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Highlands and Skye in Autumn

A superb celebration of Autumn across the Highlands, featuring two nights on the stunning Isle of Skye!

2024 Dates
  • 28 Sep - 05 Oct 2024
  • 05 Oct - 12 Oct 2024
Duration8 Days
2024 Price
£1795 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

A fantastic holiday from Heatherlea, based at our Mountview Hotel for five nights plus two nights on Skye! Key targets on the 'misty isle' are Golden and White-tailed Eagle, and autumn is a superb time to see them as this year's youngsters search out territories of their own. We also look for Otter on the coast, encountering divers, waders, seabirds and more as we do so.

With migration in full swing there will be plenty to see on this holiday, and under-watched Skye is a great place to enjoy passing birds of all shapes and sizes. Taking quiet back roads, we take our time exploring exciting birding sites amid stunning scenery. We are likely to see impressive flocks of wildfowl, freshly arrived from northern breeding grounds and while enjoying the numbers we will be on the look out for rarities.

Time spent around our home territory in Strathspey should be productive, where populations of the special, resident birds will be at their highest following the breeding season. We search for them all, including Black Grouse on the moors and Ptarmigan on the high hills in a great week of varied birding.

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

  • Adult and young Golden & White-tailed Eagle over the jagged peaks of Skye.
  • Highland specials including Ptarmigan in the hills and Crested Tit in the forests.
  • Otters playing on the shore of sea lochs.
  • Swans, geese, wildfowl and waders returning to the Highlands in their thousands

Day 1:  Saturday
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.

Day 2: Sunday - Strathspey and the Cairngorms
An early morning visit to the Black Grouse lek will get us off to a great start and after breakfast we explore nearby Abernethy Forest for Crested Tit, Red Squirrel and Roe Deer. Scottish Crossbill may be found in the forests too and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! Capercaillie also occur in these forests though are increasingly scarce and we no longer actively look for them. Any sightings should be seen as incidental. Later we search for moorland specialities including Peregrine, Red Grouse, Merlin and Hen Harrier, with Goosander and Dipper on the rivers and burns.

Day 3: Monday - Nethy to Skye via Torridon
After breakfast we will work our way slowly west, via Inverness and down through mountainous Torridon with its long sealochs and quaint villages. We aim to arrive on Skye for lunchtime, working some favoured coastlines for divers, Otters and a wide range of waders and wildfowl. In the afternoon we work locally to target Golden and White-tailed Eagle, found here at some of their highest breeding densities in the world! A superb day of scenery and birding. Overnight Skye.

Day 4: Tuesday - Skye
Skye at any time is a wonderful destination, but in autumn the magical low light and changing weather give us picture-postcard views around every turn. Skye offers good birding, with large numbers of Golden and White-tailed Eagles, and excellent chances of other raptors including Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin. Divers will be returning to the coastline, with hopefully the full set of Scottish regular species, with good numbers of Great Northern in particular. Slavonian Grebe, migrant wildfowl and geese including Pale-bellied Brent Geese, and waders including Black-tailed Godwit or perhaps even a rarity, all contribute in making Skye an exciting place to birdwatch at this time of year. Overnight Skye.

Day 5: Wednesday - Skye to Nethy
This morning will be used to round up any species that we may have missed or seen briefly in the previous few days, such as Otter, Black Guillemot or Twite. After lunch we start to head back east, perhaps birding briefly quieter areas of the west coast before returning to Nethy Bridge in time for dinner.

Day 6: Thursday - Strathspey and the Cairngorms
A complete contrast as we head for the hills to find Ptarmigan. We rarely fail to find the birds, and although the mountains support few other species, we will still watch out for Snow Bunting and Mountain Hare. Local birding around beautiful birchwoods, usually still in superb autumn colours give us excellent chances of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch and numerous woodland birds, already in their winter flocks. Fields nearby often hold numbers of freshly arrived migrant Redwing and Fieldfare, whilst we check arable fields for flocks of finches and buntings that may hold the first Brambling of the autumn.

Day 7: Friday - Moray Coast
Autumn along the Moray Coast can be stunning. Rafts of seaduck will include Velvet and Common Scoter, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser. We search the flocks for rarities, which in recent years have included Surf Scoter, King Eider and once, a Steller’s Eider. Great Northern and Red-throated Diver and perhaps the first Long-tailed Duck of the autumn are likely too. We also hope to encounter Grey Seal and Bottle-nosed Dolphin offshore and Brown Hare in the fields. Geese will be in good number and returning waders including Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Ringed Plover should be abundant. With luck the farmland will be busy, with chances of Grey Partridge, Corn Bunting and perhaps some freshly arrived Whooper Swans in the arable fields - a great day of autumn birding.

Day 8: Saturday
Breakfast and departure. Don't forget our courtesy bus service to Aviemore station!

This holiday can be combined with:

Raptors and GrouseThe ‘Outer Limits’ Adventure

Outer Hebrides in Autumn for birders, Shetland in Autumn for birders

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 accommodation on Skye featuring comfortable, en-suite accommodation and good home-prepared food.
  • 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.
  • 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 a strenuous hike.
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. Hat and gloves are essential for exposed locations and the mountain walk.
Biting insects are unlikely to be encountered. 
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 the exit north of Aviemore for the A95. 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 11:00, arriving Aviemore at 19:22. We recommend you connect with this service if possible. Our pickup also works well with the 16:26 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 08:32 (fast train to London – recommended), 09:26. 10:31 and 11:30. 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, Birmingham, Manchester (all Loganair), London Gatwick, London Luton, Bristol (all easyJet) and London Heathrow (British Airways). Guests arriving in Inverness airport can then take a taxi to Nethy Bridge, or take the Airport Flyer bus to Inverness, from there 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 at least 48 hours in advance if you wish to be collected! We will be able to meet the 15:44 and 18:53 trains departing from Inverness that arrive at 16:25 and 19:26 respectively.

Other birdwatching holidays in Highlands

Other birdwatching holidays in Skye

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