Seals spend most of the time at sea, and might swim thousands of miles during their lives in search of food. They come ashore for three reasons: to breed, to moult, and to rest between fishing expeditions.
There are several areas in particular in Scotland where seals congregate each year to breed and to moult.
The most important of these include the Orkney and, to a lesser degree, the Shetland Islands, the Hebrides, including North Rona, and the Monach Isles, which is the second largest breeding colony of grey seals in the world. Seals are also born at some sites on the Scottish mainland each year, for example at the sea caves around Helmsdale and at Loch Eriboll.
Outside the breeding and moulting seasons, seals haul out on beaches, sandbanks and rocks, either alone or in small groups, to rest between fishing expeditions.