Heatherlea's first trip taking in the Cairngorms, North and South Uist and Skye, all in one action packed late summer holiday! After a day in the Cairngorms we start our Hebridean adventure by heading out west, utilising the brand new ferry service from Mallaig, taking an evening cruise across the rich waters of the Minch. This gives us a full day of birding North Uist and Benbecula, an excellent time of year for waders, flocks of passerines, sea mammals and seabirds. We head back east on Wednesday, exploring the back roads of North Uist first; an excellent place for Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle amid stunning scenery. The rest of the week we will target the Scottish specialities around the Cairngorms, ending with a brilliant day's birding on the east coast...a superb adventure, packed full of birds and wildlife!
DAY 1: Saturday – Arrival
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday - Strathspey and the Cairngorms
At this time in our private estate hen Capercaillie with large chicks often show well whilst taking autumn berries. We will drive slowly looking for the most elusive of grouse, also seeing the last of the summer migrants, possibly including Tree Pipit, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher. Later we drive to the Cairngorms, where Ptarmigan can be found skulking in the corries. For the rest of the day we explore the birdlife of the moorlands, with Golden Eagle, Raven, Slavonian Grebe, Red Grouse and perhaps Short-eared Owl and Black-throated Diver to entertain us.
DAY 3: Monday - Nethy to Benbecula (Outer Hebrides)
Today we head west, past Fort William and on to the west coast. We explore the sealochs and stunning sandy beaches near Glenfinnan and Morar, which often hold good numbers of Twite and Wheatear and are good for migrant waders, then catch the late afternoon ferry from Mallaig. The views towards the Small Isles are often superb, and we spend time looking out over the sea for seals, Otters and seabirds.
From Mallaig our ferry passes Skye, heading across the Minch towards the Outer Hebrides. At this time of year much is possible in the warmer waters of the West, and we usually connect with cetaceans, from common Harbour Porpoise, to scarcer Minke Whale or Basking Shark. This is a good time for passage seabirds, with petrels, skuas and shearwaters all likely, perhaps with a rare Sabine's Gull or Great Shearwater to really cap off this exciting voyage. We arrive late evening into Lochboisdale and take the 30 minute transfer to our hotel, enjoying the long summer evening with good chances of our first Short-eared Owl.
DAY 4: Tuesday - Benbecula and North Uist
We have a full day to enjoy the delights of the Outer Hebrides in High Summer. We begin by exploring Benbecula, looking at the rich croftland, numerous wetlands and superb beaches for all manner of breeding and migratory birds. Corncrake are still present but often very hard to see this late in the season, though there is always a chance! More likely are large numbers of migratory waders on the machair, beaches and mudflats, divers offshore and good numbers of Twite, Linnet and hopefully Corn Bunting in the arable areas. As we are out and about we have good chances of the local Hen Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl that should all have fledged youngsters on the wing. Early August could see a scarce wader or passerine turn up too, perhaps a Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs or White-rumped Sandpiper. We focus heavily on low-lying areas today, with more time tomorrow to look for Eagles and Otters. We make the most of the long summer day by having an extended time in the field today - an unforgettable experience. We spend our second night on Benbecula
DAY 5: Wednesday - North Uist to Skye and Nethy Bridge
We depart Benbecula and have an hour or so to explore the raptor rich back lanes of North Uist before heading to Lochmaddy to catch our ferry across to Skye. This gives us a second crossing of the Minch, hopefully adding to our seabird and sea mammal tally. We arrive into Skye early afternoon and take the scenic drive down through Scotland's largest and most heralded island. Skye has some of the most iconic scenery in Europe and hopefully the weather will be kind and allow us picture-postcard views. We head back towards Nethy Bridge, arriving back in time for dinner at the Mountview Hotel.
DAY 6: Thursday - Strathspey and the Cairngorms
After covering a fair distance by land and sea in the past few days, today we look at the wildlife closer to our base in the Cairngorms. We will spend a good amount of time in the pine forests today, looking for Crested Tit, Crossbills, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and any lingering migrants. Raptors soar overhead and Red Squirrel and Red Deer are common too. We will use the afternoon to target any species we may have missed in the week, perhaps looking again for Divers or fishing Osprey, or maybe the Dippers and Goosander upstream. A great day!
DAY 7: Friday - Moray Coast, Black Isle or Aberdeenshire
Another great coastal experience, we go north to the Moray Coast or east to Aberdeenshire, depending upon the local birding available. Birdlife includes Gannet, gulls, terns and auks on the open seas along with the occasional passing Great or Arctic Skua. Waders on passage might include Little Stint, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Ringed Plover, many in breeding plumage. Fishing Osprey is a key target, and we shall look for farmland birds too. We will also round-up any rarities within reach. A big bird list to end the week!
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:
Highlands and the West Coast in summer, Short Breaks
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. We stay at a comfortable hotel in the Outer Hebrides for two nights - we have been going there for many years and always enjoy it!
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 very light, although optional mountain walking for Ptarmigan 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, especially in the west of Scotland, 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 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
* Five 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. Two nights accommodation on the Outer Hebrides, all rooms ensuite.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days wildlife watching.
* All ferry costs and estate access fees.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader
* 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 over 25 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!’