We're very fortunate to have red squirrels in Fife. They can be seen in some of the bigger coniferous woodlands, such as Devilla Forest, Ladybank Forest, Tentsmuir, Blairadam, Pitmedden and Falkland estate. Further key sites for their conservation include the woodland between Balmerino to Hazelton Walls, at Shell Bay, Crawford Priory and Springfield Muir. But red squirrels have even been spotted in Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy, Cupar and St Andrews!
Red squirrels have clung on in these forests in spite of the introduction of the North American grey squirrel to Pittencrieff Park in 1919. The grey squirrel has since spread rapidly and is now found across Fife. Should the squirrelpox virus - which is carried by the grey squirrel - come to Fife, this would be devastating for our reds.
Fife Red Squirrel Project
We've been fortunate in Fife to have had grant-aided red squirrel conservation projects. The first phase of projects took place at Devilla and Ladybank Forests from 2008-2010, led by Fife Coast & Countryside Trust in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotand and funded by Fife Environment Trust, Europe and Scottish Government. The second phase was Fife-wide and took place over three years between 2010-2014, with support from Heritage Lottery Fund, Fife Environment Trust, Europe and Scottish Government and hosted by Fife Coast & Countryside Trust. These projects have achieved a great deal for our red squirrels and have raised awareness about these animals and involved the community in their conservation.
Where to go red squirrel spotting
One of the best places in Fife to see red squirrels is Ladybank Forest. Comprised of several blocks of woodland surrounding Ladybank town, it boasts plenty of paths and lots of Scots pine trees. South Annsmuir to the east of Ladybank is said to be a particular hotspot.
You can also spot squirrels from:
Devilla Red Squirrel Trail
A short and pleasant circular walk, park in the Forestry Commission car park off of the A985. The trail starts to the left just beyong the gate and is signposted. If you don't spot any 'real' squirrels, see if you can find the others! There are also fingerposts and panels with interesting snippets of information en route.
Falkland Red Squirrel Trail:
Another short circular walk which starts at the Pillars of Hercules car park in Falkland. You can take rubbings along the way (bring paper and crayons) from beautiful copper etchings made by local schoolchildren.
Squirrel Hide at Morton Lochs:
This cosy wooden hide was installed in early 2014 by the Fife Red Squirrel Project, and is worth a visit! Along with the red squirrels, Morton Lochs near Tentsmuir and Tayport is a great place to see wildlife.
Top tips for squirrel-watching
By Richard Bennie
Scots pine woodland - a red squirrel favourite in Fife
Nibbled pine cones - a sure sign that squirrels were about
By John Anderson