Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to join a week long guided programme if I want to stay?
We have 3 day short breaks available throughout the year, and several of our West coast holidays are 4-5 days long. You can also stay on a B&B or fullboard on a daily basis and ask the advice of the guides. However, the best value for money and best chances for seeing the wildlife are found on the full week holidays.
I am new to birdwatching, will I fit in?
Yes! Our guides are all knowledgeable birders, but at Heatherlea we do not use jargon or technical speak. We are keen that all of our guests get the most out of their holiday both in terms of enjoyment and learning. For novices we recommend ticking the “Birdwatching Made Simple” option on the booking form, or mention it when booking, and we will spend time with you on a one to one basis making sure you get the most out of your time in the field with your guide.
I have never been on a group holiday, is it right for me?
Groups are usually made up of a mixture of couples and singles who meet for the first time on joining us at Heatherlea. Our holidays are social, fun and relaxed. Guests are of various ages and from all walks of life but we all share a love of Scotland and its incredible wildlife.
I am on my own, isn’t it all couples?
Around 50% of our guests join as singles, with the rest coming as friends, family or partners. For holidays based or predominantly based at our own Mountview Hotel, there is NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT.
Which holiday is best for seeing: Crested Tits, Otters, Capercaillie etc
Please see our Key Species page. Here you will find a list of the iconic Scottish birds and mammals, with links to the best holidays to see them. Crested Tit, Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Crossbills and Eagles are all resident and can be seen on all of the holidays run from the Mountview Hotel.
How much walking is there on your holidays?
Not much! In general, Heatherlea holidays have short walks going at a slow and relaxed pace on good paths. The guide will always advise on the level of walking for the day ahead, and no walks are compulsory.
For seeing Ptarmigan on the hill, there is often a return walk of 3-5 miles with a climb of around 800 -1000ft of altitude on good paths.
Several weeks are listed as “Easy Walking” and involve no more than one mile each day, and sometimes hardly any walking at all. Please see the Easy Walking Holidays page for more details.
Weather – isn’t it cold, wet and windy in Scotland?!
Did you know that many of the sunniest and driest places in the UK are in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland? While Scotland has a changeable climate, our itineraries are flexible and tweaked daily according to the weather forecast and that allows us to dodge the worst of the weather.
I have heard lots of horror stories about midges, what’s the truth?
Midges peak from mid June to mid September on the West Coast, but our experienced guides (who all live locally) will keep you away from the worst areas at the worst times!
Do you cater for special diets?
Absolutely! Each week we cater for vegans, vegetarians and coeliacs amongst others. Just let us know if you have any special requests or specific allergies or dislikes.
How fixed are your itineraries? Can I opt out of a day?
For days that start and end at the same accommodation, it is absolutely fine to opt out or take an easier sightseeing day.
I like to take photographs, can I get close to the wildlife?
Our aim is to show you wildlife acting naturally in its habitat, and so we are extremely careful not to disturb our targets and our motto is to leave things as we find them. For that reason, it is at the judgement of the experienced guide in charge as to whether the group or individuals are allowed to get closer to the target for observation or photography.
Do you advise that I get travel insurance?
We always recommend that people obtain travel insurance to cover all eventualities.
I do not have a car, how do I get to Heatherlea?
It's easy! We offer a free collection and drop off service at Aviemore train station on Saturdays, so all you have to do is get the train to and from Aviemore, which is on the main line north.
I’ve never been to Scotland before, where do you recommend that I start?
All of our holidays are suitable for those who have never been to Scotland before. If you are unsure where to start, and would like to see all the speciality birds, come and stay with us at our hotel on a spring programme.
Should I bring my telescope?
Each guide will have a telescope available for your use. If you have your own telescope we recommend you bring it so that you can maximise your own personal viewing. Your guides will of course help you line up your own scopes with the target wildlife.