Caerlaverock Wetland Centre is a spectacular 1,400 acre wild reserve situated on the north Solway coast. From dawn until dusk, from January to December, in fair weather and not so fair, its open coastal landscape and wide skies are full of the sights and sounds of nature – and very little else.
The centre is deservedly famous for its vast flocks of over-wintering water-birds, including around 30,000 barnacle geese from Arctic Svalbard and large numbers of pink-footed geese and whooper swans. Summer offers the opportunity to explore rolling wildflower meadows, watch ospreys hunting over the Solway and even spot barn owls and badgers if staying overnight in our self-catering farmhouse.
The Saltcot Merse Observatory provides excellent views over the reserve and south over the vast salt marshes to the Solway and the Lake District fells beyond. This is an ideal spot to watch thousands of waders pushed in at high tide, as well as peregrine falcons, hen harriers and marsh harriers hunting over the merse.
This heated observatory with large picture windows, looks out over the Whooper Pond. In winter it is the scene of the wild swan feeds where up to 200 whooper swans fly in to feed right in front of the windows. The swans are fed grain from the famous yellow wheelbarrow, along the front of the building, daily from October to March and it is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the amazing journeys these swans have undertaken to and from Iceland.
Seeing a swan feed is a must when visiting Caerlaverock, it is unique in Scotland and you can get closer to wild whooper swans than anywhere else in the country. Mute swans, wigeon, mallards, tufted ducks, shoveler, teal, greylag geese and the occasional scaup or Bewick's swan may also be seen. There is also a tower attached to this observatory, giving great views over the whooper pond, meadow and corner field.
From the top of this three storey tower take in the best panoramic view over the whole 1,500 acres of the WWT Caerlaverock holding, equivalent to 900 football pitches! The largest binoculars in Scotland allow you to see what is going on all over the reserve. Look down on the Folly Pond, the night-time roost of hundreds of whooper swans in winter. In summer watch the house martins dart into their nests clinging onto the tower eaves.
Another three storey tower at the end of the avenue looking over the eastern end of the reserve. The flood ground can be full of ducks and waders and it overlooks some of the best barnacle goose grazing fields on the Solway, right below the tower.
This large log hide with a turf roof gives a great low level, close up view of the Folly Pond. So often the hot spot for rare waders and ducks on the reserve.
Another log hide looking east over the corner field. A favourite for barnacle geese, especially in the mornings and in summer can be covered in lapwings and golden plovers.
The third log hide looking north over the flood ground. With the sun behind you it can be the best place to look for waders and ducks.
We have 13 small hides set into the screen banks of the Avenue and Saltcot Loaning looking out over the borrow pit pools and fields. These intimate one, two or four person hides allow you to get away from it all and enjoy a bit of wildlife watching in solitude.
This short walk meanders round the wet woodland and has two hides and a screened viewing area. The Newfield Hide looks north over the wet fields and the Back Pond Hide faces east along the pond with the chance of seeing a kingfisher perching and fishing. There is also a large willow screen looking over the wild bird feeding station getting you close to the small birds that flock to the feeders, including tree sparrows. In winter the elusive water rail is often seen under the feeders.
This hide gives a different aspect over the Folly Pond, with shovelers, teal and wigeon directly in front.
This viewpoint looks towards the back of the Folly Pond, where curlews and barnacle geese like to feed in winter. It gives a nice view towards Criffel.