Please note this is an eight-night, nine day itinerary, one extra day and night compared to most of our Mainland itineraries.
DAY 1: Saturday 3 August (See below for holiday itinerary Fri 9 - Sat 17 August).
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday 4 August - Strathspey and the Monadliath Mountains
We begin in the Caledonian pine forest, where Crested Tit is a main target. Scottish Crossbill are found in the forests and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! At this time in our private estate hen Capercaillie with large chicks can show whilst taking autumn berries. We drive slowly on safari for this most elusive grouse, also seeing late summer migrants, possibly including Tree Pipit, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher. Later we explore the birdlife of the moorlands, seeking Golden Eagle, Raven, Slavonian Grebe and Red Grouse in spectacular countryside, with rolling hills and impressive glens around us.
DAY 3: Monday 5 August - Birding the Moray coast
Excellent birding as we go north to the Moray Coast. Fishing Osprey is a key target, as are the first returning waders, deserting breeding grounds further north for warmer climes. Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Ringed Plover are sometimes joined by Red Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit or even Little Stint or Curlew Sandpiper in breeding plumage, and we also seek Purple Sandpiper. Passing terns, auks and Gannet may attract a marauding Great Skua, and we shall look for farmland birds including Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge and Yellowhammer. We also search for any rarities within reach. A visit to a Speyside distillery, where we learn about the production of Scotch Whisky, and perhaps sample a dram, is a fitting end to a great day!
DAY 4: Tuesday 6 August - the Cairngorm Plateau
Unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right spots for Ptarmigan, now with growing chicks, and hopefully Dotterel, perhaps with piping young running behind. Snow Bunting may also be seen. Brilliant birding in a very special habitat. Later we return to the forests for another chance to see Scottish specialities, and also to check on the Ospreys and other forest specialities at Loch Garten, or similar locations depending upon breeding success. There may still be Peregrine at a local breeding site, and perhaps other species including Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and lingering migrants.
DAY 5: Wednesday 7 August – the wonderful West Coast
We drive to the West Coast south of Ullapool, watching out for Golden and White-tailed Eagle. Raven, Hooded Crow, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear as we travel, with perhaps a fleeting Merlin to add to the excitement. At the coast, Black-throated Diver are beginning to gather in sheltered bays, Gannet, Kittiwake and auks including moulting Black Guillemot 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 may be seen in quiet places where freshwater streams reach the saltwater sea, providing first feeding opportunities for Icelandic and Scandinavian birds returning south, and also holding Twite and Linnet. We return via Loch Maree, where eagles may be seen over the mountains, and birch woodlands hold late-summer passerines.
DAY 6: Thursday 8 August – The Black Isle, Loch Ness and Culloden
Today we visit the Black Isle, again hoping to encounter migrant waders returning early from Iceland or Scandinavia, and checking the shoreline for Bottle-nosed Dolphin and Otter. In the afternoon we look down from an elevated roadside towards Loch Ness, where we take in the spectacle of this most enigmatic of Scottish waters at a distance, away from the tourist areas. We end our day with a visit to the famous battlefield of Culloden, site of the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Here the army of Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, was decisively defeated by Hanoverian forces commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. You may walk the site via footpaths and enjoy an elevated view from a raised platform. The visitor centre is excellent, and many find this visit a very moving experience.
DAY 7: Friday 9 August – Troup Head and the coastal village of Pennan
We begin locally if still needing to see speciality species, before heading northwards to Troup Head, which hosts Scotland’s only mainland Gannetry. We have the opportunity to get really close to these magnificent birds, and the other usual inhabitants of breeding bird cliffs including Shag, Kittiwake, Rock Pipit and a few remaining auks should also be present on the cliffs or on the water. Later we visit the picturesque village of Pennan, consisting of a small harbour and a single row of homes. Pennan became famous in the 1980s as one of the main locations for the film Local Hero, representing the fictional village of Ferness. Enthusiasts come from all over the world to make a phone call in the red telephone box which featured in the film. Originally put there only as a prop for the film and then removed, as a result of public demand a genuine telephone box was installed, now a listed building since 1989. Gulls, ducks and waders make Pennan an interesting birding location too!
DAY 8: Saturday 10 August - Abernethy Highland Games
An unforgettable spectacle and a genuine experience of Scotland at its traditional best. Enjoy dancing, piping and athletic competitions, see throwing events and of course the wonderful spectacle provided by the massed pipes and drums. The games also include entertainment and exhibits related to other aspects of Scottish and Gaelic culture, including a 10 mile foot race, refreshments and a variety of trade stands, often provided and manned by local people. Late afternoon we transfer you to Aviemore, where you stay overnight before continuing south in the morning.
Games images are used with the permission of Abernethy Highland Games Association and more information can be found at;
DAY 9: Sunday 11 August - Breakfast and departure from Aviemore.
If joining the second week, your arrival date in Aviemore is Friday 9 August. The following morning we collect and transfer you to Nethy Bridge, carrying your luggage ahead to Mountview Hotel while you enjoy the Games. The holiday itinerary then continues as above, ending with breakfast and departure on Saturday 17 August.
Please note your holiday price includes bed and breakfast in Aviemore, leaving you free to choose dinner at your leisure. Your Guide will not be attending the Games, leaving you free to enjoy the day as you wish. Transfers to and from Aviemore are included.
This holiday can be combined with:
NEW! Highlands & Wester Ross, Highlands & Outer Hebrides, Short Break in Early Autumn.