The continuing adventures to See and Photograph one of the UK’s cutest Mammals…..

Islay has an abundance of Wildlife , Deer , Raptors….. but the one that has always captivated me is the Otter . I’ve loved Otters ever since i first saw the Film of Ring of Bright Water . It took me a while to see a real live Otter , not a wild one , a captive one at the Bowes Otter Sanctuary – which unfortunately is now closed – it was a pretty good introduction to them in the flesh . Before we settled on going to Islay every holiday we did tour around Scotland , we visited the Bright Water Visitors Centre in Kyleakin and walked down to the Kylerhea Otter Haven Hide , a wonderful walk that ended in no otters…… For the first few years of visiting Islay the count remained at zero , always been told stories by visitors who ‘stumbled’ upon otters .

Look no Camera…….

Our first real live Otter encounter happened at Seal Bay when we didn’t have a camera handy….. we’d left the hotel early to have a drive down to one of our favourite places on the isle , Seal Bay . admiring the seals Mel casually said “oh look there’s a small seal swimming past us…..” it wasn’t , it was an otter ! And just to kick sand in our faces seeing i didn’t have a camera to hand it came out of the water with a fish , sat down less than 20 yards from us and proceeded to have its breakfast in front of us , an unbelieveable experience .

You don’t have to go that far to see an Otter…..

Now just to make matters worse on our return home there was a programme on the telly hosted by a certain ex-goodie , Bill Oddie , watching Otters swim in the Nature Reserve a quarter of a mile across the field in front of our home…… It was also backed up a few years later by another Comedic Bill (Bailey) doing a Wild Thing….. I Love You episode about Otters from the same Big Waters Reserve . Still haven’t seen one there BTW .

Our First Photo…..

The first Otter i managed to catch on film wasn’t on Islay , it was on Jura ! If you are a regular visitor here you will have seen it on the header at the top of the Blog , but if you haven’t here it is…….

(Click on Images to see full size )


This was just along from the ferry terminal at Feolin , there were actually two Otters and they were having great fun in the kelp ! We could have stayed for ages watching them but we had to get the ferry back to Islay.

It’s Behind you…..

Our next close encounter of the Otter kind actually happened on the mainland , for the 2003 Feis Ile we had to get the early morning ferry (7am) as the later ones were fully booked , arriving at Kennacraig early in the morning (about 2.30am) we tried to get our heads down for a few hours , after failing miserably several times there was a splash on the Loch behind us , there was an Otter swimming along towards the ferry , a lovely sight at about 5.30 in the morning…….

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition !

We stayed up at the old Bunnahabhain Distillery Cottages for a few years and heard many a story from the workers about the Otters activities around there (including a Mother bringing her cubs into the yard in front of the distillery) , It wasn’t till our last year there that we actually saw one . We were the last people to stay at the cottages in 2010 , the first week there were others there who had seen a dog otter swimming around the pier , we didn’t see anything in the first week . Not at Bunnahabhain anyway….. Bunnahabhain has a non-existant mobile signal , so to take part in the weekly whisky chats we used to drive down to Loch Indaal to get a signal . We used to always park in the same spot just along from where the Carrabus Burn flows into the Loch . This night we’d just started on the chat when an Otter swam past ! Could not believe it , no camera again (it was dark this time…..) , totally unexpected !

Back at Bunnahabhain , for our second week we were the only occupants , no joy all week until our very last night then the Otter appeared , it swam from around the wreck and along the front of the distillery heading towards the Margadale .

Otter 1A wonderful ending to our last night of our last stay at Bunnahabhain !

Our next encounter was in May 2013 at our favourite haunt Seal Bay , We’d had Lunch at the Old Kiln Cafe at Ardbeg and decided to go for a drive along to Kildalton , when we stopped at Seal Bay we had another “Melanie” moment….. ” look there’s a baby seal on them rocks……” This time i had my camera ! The Otter was in the middle of the bay , but i had a 400mm lens (oh-er missus)…..

Otter 1 Otter 2
Otter3 Otter4
Otter5 Otter 6
Otter 7 Otter 8
Otter 9

We spent nearly an hour watching this wee beastie ! What a pleasure even though he was half way across the Bay ! 

On the Summer 2013 trip we only managed one encounter with an Otter , we’d been walking along to the Bay beside Dower House , as we returned back to the cottage , on the road leading down to Seal Bay (actually by the first passing place) an Otter bounced across the road , it happened so fast we weren’t able to get a photo . Later on in the week when i mentioned it to Mickey (Heads) he said it was a regular occurrence , he seemed to think their holts must be across the road away from the bay .

Recommended Reading……….

Ring of Bright Water Trilogy by Gavin Maxwell  ( Link)

Tarka The Otter by Henry Williamson  ( Link)

Otter Country : In Search of the Wild Otter by Miriam Darlington ( Link)

Other links……

BBC – The BBC Nature site has a great Otter page which includes loads of Video – Otters on BBC Nature

International Otter Survival Fund –

Eilean Bàn , The Bright Water Centre –

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