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Highlands and the Aberdeenshire Coast

Exciting late-Winter birding across the Highlands, with TWO nights in Aberdeenshire!

2025 Dates
  • 01 Mar - 08 Mar 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
£1595 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

A late winter holiday combining a selection of our favoured birding areas with some new and exciting sites! With two nights away on the east coast, this gives us a superb opportunity to fully explore rural and coastal Aberdeenshire, featuring some of the best birding areas in Scotland. Our coastal birding will focus heavily on waders and wildfowl, with a good amount of time spent seawatching. We have excellent chances of finding our own rarities and will build a healthy birdlist from the mountains down to the sea. We will spend time exploring Royal Deeside too, a great birding area with rich pinewoods, stunning rivers, and glens with the Winterwatch site of Mar Lodge right at its heart.

Late winter is a wonderful time to visit the Highlands. Longer days allow more field time and with snow still often on the hills, we find ourselves birding in superb scenery throughout the holiday. Spring is still a way off this far north, but the birds are the first harbingers of spring up here, and the local dawn chorus will be strong, with rare specials such as Black Grouse and Crested Tit often showing well.

KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?

  • Large numbers of Pink-footed Geese in Aberdeenshire, perhaps with a rarity among them
  • White-winged gulls - Iceland and Glaucous Gull at close quaters in harbours
  • Black Grouse, Crested Tit, eagles and other Strathspey specials
  • Royal Deeside and its wildlife, a rarely visited Heatherlea destination

Day 1: Saturday - Arrival
Arrival, dinner and briefing. Don't forget our courtesy collection from Aviemore!

Day 2: Sunday - Strathspey and the Cairngorms
Late winter can see snow showers or warm blazing sunshine, so we will see what the weather has in store before planning our local day. High on the agenda will be local specialities, at an excellent time of year to find them. Today will be a day of forests and glens, featuring stunning scenery and iconic wildlife perhaps including Black Grouse, Crested Tit and Golden Eagle, with many other species present too. At this time of year we should be able to find our local Dippers near nest sites, with Goosander and Goldeneye around on the faster rivers as well. Local goose flocks will often contain large numbers of migrant geese and we will be vigilant for stray Bean, White-front, Snow or Ross's amongst the commoner Pink-feet and Greylags.

Days 3 - 5: Monday - Wednesday - Aberdeenshire East Coast adventure
Today we head north and east to Aberdeenshire. We will study the tides, weather and recent sightings to plan the best possible birding in our three days away on the east. Having time to explore means we can work a good selection of our favoured harbours and bays, with our journeys between the sites being through mixed farmland favoured by finches, waders and a good selection of farmland birds. Indeed parts of the arable country here have some of the highest densities of nesting Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge in the UK!

This whole coastline is massively underwatched, with few resident birders. We have excellent chances of finding our own rarities, this being a superb time to find White-billed Diver, King Eider and rare gulls. East coast harbours can often be the winter home of several Glaucous and Iceland Gulls and Little Gull may be encountered after storms. We spend the whole of the second day working the best section of coast, from the excellent RSPB Loch of Strathbeg all the way down to the Ythan Estuary, always busy with birds. A good region for raptors, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and perhaps even Rough-legged Buzzard may feature. Swans, geese, thrushes and sometimes Golden Plover occupy the fertile fields and offshore we should find good numbers of scoter, divers and auks, with the bonus of Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone on the rocks below.

We head back west on Wednesday through mixed farmland, spending time birding in Deeside, featuring many sites rarely featured on a Heatherlea holiday including time next to the River Dee and around the former Winterwatch site of Mar Lodge. With luck we may pick up Common Crossbill, Goshawk, Golden Eagle, Red and Black Grouse all amid the stunning scenery. 

Day 6: Thursday - Strathspey and Cairngorms
Today we work locally once again to target any local species we may have so far missed such as Crested Tit. Scottish Crossbill are also found in the forests and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! If weather conditions allow we will head into the Cairngorms to look for Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting, using telescopes to locate the birds before considering walking closer (late snow or heavy melt can make conditions challenging). Local waders will be starting to return to the area too, and we hope to see, and hear Lapwing, Curlew and Oystercatcher displaying in the rough pastures.

Day 7: Friday – Round up day
Our bird list should be getting fairly long by now, with a good selection of Scottish specialities. We will take a good look at the weather, tides and recent sightings to plan our last day. It could be working locally in Strathspey for unseen targets, a visit to the Black Isle, Moray Coast or perhaps even an extended day over on the west coast, to look for White-tailed Eagle, Black-throated Diver and Otter. We have the freedom of the Highlands and your guide will give you the best day possible!

Day 8: Saturday - Departure
Departure after breakfast. Don't forget our courtesy drop off to Aviemore!

This holiday can be combined with:

Scottish Winter Specialities, Birding in the footsteps of the JacobitesHighlands and the West Coast


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

  • 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 comfortable en-suite accommodation in Aberdeenshire.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days wildlife watching.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus.
  • All estate access and ferry fees.
  • 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.

More holiday information

Accommodation at Mountview Hotel can be seen here. 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.
Walking will be light, although optional mountain walking for Ptarmigan is strenuous depending on the snow level.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, though cold winds, and possibly snow, are likely. Bring waterproofs, walking boots, and warm clothing. Hats and gloves are essential at this time of year!
Biting insects are unlikely to be encountered.
Group size maximum 7 clients per guide.
Optics Telescopes will be useful, and you should bring binoculars. 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 on 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

Visit Scotland

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248