This is a relaxed holiday designed to give you an excellent Highland birding experience while enjoying spectacular scenery on the rugged west coast, where we spend two days to explore remote places. We target a wide range of Scottish speciality birds, and seek Ptarmigan at a scenic west coast location to avoid the strenuous Cairngorm walk normally required to see this species. We take our time in picture-postcard villages, including Applecross, Shieldaig, Pennan and Crovie, to give a different flavour of wildlife and local culture on a birding holiday which is easy-paced, ideal for the wildlife enthusiast looking for a gentle, relaxing week in the Highlands, with special attention on the wonderful west coast.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?
• Golden and White-tailed Eagle on the picturesque west coast
• Ptarmigan on high ground within walking distance of our minibus
• Waders in summer plumage at a variety of locations
• Scotland's only mainland Gannetry at Troup Head
DAY 1: (Saturday)
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: (Sunday)
Purple heather moors, the deep greens of the ancient pinewoods and long warm days make this a lovely time to visit the Scottish Highlands. Mixed parties in the Caledonian pines contain good numbers of Crested Tit, and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill form their own noisy flocks, often in dozens. Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel are the main upland raptors we seek today, though White-tailed Eagle are possible inland at this time. You should see Red Deer stags looking at their very best before the start of the approaching rut. We will end at lochs south of Inverness, where Slavonian Grebe and Red-throated Diver might be found.
DAYS 3 - 4: (Monday - Tuesday) WEST COAST BIRDING - Gruinard Bay to Applecross
We drive to the West Coast, south of Ullapool, watching out for Golden and White-tailed Eagle. Raven, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear should be seen as we travel, with perhaps a fleeting Merlin to add to the excitement. We visit Loch Maree, where eagles may be seen over the mountains and birch woodlands hold late-summer passerines. At the coast, Black-throated Diver are beginning to gather in sheltered bays, Gannet, Kittiwake and auks will be on the water, the occasional Great Skua may be following terns, and we scout for Otter along the rugged shoreline. There will probably be a few waders in summer plumage, and Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and Ringed Plover should be seen, particularly in quiet places where freshwater streams reach the saltwater sea, providing first feeding opportunities for Icelandic and Scandinavian birds returning south. Twite and Linnet should also be present too. After an overnight stay in a comfortable hotel on the west coast, we enjoy a leisurely tour around the Applecross area, where we hope to find Ptarmigan within a short walk of our vehicles. We will plan our day to enjoy the best of the weather at this elevated location, where on a clear day we can enjoy magnificent views across to Skye, and even the Outer Hebrides. We enjoy some time around picturesque Applecross village, then tour around the peninsula to Shieldaig, two beautiful locations where relaxed birding should produce many seabirds, plus Hooded Crow, Grey Wagtail, Raven and a variety of summering passerines in quiet wooded areas fed by clear streams. We return via Torridon after two lovely days of gentle birding to our home in Nethy Bridge.
DAY 5: (Wednesday)
At this time of year hen Capercaillie with large chicks often show well in our private estate, as they search for blaeberries in undisturbed sunny glades. The birds are often perched, and we may be lucky enough to pick them out through the pines. Later we drive to the Black Isle, where ducks, gulls and terns will be joined by the first returning summer-plumaged waders, and we may find Curlew Sandpiper, Red Knot or Bar-tailed Godwit in bright colours. Peregrines sometimes prey on larger waders, Red Kite are seen daily, farmland birds including Tree Sparrow are found at favoured sites, and there are auks and divers in the outer Moray Firth, where we may see Bottle-nosed Dolphin feeding on the turning tide.
DAY 6: (Thursday)
Scotland's only mainland Gannetry is at Troup Head, and we spend a day on the eastern Moray Coast with this as our major target. At this time, Gannets are probably the most populous bird on the cliffs, though there will still be many birds on the waters below, and a few Razorbill, Guillemot, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Shag will be joined by the ocassional Puffin, Black Guillemot or Great Skua. The cliff-top may hold Corn Bunting and Rock Pipit. We will visit the picturesque local villages of Crovie and Pennan, returning via Banff and Macduff, where the outlet of the River Deveron often produces excellent birding and a few surprises. As an example, out-of-season Iceland Gull is possible here in July.
DAY 7: (Friday)
An early start on our final day may take us to a remote local spot where Short-eared Owl are feeding large chicks on the open moorland, or to find Black Grouse beginning to return to lekking sites. Red Grouse in family groups with large chicks, a passing Hen Harrier, there are many possibilities at this time of year. After breakfast we again enjoy local birding to find birds we may have missed earlier in the week. Red-throated and Black-throated Diver may be still be present, and a breeding Slavonian Grebe may be on our itinerary. Woodlands hold warblers, Redpoll and Siskin, there are Parrot (Scottish) Crossbill and Crested Tit close to hand, and fishing Osprey is a key target, as we visit scenic places close to our Strathspey home.
DAY 8: (Saturday)
Breakfast and departure. Don’t forget our courtesy return service to Aviemore.
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:
Eagles, Divers and Dotterel, Highlands and the Uists.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
Orkney in High Summer
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. Our accommodation for one night on the west coast is a comfortable, fully en-suite hotel.
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 mountain walking for Ptarmigan can be on rough and rocky terrain. All walks are optional.
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, with hat and gloves in your day sack just in case.
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, especially in the west of Scotland, though not as a serious problem. Please bring a general repellent just in case.
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 at 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
* Six 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.
* One night at a comfortable hotel on the west coast with full en suite facilities.
* 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.
* 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!’