of our visit was the afternoon feeding session, a breathtaking spectacle where the sky filled with kites swooping gracefully to claim their share.
Just as we prepared to capture this event, a photographer’s worst nightmare occurred – my camera battery died! Luckily, Lars was on point, ensuring we didn’t miss capturing the event.
TIP : Have a full battery ready to go!
Join Our Journey
Join us as we share our story from visiting the Tollie Reserve, accompanied by photographs, walking trail suggestions, and tips to enhance your visit to this reserve.
Whether you’re a bird-watching aficionado or a casual nature lover, this guide promises a peek into the tranquil yet vibrant world of the Tollie Red Kites, offering a rich and immersive experience.
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Red Kites Feeding Time
The Tollie Red Kites Reserve feeding sessions are a notable event, attracting locals and tourists alike.
They usually occur around 1 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday. But check the Tollie Red Kites’ Facebook page for updates on the latest feeding and opening times.
As the feeding time approached, about 15 people gathered, many with cameras mounted on tripods. The crowd consisted mainly of local photographers who visit the reserve regularly.
The meat laid out on the feeding table attracted a variety of birds, including the red kites and a keen buzzard, ready to swoop in from a nearby tree. Seagulls also circled overhead, seemingly hesitant to join the feast.
We Waited, Cameras Poised
We were ready, cameras at hand, eager to capture the unfolding scene. The red kites circled the area, their high-pitched whistles filling the air, adding to the anticipation.
Trying to coax the kites to descend, the RSPB volunteer repeatedly replenished the meat on the table.
The usual photographers found the delay unusual, attributing it to the larger crowd or the birds not being hungry enough.
The seagulls seemed to be the trigger for the feeding frenzy. According to a volunteer, the gulls diving in for the meat usually signal the feast’s start.
Each potential dive had all cameras pointed towards the feeding table, creating a ripple of excitement among the crowd.
Just when patience was wearing thin, and I could no longer feel my toes from the cold, the gulls finally swooped in, setting off a flurry of activity at the feeding table.
Unfortunately, at that crucial moment, my camera battery died. In the rush to replace it, I missed capturing the scene of swirling birds at the feeding table.
I looked up to see flurries of feathers with birds swooping this way and that. A tangled array of white gulls interspersed with huge red kites with their beautiful forked tails swirling in a mesmerising dance.
Thank goodness one of us was on the ball. Luckily, Lars caught it all on camera — or this post would be rather lacking in photos of the Tollie Red Kites!
About the Tollie Red Kite Reserve
You’ll find the Tollie Red Kite Reserve 15 miles northwest of Inverness in the picturesque Northern Highlands of Scotland.
This Centre is an initiative between the Brahan Estate and RSPB Scotland.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Address: RSPB Tollie Red Kites Natural Reserve, Dingwall IV7 8HQ
- Getting There: The reserve is easily accessible, located just off the main road to Ullapool (A835) between Maryburgh and Contin.
- Contact Details:
- Email: [email protected]
- Phone: 01463 715000
Visitors can enjoy both indoor and outdoor viewing areas, offering a chance to witness these magnificent birds up close.
Feeding the Red Kites
The reserve takes pride in its sustainable practices. The red kites are fed with unwanted off-cuts of meat from local abattoirs, prepared by dedicated volunteers at the reserve.
(As of September, 2023 )
Due to a recent outbreak of bird flu in Scotland, the reserve has temporarily halted feeding sessions as a precautionary measure to protect the birds. Unfortunately, the visitor centre and toilets are currently closed, but the nature trails are open for visitors to explore.
Interactive Map of Tollie Red Kites and Nearby Attractions
Loch Ussie: A Hidden Gem in the Highlands
Before the anticipated red kite feeding time at 1 p.m., we decided to explore the nearby Loch Ussie, one of the nature spots near Tollie Red Kites.
Despite the car park at Tollie Red Kites being a bit slippery due to snow and black ice, the trail leading to the loch was covered mainly in snow and offered a firm grip for a leisurely walk.
Several red kites soared gracefully above us as we set off on the trail. A little further along, we came across a grazing deer, adding to the natural charm of the place.
The Loch Ussie area, nestled in the Highlands of Scotland, is a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike.
Here are some quick tips and information for those planning to visit:
- Routes for Everyone: Whether you’re into walking, running, or cycling, Loch Ussie has routes to cater to all levels of difficulty. Popular choices include the scenic Loch Ussie & Loch Kinellan walking route and the challenging Contin Loop cycling path.
We were only wanting a short walk, so parking at the Tollie Red Kite Centre and walking to the lake and back again was perfect.
- Map Your Journey: To explore the area in depth, consider getting a detailed map from the GetOutside Ordnance Survey Map, which features footpaths, bridleways, and cycle tracks.
- Photography Opportunities: Don’t forget your camera. The paths offer splendid views, perfect for capturing the serene beauty of Loch Ussie and its surroundings.
Don’t Miss Out on The Smaller Feathered Friends
While the red kites are undoubtedly the stars of the show at Tollie, the reserve is also home to a delightful array of smaller birds that are sure to captivate any bird lover. Here are some of the charming species you might encounter:
- Robins: Known for their vibrant red breasts, these birds are a favourite among visitors. They are friendly and might come quite close if you stand still.
- Blue Tits: These small birds are easily recognisable by their blue and yellow plumage. They are quite active and are known to hang upside down from twigs to feed.
- Long-Tailed Tits: These birds are distinguishable by their long tails and small bodies. They often move in groups and have a delightful, twittering song.
- Great Tits: Larger than the blue tit, these birds have a striking appearance with their green and yellow colouring and a distinctive two-syllable song.
Tip: Bring along a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at these birds. You might also want to carry a bird guidebook to help identify the various species you come across.
Note: The feeding stations at the reserve provide excellent opportunities to photograph these birds in their natural habitat.
The Resurgence of Red Kites in Scotland
Once extinct in England and Scotland, the majestic red kite, known for its reddish-brown hue and distinctive forked tail, is now flourishing in the skies again.
The History of Red Kites
In Britain’s medieval times, red kites were a common sight. Unfortunately, their population plummeted due to bounties on their carcasses, as they were mistakenly believed to spread diseases.
This led to their extinction in England by 1871 and in Scotland by 1879. Thankfully, concerted protection and conservation efforts have brought them back to grace the British skies.
Interesting Sites Close By Tollie Red Kites Reserve
Your adventure doesn’t have to end at the Tollie Red Kites Reserve. In fact, it’s just the beginning. As you soak in the natural beauty here, know that there’s more to explore just a stone’s throw away.
Brahan Dell and Arboretum
Here, you can:
- Enjoy a walk amidst ancient trees and the Ross-shire countryside. (There is a small car park just by the entrance gate.)
- Spot red kites soaring in the sky.
- Delve into the history of the Brahan Estate, once home to the Jacobite chiefs of Clan McKenzie.
- The Dell is an NTSC (National Tree Collections of Scotland) site and part of the Brahan Estate, once home to the famous Jacobite chiefs of Clan McKenzie. The former owners of the Brahan Estate were the Seaforths (Chiefs of Clan McKenzie).
- But what has made the estate even more interesting is one of the Seaforth estate workers of the 17th century, known as the Brahan seer.
- Uncover the tales of the Brahan seer, a worker who made several predictions about the Seaforth estate.
- Apparently, the seer, Kenneth McKenzie, predicted many events that were to happen to the Seaforths, including the death of Lady Caroline Seaforth McKenzie at the hands of her sister.
19th Century Dog Cemetery
Also, at the Brahan Dell, you will find a 19th-century dog cemetery.
The gravestones, including one with a sculptured dog lying across the top, date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
One that we happened upon had the following inscription:
“In memory of Cruiser. For 15 years, the faithful friend and companion of Colonel Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth. He accompanied the 9th Lancers throughout the Afghan Campaigns 1878-79-80, including the march from Kabul to Kandahar. Born 1878, Died 1893.“
Tollie Red Kites FAQS
1. What is a group of Red Kites called?
A group of red kites is often referred to as a “wake”. Witnessing a wake of red kites swirling in the sky is truly a mesmerising experience. You can find more about this on The RSPB Community.
2. Where is the best place to see red kites?
The best place to witness the majestic red kites is at dedicated reserves like the Tollie Red Kites Reserve in Scotland. You can watch them soar in their natural habitat, especially during feeding times.
3. Is it rare to see a red kite?
While red kites were once very rare due to hunting and habitat loss, conservation efforts have been successful in increasing their numbers. In certain areas like the RSPB Tollie Red Kites Reserve, it’s not rare to see these magnificent birds. You can read more about their conservation status on the RSPB website.
Tollie Red Kites …That’s a Wrap
As you venture around the reserve, keep your eyes peeled – the skies above are often graced with the majestic flight of Red Kites, and the treetops serve as their lofty perches. But a visit to the Tollie Red Kites Centre increases your chances of witnessing these magnificent raptors up close.
Here, you’ll be treated to a mesmerising spectacle, particularly if you’re a wildlife aficionado. It’s just one of the many unforgettable Scotland wildlife experiences that beckon.
But don’t rush off just yet. The surrounding area has its own charm, with delightful little birds that are a joy to watch. A short drive away lies the intriguing Brahan Dell, steeped in mystery with tales of a seer and a tranquil walk leading to the old dog cemetery.
Planning a Scottish adventure?
Make sure to delve into our comprehensive Scotland Travel Guide to make the most of your trip.
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