Wildcat & Pine Marten in Cairngorms Face-off

Supporting people on holiday to realise magical wildlife moments

Spot a pine marten and that can make a Cairngorms trip. Glimpse an elusive wildcat and, well, that’s a memory to last a lifetime. But watch a pine marten and a wildcat facing off on the same log? That’s another level of wildlife watching…

But that’s what happened as a Go Beyond Holiday group, on a Wilderness Scotland wildlife trip, huddled quietly in a hide to see what an October evening would offer.

The previous night a tailless male pine marten was the solitary visitor we’d witnessed. No badgers, no female mate. A motion camera left on site overnight provided an infrared tease the next day: an excited estate ranger greeted the group’s return visit with “Guys, you should see the footage it captured at 6am!”

Would there be a repeat evening performance for the concealed audience? Just 10 minutes of waiting gave an answer…

Cairngorms Diorama

First to emerge from the long grass was the male pine marten from the night before, scouting, wary. Then the hybrid wildcat appeared, assertive and dominant. And there they were, snuffling amongst the ground level nuts and facing off on the propped log…vying for the peanut butter bait…posing as if on display in a Cairngorms Museum of Natural History diorama. It was clear who was top cat. The pine marten reared skittishly and skulked away leaving the wildcat to hoover up the kernel remnants.

A rare wild encounter

Finn, 19, had placed his night camera more in hope than expectation. “Wow!” was his reaction. “I was just amazed that we got the footage. Then to see these creatures for real…I didn’t imagine it’s something I’d ever see so close up”.

Ian Callen, Founding Director of Go Beyond Holidays, said, “We planned a Wildlife Week with Wilderness Scotland and weren’t sure what to expect. For us to witness such an inter-species exchange, their competition for food playing out right in front of us, was an incredible shared moment. The excitement in the hide was tangible. You know you’re seeing something special when the ranger is getting excited.”

“The whole week has shown what can be achieved with careful support and valuing people’s goals. A pathway of support is crucial for our guests. All the elements of programming, guiding and local insights, and the inspiring landscape of the Cairngorms National Park, have blended so that we’ve seen and done more than we’d imagined. Rutting stags, leaping salmon, red squirrels, robins pecking at our brew-time milk…and this incredible footage. For support staff and guests alike, it’s an experience we’ll reflect on for years to come.”


This blog was adapted from an article written by Rob Bushby. Rob is a Wilderness Scotland guide and consultant on environment and conservation issues.

Wilderness Scotland [Wilderness Scotland : Scotland’s #1 Adventure Holiday Company] specialises in offering an inspiring range of guided and customised adventure holidays, in the most remote and beautiful regions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.’

Wildcat and Pine Marten
Wild cate
Pine Marten

Photos taken by Ian Callen showing the ‘Face Off’.

Video clip from Finn Gillespie, Go Beyond Holidays guest, with footage from Finn’s Trailcam.