When you visit this tranquil wildlife haven, you'll discover a magical mosaic of mires and heath that is a special place for some of the UK's most magnificent birds of prey - hen harriers, merlins and kestrels. Our wonderful turf-roofed stone hide at Cottascarth is a fantastic space in which to relax on a fine spring day and watch for the spectacular twisting, turning and swooping sky-dancing display flight of the hen harrier. You might also be lucky and spot a hunting short-eared owl. The car park offers panoramic views towards the northern isles of Orkney across Rendall Moss, a mosaic of mire, wet heath, scattered willow scrub and grassland, which is alive with the bubbling calls of curlew in spring.
Getting hereFor further information on accessible travel in Scotland, go to Transport Scotland.
Travel by public transport
Alight from bus route No. 6 in Norseman Village and walk along the minor road (the Lyde Road) which leads west towards Harray, following the brown tourist sign for RSPB Cottascarth. Turn right at Settiscarth approximately 0.8 miles along the road, following the brown signs for the reserve, and the reserve entrance is a further 0.7 miles along this road. The road passes through the farmyard at Lower Cottascarth Farm (follow the signs for the hide) to the car park just above it. Lower Cottascarth is a working farm so please be considerate and aware of farm machinery and equipment as you pass through the farmyard. Please be aware that the there is a field gate on a steep slope from the farmyard across the track that leads to the car park and this may need to be opened by visitors at times. Up to date travel information can be found at http://www.orkney.gov.uk/Service-Directory/B/bus-timetables.htm
There is a car park at Cottascarth and Rendall Moss reserve with a single designated accessible parking space.
Path to main entrance
Please note that there is no Visitor Centre and no toilets at the reserve. The only facilities are a birdwatching hide and nature trail, and the hide is situated 600m away from the car park along a sloping, partly unsurfaced trail, which can be muddy at times. There are no staff based at the reserve. Please also be aware that the there is a field gate on a steep slope from the Lower Cottascarth farmyard across the track that leads to the car park and this may need to be opened by visitors at times.
Getting around inside
Getting around outside
Designated Walking Trail
RSPB Cottascarth Hide Trail
This is a linear trail and the total length given refers to the total return distance to the car park. The trail surfaces vary as you go along the track and their condition depends on the weather. The first 150 m from the car park to the cattle grid (Section 1) is made up of hard, firm crushed stone with some large stones, and is sloping in nature. This ends at a kissing gate with a field gate next to it. The next section (Section 2) starts with the same surface but can become wet and muddy towards the end portion, particularly in winter, and is also on a slope. The final 200m of the track (Section 3) is an unsurfaced grassy sloping track which is often muddy in winter. There is a small wooden gate leading into the hide area.
There is a picnic bench outside the Eddie Balfour Hide and a seat in the car park, in addition to the car park picnic area.
The Eddie Balfour Hide
RSPB Cottascarth Car Park Picnic Area
The picnic area in the RSPB Cottascarth reserve car park is immediately adjacent to the designated accessible parking area, has space for wheelchairs and is surfaced. It offers wonderful views over Rendall Moss and out to the northern Orkney Isles.
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