Following the success of our Highlands and Skye in Spring holidays which we started a few years ago, we have decided to take in our favourite island once again on a Heatherlea holiday, this time in autumn. Autumn on Skye is magical; superb birding from mountain top to sea, with this being the best time of year for eagle viewing, as young eagles have gained confidence and are making the most of the autumnal winds. Waders move through in good numbers, and moorland birds have formed flocks and are ranging on the coast. Coupled with our Skye adventure is superb autumn birding in the Cairngorms and Strathspey, with good numbers of thrushes, geese and waders arriving all the time. The Scottish specials are easier to find, with their numbers being bolstered following the breeding season. A classic week of Highland wildlife amid the most iconic scenery imaginable.
DAY 1: Saturday
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday - Strathspey and the Cairngorms
Capercaillie and Blackcock! We may visit exclusive private estate woodlands or other favoured spots depending on where birds are showing. Staying inside our large minibus, we have an excellent chance of seeing both species extremely well. A walk in the nearby Abernethy Forest to look for Red Squirrel and Roe Deer, Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill will produce wildlife of interest. Later we search for moorland specialities including Peregrine, Red Grouse, Merlin and Hen Harrier, with Goosander and Dipper on the rivers and burns.
DAY 3: Monday - Nethy to Skye via Torridon
After breakfast we will work our way slowly west, via Inverness and down through mountainous Torridon with its long sealochs and quaint villages. We aim to arrive on Skye for lunchtime, working some favoured coastlines for Divers, Otters and a wide range of waders and wildfowl. In the afternoon we will work locally to target Golden and White-tailed Eagle, found here at some of their highest breeding densities in the world! A superb day of scenery and birding. Overnight Skye.
DAY 4: Tuesday - Skye
Skye at any time is a wonderful destination, but in autumn the magical low light and changing weather give us picture-postcard views around every turn. Skye offers good birding, with large numbers of Golden and White-tailed Eagles, and good chances of Hen Harrier and Merlin. Divers will be returning to the coastline, with hopefully the full set of Scottish regular species, with good numbers of Great Northern in particular. Overnight Skye.
DAY 5: Wednesday - Skye to Nethy
This morning will be used to round up any species that we may have missed or seen briefly in the previous few days, such as Otter, Black Guillemot or Twite. After lunch we will start to head back east, perhaps birding briefly on the east coast before returning to Nethy Bridge in time for dinner.
DAY 6: Thursday - Strathspey and the Cairngorms
A complete contrast as we head for the hills to find Ptarmigan. We rarely fail to find the birds, and although the mountains support few other species, we will still watch out for Snow Bunting and Mountain Hare. Local birding around beautiful birchwoods, usually still in superb autumn colours give us excellent chances of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch and numerous woodland birds, already in their winter flocks. Fields nearby often hold numbers of freshly arrived migrant Redwing and Fieldfare, whilst we check arable fields for flocks of finches and buntings that may hold the first Brambling of the autumn.
DAY 7: Friday - Moray Coast
Autumn along the Moray Coast can be stunning. Rafts of seaduck will include Velvet and Common Scoter, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser. We search the flocks for rarities, which in recent years have included Surf Scoter, King Eider and once, a Steller’s Eider. Great Northern and Red-throated Diver and perhaps the first Long-tailed Duck of the Autumn. We also hope to collect Grey Seal and Bottle-nosed Dolphin offshore. Geese will be in good number and waders including Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. With luck the farmland will be busy, with chances of Grey Partridge, Corn Bunting and perhaps some freshly arrived Whooper Swans in the arable fields; a marvellous day of autumn birding.
DAY 8: Saturday
Breakfast and departure. Don't forget our courtesy bus service to Aviemore station!
Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).
This holiday can be combined with:
The ‘Outer Limits’ Adventure, Highland Autumn Birding.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
Outer Hebrides in Autumn for birders, Coll and Tiree in Autumn for birders, Islay and Jura.
More Holiday Information
Accommodation at Mountview Hotel can be seen here. www.mountviewhotel.co.uk . All accommodation is en-suite unless otherwise advised before your booking is confirmed.
Food There is a choice of evening meal, and vegetarian, vegan and other diets are welcome. Breakfast may be chosen from a full Scottish menu. You don't need flasks for hot drinks.
Walking will be light, although optional mountain walking for Ptarmigan is a strenuous hike.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing. Hat and gloves are essential for exposed locations and the mountain walk.
Biting insects are unlikely to be encountered.
Group size maximum 7 clients per guide.
Optics. Telescopes will be useful, and you should bring binoculars. We have a limited number of top quality Swarovski binoculars, which you may borrow at no charge (subject to availability). A camera would be useful too!
Getting here is easy!
BY CAR Travel north to Perth. Take A9 signposted Inverness to exit north of Aviemore. Follow signs northeast through Boat of Garten to Nethy Bridge (ten miles). In Nethy Bridge, drive through the village, over the River Nethy, and you will see our sign 200 metres ahead on the right.
BY RAIL Don't forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore on Saturdays at 16:30 and 19:30, but please let us know at least 48 hours in advance! The best train to Aviemore is the ‘Highland Chieftain’ on the East Coast Line. This leaves London Kings Cross at 12.00, arriving Aviemore at 19.28. We recommend you connect with this service if possible. Our pickup also works well with the 16:19 arrival from Edinburgh. In general, rail travel via Edinburgh is easier than via Glasgow, where a trip across the city between stations is needed, often followed by a change at Perth. Return trains leave Aviemore at 07.25, 08.29 (fast train to London –recommended), 09.24. 10:27 and 11.23. However we can only make 2 journeys to Aviemore on Saturday morning, so you may be taken to Aviemore a little earlier. Rail enquiries: 0845 7484950, www.nationalrail.co.uk.
BY AIR Flights to Inverness are becoming available all the time, for latest info call our office. Currently direct flights to Inverness are available from: Belfast, Dublin, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Jersey (all Flybe), London Gatwick, London Luton and Bristol (all Easyjet). A new service has just been launched with daily service to London Heathrow with British Airways. Guests arriving in Inverness airport can then take a taxi to Nethy Bridge, or take the Airport Flyer bus to Inverness, from where they can take the train to Aviemore where we can collect you. Our courtesy collection service is on Saturdays at 16:30 and 19:30, but please let us know which at least 48 hours in advance! We will be able to meet the 15:51 and 18:46 trains departing from Inverness that arrive at 16:34 and 19:24 respectively.
What's included in your holiday price
* Five nights comfortable accommodation at The Mountview Hotel, VisitScotland rated 3 Star. All rooms are en-suite, with TV and hospitality tray. There is no single supplement, and guests are never expected to share. Single guests may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Two nights accommodation on Skye featuring comfortable, en-suite accommodation and good home-prepared food.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days wildlife watching.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader, and any extra guiding services on the west coast.
* All transport by comfortable minibus.
* All estate access and ferry fees.
* A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
* Courtesy bus service to and from transport in Aviemore.
What's not included in your holiday price
* Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Heatherlea is THE place for top quality birding holidays in Scotland, chosen by more and more birders each year. Stay in our own three star Small Hotel, and enjoy first-rate birding with Scotland’s best guiding team. Relax and enjoy yourself, as we do all the planning! Above all, we make it our business to show key wildlife to you. Our fully inclusive guided holidays concentrate on the real experience, and we take time to ensure that each of our guests enjoys everything we do.
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 27 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Our ‘Mainland Scotland’ holidays based at Mountview Hotel have a maximum ratio of 7 clients per guide, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* We are a small company, run BY birders FOR birders. Come and see!
* Heatherlea are Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’ This is the highest available grading, classified as ‘exceptional’ by visitScotland.
* There is no single supplement. Single guests are never expected or invited to share.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance loan of Swarovski binoculars, packed lunch and tips to hotels.
* We offer a courtesy transfer between our Hotel and Aviemore rail/bus links on Saturdays.
* Heatherlea hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland. We are also registered to pay VAT, which is included in your holiday price as quoted on this page.
* Once your holiday is confirmed in writing by us, we promise not to surcharge the price for any reason.
Enjoy an excellent birding and wildlife holiday with Heatherlea.
Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’