“Soaring, scaling, stretching fingers of feathers towards the sun… It was like Icarus finally got his recipe right.”

Golden eagles are giants of Scottish skies, in every sense of the word.

Moody and majestic - gliding over cliffs and moor and back again like they own the place.

And to be fair, they do. 

The Outer Hebrides are one of the best places in Europe, if not the world, to see these magnificent creatures. 

We’ll get to why, but first, let’s fly through some golden eagle facts.

Golden eagle facts

UK population: around 500 breeding pairs

Average lifespan: 23 years

Average wingspan: 2.2 metres

Averege weight: 3.7 kg (m), 5.3 kg (f).

Top speed: 150 mph +

Diet: carrion, grouse, rabbit, ptarmigan, short eared owls, deer calves and some seabirds.

Golden eagles in the Outer Hebrides

Hunted to extinction elsewhere in the British Isles, golden eagles have ‘amber’ conservation status due to their low numbers nationally. 

Scotland is home to all of the UK’s golden eagles -  a respectable 500 breeding pairs, 90 of which call the Outer Hebrides home.

The rugged, expansive terrain, lack of competitor predators like foxes, and low levels of persecution mean the islands are idyllic for golden eagles.

And the protection they enjoy under Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 means the steady rise in their population should continue.

Golden eagles can be encountered anywhere on the islands, but your best bets for a sighting are the North Harris Eagle Observatory, Bogha Glas in Harris, Langass, Reuval, Loch Sgioport and Loch Druidibeg in Uist, Craigston on Barra and Aline Woodland, Ravenspoint and Loch Stiapabhat in Lionel, Lewis.

Golden eagles come to life on bright, breezy days in late winter and early spring as they prepare for the breeding season. It’s during this time they perform their famed acrobatic flights, plunging and rising 100 meters or more into the air, yo-yoing across the sky to try and attract a mate.

But don’t take our word for it. Take the words of one lucky visitor below, and add golden eagle spotting to your holiday itinerary ASAP.

Eagle, eyed

“It was late afternoon on the last day of our Outer Hebridean holiday.

We were driving back from the beach, just through Direcliet, when it happened. 

The day’s last rays fanned across the moor, the ground all silvers, browns and golds. 

Suddenly, it seemed like a whole section of it just lifted up. Took shape and took flight. A huge, winged wonder whooshed out above us. 

Soaring, scaling, stretching fingers of feathers towards the sun, momentarily blocking it out. It was like Icarus finally got his recipe right. 

Then descent and disappearance, gone almost as quickly as it’d swooped into view.

A golden eagle. 

We drove the 5 minutes home in stunned silence, rushing through the door to scan out the window in vain hope of one more glimpse.

We knew it was futile, but by the sill we stayed, long after the light had departed.