North Ronaldsay & Mainland Orkney
Maximum eight guests plus leader from our resident team.
Only 29 miles from Fair Isle, North Ronaldsay is a wonderful migration hotspot, overlooked and under-explored! Few birders venture this far in the UK, and the holiday combines peace and quiet and a strong sense of exploration, with first rate birding. Once you get over the thrill of your 8-seat Islander Plane journey, your welcome at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory will be warm, and accommodation comfortable.
In good weather, regular species include Richard’s Pipit, Wryneck, Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Icterine Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Little Bunting and Common Rosefinch. This is also prime time for some extremely rare birds, such as Great Snipe, American Golden Plover, Citrine Wagtail, Pechora Pipit, Radde’s Warbler, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Rustic Bunting and Arctic Redpoll. Sea-watching can be exceptional, with skuas, petrels and shearwaters all possible. Whilst there is no guarantee of any particular species, North Ronaldsay is always surprising and rewarding.
We also enjoy birding around Orkney, visiting spots where anything can happen! We visit the impressive standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar, stop at the delightful Italian Chapel and make time for an optional visit to Scara Brae, Europe’s oldest known settlement.
A completely different birding holiday and a cost effective alternative to Fair Isle and the Scillies, North Ronaldsay is easy to reach with Heatherlea. Comfortable en-suite accommodation throughout.
Day 1 (Saturday)
Transfer from Heatherlea to mainland Orkney. You may see Merlin, Raven and Golden Eagle as we drive to John O’Groats, taking the ferry to South Ronaldsay (yes, you will see both North and South Ronaldsay), watching for Great and Arctic Skuas, Gannet, Black Guillemot, Storm and Leach’s Petrels and shearwaters. The Pentland Firth is also a good area for Harbour Porpoise, and as we cross we should see plenty of activity below us. We will drive around the eastern edge of Scapa Flow and stop at the delightful Italian Chapel en-route to our comfortable accommodation.
Day 2 (Sunday)
Birding around Orkney visiting coastal spots where anything can happen! With migrating concentrations of ducks and waders, and skuas, auks and gulls offshore, we will enjoy a full day on Mainland Orkney, including a visit to the impressive standing stones at the ring of Brodgar and an optional visit to Scara Brae, Europe’s oldest known settlement.
Days 3, 4, 5 and 6 (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday)
Local birding before we transfer via Kirkwall Airport to North Ronaldsay. Transfer to North Ronaldsay, then three full days exploring all corners. Once you get over the thrill of your 8-seat Islander Plane journey, your welcome at North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory will be warm, and accommodation comfortable. We work in co-operation with Observatory staff, and the birding can be exceptional. Please note that weather can play a part in our itinerary, and may even lead to difficulties in leaving the island on time. Guests should allow an extra day in case of extreme conditions!
The island atmosphere is relaxed, and the locals friendly. Late September is usually the best time for rarities and sheer numbers of commoner migrants. Look forward to long days of birding with outstanding chances of finding our own rarities. In good weather, regular species include Richard’s Pipit, Wryneck, Bluethroat, American Golden Plover, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Icterine Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Little Bunting, Rustic Bunting, Arctic Redpoll and Common Rosefinch. This is also prime time for some extremely rare birds, such as Citrine Wagtail, Pechora Pipit, Radde’s Warbler, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Arctic Warbler, and Yellow-breasted Bunting. Sea-watching can be exceptional, with skuas, petrels and shearwaters all possible. Whilst there is no guarantee of any particular species, North Ronaldsay is always surprising and very rewarding. A completely different birding holiday! In the last couple of years, we have seen many of the above species, with Leach’s Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Grey Phalarope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pied Flycatcher and confiding Jack Snipe as a supporting cast!
The observatory at North Ronaldsay now has comfortable en-suite bedrooms reserved for Heatherlea, and accommodation is of an increasingly high standard.
Day 7 (Friday)
Return by Piper plane, ferry and minibus to Nethybridge. We arrive late in the evening.
Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, which can be wild and unpredictable, with temperatures perhaps averaging around 15 degrees Celsius. Sunshine, rain and strong winds are all possible, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Biting insects are not expected. Please bring walking boots or shoes, weatherproof clothing and a small rucksack. The holiday will be run at a relaxed pace, with time for photography and botany as well as fabulous birdwatching in a spectacular setting! There will be short to moderate (1 to 5 mile) walks several days.
What's included in your North Ronaldsay and mainland Orkney holiday price
•Six nights comfortable en-suite hotel/guest house accommodation on the Outer Hebrides. We choose from our personally inspected shortlist, where birders are welcome and the hospitality is special. Five nights will be at the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory. Guests are never expected to share. All rooms are en-suite. Full details with your joining pack.
•Full Scottish breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening til Friday morning, packed lunch daily.
•All transfers by comfortable minibus. All ferries and other boat trips. Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at The Mountview Hotel.
•Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
What's not included in your North Ronaldsay and mainland Orkney holiday price
•Extra night in Nethybridge area at beginning and end of holiday. This can be arranged for you if requested at time of holiday booking. Price £45 per person B&B.
•Transfers from/to rail links in Aviemore.
•Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.