NEW! A Highland Celebration

A celebration of the rich wildlife, history and culture of the Highlands in High Summer.

  • 01 Aug - 09 Aug 2020
  • 07 Aug - 15 Aug 2020
Max Group Size7 per guide
Duration9 Days
£1495 pp, no single supplement.
Deposit £200

This new holiday is a relaxed celebration of the Highlands designed for those who want to see the special birdlife of summer, whilst also enjoying some of the great cultural experiences which make Scotland so special.

Our birding will target the Scottish specialities, including Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Crested Tit, Osprey, Dotterel, divers in breeding plumage, Slavonian Grebe, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Black Grouse and more, including the first returning migrants from Iceland and Scandinavia, seabirds around the Scottish coast, resident Red Grouse and Dipper, and including a brilliant day's birding on the west coast...a superb adventure, packed full of birds and wildlife!

We also enjoy key Scottish experiences, one of the most important being right here on our doorstep, the world-famous Abernethy Highland Games. Some elements of the traditional Highland gathering have become emblematic of Scotland, such as bagpipes, kilts, and the heavy events, especially the caber toss. A spectacular way to celebrate Scottish and Celtic culture! We also visit the famous Battlefield of Culloden, enjoy a local distillery (tasting optional!), and Cawdor Castle, linked in literature to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and set among picturesque gardens.

This is a single centre holiday, based at our comfortable Highland Hotel here in Nethy Bridge, where we will as always offer traditional Scottish produce including venison, salmon, trout, black pudding, and of course our famous homemade shortbread, flapjack and preserves! A rare exception from our established holidays in Nethy Bridge, this itinerary includes eight nights in Strathspey so you can enjoy the Games.

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 here, 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.

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).

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.
  • One night, comfortable en suite accommodation in Aviemore.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days wildlife watching.
  • 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.
  • An extremely detailed natural history checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.

What's not included in your holiday price

  • Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.

More holiday information

Accommodation at Mountview Hotel can be seen here. All accommodation is en-suite unless otherwise advised before your booking is confirmed. An additional nights accomodation in Aviemore is also included.
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 moderate, though frequently over uneven, rocky and boggy ground to search for the scarcer plants and insects. The optional mountain walk is a return walk of between 4-5 miles, taken at a slow pacewith plenty of stops for botany and birding!
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 including hat and gloves. Please bring wellies, though we will try to avoid their use!
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, especially when moth trapping or looking for dragonflies. A good repellent is advised.
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. and 10:27. 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, Please see above for pick-up detail for this holiday.

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.

Other birdwatching holidays in Highlands

Why choose Heatherlea for your Scottish birding holiday?

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 30 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!’

Visit Scotland - 5 star wildlife experience

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248