Natural History of Northern Scotland
By popular demand, a cracking celebration of wildlife covering the birds, mammals, insects and plants of this fantastic area. Aimed at the natural history all-rounder at a relaxed pace, our itinerary is designed to be a leisurely and thoroughly enjoyable exploration. Stretching from the alpines, Ptarmigan and Dotterel of Cairngorm to the summer plants and birdlife of the Moray Coast, this will be a celebration of all the wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park and beyond. We also visit key sites in Perthshire and the west of Scotland to see sought-after dragonflies, butterflies and flora.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up – which will be yours?
- Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Dotterel, Golden Eagle, Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill, Crested Tit, Slavonian Grebe, Red and Black-throated Diver in breeding colours.
- Red Squirrel (probably on our feeders before your first breakfast!), Red Deer, Otter, Mountain Hare
- Twinflower, Oysterplant, Lesser Twayblade, Serrated, Common and Intermediate Wintergreen, Coralroot, Greater and Lesser Butterfly and other rare orchids, Alpine Saw-wort and other alpines, Moonwort (in our Hotel grounds), and any available fungi.
- Mountain Ringlet, Northern Brown Argus, White-faced Darter, Azure Hawker and other rare butterflies and dragonflies. Moth-trapping each night in a variety of local habitats.
DAY 1: Saturday
Arrival, welcome and dinner. Don’t forget our courtesy collection from Aviemore! Moonwort will be seen in our grounds, as will Northern Marsh Orchid. Our first Mountview Hotel Chanterelle may also be spotted in the hotel grounds.
DAY 2: Sunday
After an investigation into our Hotel moth trap, our first day will be spent locally, as we enjoy an introduction to the habitats of this special area. Birds on our list might include Capercaillie, Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill and Crested Tit in the Abernethy Forest, and we will also travel to local moors and birch woodlands. In these places our first plants of interest might include Twinflower, Serrated and Common Wintergreen, a variety of orchids including Fragrant, Coralroot, Greater and Lesser Butterfly and Northern Marsh, Creeping Ladies Tresses and Field Gentian. We will also cover any available fungi. Butterflies on the wing include Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus. Dragonflies could include Common Hawker, White-faced and Black Darter, Northern Damselfly, Four-spot Chaser and Northern Emerald.
DAY 3: Monday
An idyllic day on the mountains, with Ptarmigan, Dotterel, Ring Ousel and Snow Bunting our bird targets, Mountain Hare and a wide range of alpine plants helping to provide an absorbing day. Rare flowers include Moss Campion, Trailing Azalea, Dwarf Cornel, Alpine Ladies’ Mantle, Alpine Saw-wort, Lesser Twayblade, Scottish Asphodel, Alpine and Interrupted Clubmoss. Climax forest of Least Willow will also be spotted. We also have a chance of Black Mountain Moth.
DAY 4: Tuesday
A moorland day, where we hope to find Osprey, Red and Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Red Grouse and perhaps catch up with any woodland species we might have missed. Flowers might include Intermediate Wintergreen, Water Lobelia, and Stagshorn Clubmoss. We should also see Petty Whin and Bearberry. Beautiful Yellow Underwing is a northern speciality moth we will try for today. We will also visit a moorland loch famous for dragonflies, where many of our target species can be found.
DAY 5: Wednesday
Today we visit high moorland regions, where Golden Eagle, Peregrine and Twite can be found. Hen Capercaillie with chicks may be seen in our private estate. Orchids on this day include Frog and Small White, and other plants of interest include Grass of Parnassus, Starry Saxifrage, Sundew and Butterwort. We should see Red and Roe Deer, and perhaps White-tailed Eagle.
DAY 6: Thursday
A drive to a special site in Perthshire to see Mountain Ringlet, one of our real speciality butterflies. This butterfly is famously difficult to see, but we have a good site by the roadside, and in 2009 saw the butterflies from inside the buses! Large Heath and Dark Green Fritillary are also found here. Later we travel to other sites to find more orchids and Small Cow-wheat before we return to return to Strathspey.
DAY 7: Friday
At the Moray coast we again search for orchids, and perhaps One-flowered, Serrated and Common Wintergreens. Other plants might include Scots Lovage and Oysterplant. We will check Dingy Skipper and Small Blue sites, and summering birdlife will include four breeding tern species and Osprey, plus Common Scoter and farmland birds such as Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer.
DAY 8: Saturday
Breakfast and departure.
* 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). Because of the vagaries of the season, some insects and flora will be available for restricted periods, and not all species will be seen on all three of these holiday dates.
* Please also remember to bring wellies for this holiday, we visit some boggy places!
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. Please bring wellies, though we will try to avoid their use!
Walking will be moderate, although mountain walking for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is strenuous.
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.
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, though not as a serious problem.
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 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. This train stops at York (13.54), Darlington (14:22), Newcastle (14.53) and Edinburgh (16.32). Change of train may be required at Edinburgh. We recommend you connect with this service if possible. Travellers can reach Edinburgh direct from Plymouth, Bristol, Birmingham, Crewe or Preston. 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), 10.00 and 11.33. Please check details before you travel. Rail enquiries: 0845 7484950, www.nationalrail.co.uk . Don't forget our courtesy collection service on Saturdays!
BY AIR Flights to Inverness are becoming available all the time, for latest info call our office. Currently flights to Inverness are available from: Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, London Gatwick, Isle of Man, Jersey (via Manchester or Gatwick), Newquay (via Manchester) Bergen (summer only), Amsterdam (Flybe), Luton, London Gatwick, Bristol (Easyjet), Dusseldorf (Lufthansa) Zurich (Helvetic – summer only).
What's included in your holiday price
* Seven 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 might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days birdwatching.
* All transport by comfortable minibus during six full days' birding. All access and ferry fees.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
* Saturday courtesy pick-up and return service to Aviemore.
*A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
What's not included in your holiday price
* Transport to The Mountview Hotel.
* 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 over 22 years, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* From Jan 2014, Heatherlea holidays based at Mountview Hotel will have a maximum ratio of 7 clients per guide, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Heatherlea are the only operator in Scotland awarded 5 stars for 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 wildlife holiday with mainland Scotland's only 5 star Wildlife Experience.
Make the most of your birding time in Scotland by joining another Heatherlea holiday. Combine our 'Natural History of Northern Scotland' holiday with 'West Coast Wildlife'.