NEW! Argyll Wildlife and Islands

An exciting new tour for all natural history enthusiasts featuring birds, mammals, butterflies, dragonflies and rarely visited Islands.

Destinations
Focus
2023 Dates
  • 10 Jun - 17 Jun 2023
Duration8 Days
2023 Price
£2195 pp
£295 single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

Scotland's west coast is a haven for wildlife in summer, the middle weeks of June in particular offering much for the all-round naturalist. On this new and exciting holiday, we enjoy all flora and fauna from birds to mammals, butterflies to dragonflies and both night and day flying moths. And what’s more, we do it in exciting new places in Argyll, visiting lesser-known Islands off the Oban coast as well as firm favourites like Mull and Iona.

A tour with something for everyone, our exploration starts in the greater Oban area where rare Chequered Skipper is one of our key targets. In sunny conditions we search for Marsh Fritillary across several sites and expect to see a range of other commoner species. We look for scarce dragonflies too, a large list of possible species including Beautiful Demoiselle, Large Red, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselfly, Hairy and Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Northern and Downy Emerald, Keeled Skimmer, Four-spotted Chaser, Common and Southern Hawker and perhaps the jewel in the crown – rare Azure Hawker! On Mull we look for rare Transparent and Slender Scotch Burnet Moth, the latter an endemic to the island and neighbouring Ulva, and we plan to Moth trap overnight whenever we can. Fingers crossed for warm, sunny days and nights!

Birdlife is naturally abundant around Argyll’s coasts and islands. Raptors will be well represented with both Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl likely. Divers in stunning, summer plumage may be found offshore or at inland lochans and breeding waders can include Greenshank and Golden Plover. In June, summer visitors transform the quiet woodlands into hives of activity, Wood Warbler, Cuckoo, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher being among our targets. With much time dedicated to the coasts and islands, Otters may be encountered anywhere and on any day. An exciting boat trip into the Firth of Lorn for seabirds, cetaceans and seals will be another highlight, passing the unpopulated Gravellach Isles and the famed Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest of its kind in the world.

Based around two centres, we plan to ‘bag’ seven islands in all - Mull, Staffa, Lunga, Iona, Easdale, Isle of Seil and Lismore. The largest of these Mull is well known for its eagles and stunning scenery, Staffa for its mind-boggling geology while the ’Puffin experience’ on Lunga is arguably the best in the UK. Iona with its imposing Abbey is green and lush in June, and Corncrake is a possibility on our day here. Easdale and the Isle of Seil are two of the ‘Slate Islands’, sculpted by three centuries of quarrying for this natural resource. Today, both are quiet peaceful places, with strong community bonds and good places for willdife. The island of Lismore is a favourite among botanists, supporting a range of orchids, rare Narrow-leaved Helleborine and many more.

This really is a great new tour celebrating the vast range of birds, mammals, insects, wildflowers, AND the Islands of Argyll. The habitats we visit are truly fascinating, and the variety of wildlife and rare species on offer will enthrall both the natural history all-rounder and the birder who wants to see something extra.

Day 1: Sat 10 June 2023 – Nethy Bridge to Oban
Departing Nethy Bridge, we drive west through the Highlands looking out for Brown Hare, Red, Roe and Sika Deer as we travel. Osprey might be seen over larger lochs, and nearing Fort William if warm and sunny we take an early attempt for scarce butterflies. Rare Chequered Skipper is the ultimate prize but very difficult to find, with several sites known to our guides we have a good chance. Small-Pearl Bordered Fritillary and Green Hairstreak may also be encountered, while Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Four-spotted Chaser are among the commoner dragonflies. Roadside stops near lochs may yield Black-throated Diver, and at coastal sites nearer Oban we may see Black Guillemot, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Common and Arctic Tern plus Common Seal. Raptors may also feature, Golden and White-tailed Eagle can both appear anywhere overhead. Overnight Oban area for 4 nights.

Day 2: Sun 11 June - Easdale, Isle of Seil and Firth of Lorn boat trip
Today we take an exciting boat trip into the Firth of Lorn, journeying towards the Gravellach Island chain, home of the early monastic settlement of St Brendan 542 AD). Our route takes us towards the north end of Jura, passing the Corryvreckan whirlpool - the third largest in the world and a real sight, and sound to behold! Cetaceans are the main target of our 3 hour trip, the nutrient-rich waters within this ‘Marine Protection Zone’ attracting Minke Whale to linger. Bottlenose Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise may also be seen, with Grey Seal, roosting waders or perhaps a White-tailed Eagle on the rocky coast.

Back on dry land we hop across the narrow sound to Easdale, a tiny island famed for its World Stone Skimming Championships! Such activities are perhaps not for us, but we plan to spend a few hours exploring this beautiful island on foot looking out for Otter and coastal species. On our way back to Oban, we travel through the Isle of Seil where Greenshank and early returning waders such as Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plover may be seen in quiet creeks and on beaches. A varied and absorbing day.

Day 3: Mon 12 June - Glasdrum Woods and nearby sites
We spend the day exploring Mainland Argyle, with a range of sites to choose from all within a small radius of Oban. For butterflies, Glasdrum Woods is one of the main sites and we hope for sunny conditions to search for Chequered Skipper. Others including Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Green Hairstreak and several common and migrant species may be encountered, and it is one of the best locations for (hard to find) White Spotted Sable Moth. The woodlands here are home to Cuckoo, Wood Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart with Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail on flowing streams. Later we may choose to investigate locations for rare Marsh Fritillary, or check dragonfly pools for scarce Scottish species including Hairy Dragonfly, Downy Emerald, Beautiful Demoiselle and if lucky and our timing perfect, perhaps a freshly emerged Azure Hawker or Highland Darter.

Day 4: Tue 13 June - Lismore Island
A new island for Heatherlea, Lismore is an under-watched gem living in the shadow of the mountains and hills which surround it. Positioned at the southern end of the Great Glen at one of the widest points of Loch Linnhie, we look out for seabirds from the ferry plus Harbour Porpoise, Common and Grey Seal. Lismore is a narrow island roughly ten miles long, by one wide, with stunning views in every direction – Mull to the west, the Morvern Hills to the north and even the Ben Nevis summit may be visible to the east on the finest of days. With so many hills and territories nearby, Golden and White-tailed Eagle are likely as are post breeding flocks of waders, coastal wildfowl including Red-breasted Merganser and Eider, Black Guillemot, Shag and Cormorant.

Another asset of the island is its incredibly rich and fertile soil, which is very different to the rest of Argyll largely thanks underlying Dalradian limestone. Wildflowers are abundant often growing taller here than elsewhere, and at this time can include Early-Purple, Common Spotted, Frog and Fragrant Orchid, both Broad-leaved and Narrow-leaved Helleborine, scarce Lesser Bearded and Rugged Stonewort and many others. There is a healthy Otter population here too, and at quieter areas of the coast we have every chance, and we also plan to take in any cultural sites of interest – a real day of exploring.

Day 5: Weds 14 June – Mull
Taking the morning ferry to Mull, we sea-watch from the upper deck for Gannet, Great Skua, Kittiwake, auks, terns and divers. Mull is a real raptor paradise with more Golden and White-tailed Eagle here than anywhere else in Scotland! Hen Harrier are also abundant, with Merlin, Kestrel and Short-eared Owl also likely. With most of the day to explore, we take minor roads regularly pausing to scan the hills for raptors or the sea lochs for Otter. Both Red-throated and Great Northern Diver in stunning summer plumage are likely, as are Golden Plover, Greenshank and Common Sandpiper, while open ground passerines may include Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and Lesser Redpoll. In warm conditions Marsh Fritillary is a target as is Keeled Skimmer and other dragonflies and interesting plants might include Pale Butterwort. Transparent and Slender Scotch Burnet Moth are two special species we search for, the latter being endemic to Mull and the adjacent island of Ulva at just a few sites. Overnight Mull for 3 nights.

Day 6: Thurs 15 June - Treshnish Isles boat trip
We plan to run a Moth trap overnight whenever we can, and if conditions were favourable we begin with a check for interesting species. The rest of the day couldn’t be more different, as we enjoy a thrilling boat trip to the offshore islands west of Mull. During the journey we watch out for marine mammals including Grey Seal, Harbour Porpoise, Common and Bottlenose Dolphin and perhaps Minke Whale. We plan to visit Staffa, where we should have enough time to investigate Fingal’s Cave while scanning the water for divers and breeding Great Skua. Moving on to the tiny Isle of Lunga, we land to witness the fabulous auk colonies on the cliffs and above the beach. Many thousands of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Shag are present while the ‘Puffin experience’ is one of the best in the British Isles, with views down to a few feet at your own feet! A joy for photographers, we enjoy time here before returning to Mull in the afternoon.

Day 7: Fri 16 June - Iona and the Ross of Mull
Today we travel to the Ross of Mull, where we take the ferry across to Iona. Any lingering Great Northern Diver will be superb in summer finery, with Gannet, terns, gulls and auks also often found feeding in the narrow Sound. Dominated by its imposing Abbey, it is the grassy fields and meadows which hold Iona’s most famous wildlife – Corncrake! Iona supports a small population (up to 20 calling males) in a very small area, and though chances of seeing this elusive bird can never be guaranteed, we may still hear the birds rasping calls. Passerines including feeding flocks of Twite, Linnet, Wheatear and pipits are likely in the fields, and if calm we can scan offshore for cetaceans from this the most westerly point in the Mull archipelago. We explore the island at a leisurely pace, and for those who wish to visit the Abbey, there will be time before returning to Mull. Later, as we return through the Ross of Mull we pause at Otter and raptor hotspots or attempt to mop up any other unseen targets.

Day 8: Sat 17 June – Return to Nethy Bridge
A final morning on Mull, with opportunities to overindulge in eagles, Hen Harrier or Otter if we wish! We return to Oban on the lunchtime ferry, and plot our route home depending on any bird, butterfly, dragonfly or scenic targets, arriving at the Mountview at c5pm when our tour ends.

This holiday can be combined with:

MAINLAND SCOTLAND
Highlands and Orkney, Outer Limits in Summer

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).

Field Notes 

Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine, rain and cold winds are all possible, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Biting insects are not expected this early in the season. Please bring walking boots or shoes, fully waterproof clothing and a small rucksack. Conditions on boat trips are invariably colder than those on dry land, so bring warm clothing! Please note that depending on tide, the landing on Lunga may be on slippery boulders and the walking here and on Staffa is on rough and at times steep paths and care is needed. Guests can of course remain on the boat if they do not wish to land. Some of the locations for target butterflies, dragonflies and Burnet Moths are on sunny, steeper slopes or boggy ground, so a reasonable level of fitness is advised. A walking pole may be useful.

What's included in your Argyll Wildlife and Islands holiday price

  • Four nights comfortable hotel accommodation near Oban and three nights on Mull. Both hotels are well placed to explore nearby wildlife and for island ferries. We carefully select your hotel from our personally inspected shortlist of hotels where birders are welcome and the hospitality special. Guests are never expected to share. Full details with your joining pack. Rooms are en-suite, with TV and hospitality tray.
  • Full Scottish breakfast and dinner from Tuesday evening till Saturday morning, packed lunch Tuesday - Saturday.
  • Two boat trips, a non landing 3 hour trip into Forth of Lorn for cetaceans and landing on Staffa/Lunga. Please note in adverse weather conditions boat trips may be cancelled and rescheduled.
  • All transfers between Nethybridge and Oban by comfortable minibus and all Calmac ferries. Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at The Mountview Hotel.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • Courtesy bus service to transport in Aviemore on departure.

What's not included in your Argyll Wildlife and Islands holiday price

  • Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
  • Extra night in Nethybridge area at end of holiday. This can be arranged for you if requested at time of holiday booking.
  • Collection from Aviemore on arrival.

Other birdwatching holidays in Mainland Scotland

Other birdwatching holidays in Mull

WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA FOR YOUR SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURE?

Heatherlea is THE company for top quality birding holidays in Scotland, chosen by more and more birders each year. Relax and enjoy first-rate birding with Scotland’s best guiding team, as we do all the planning! 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. Above all, we make it our business to show key wildlife to you.

These popular holidays are carefully designed to explore the beautiful and wildlife-rich Scottish islands and far west coast. Many itineraries are unique, designed to give you the best of island wildlife at the best time of year. All are run at a leisurely pace, though we might move a little faster when rare migrants and vagrants are in our sights!

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • This holiday has a maximum ratio of 7 clients per guide, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Heatherlea are Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’ This is the highest available grading, classified as ‘exceptional’ by visitScotland.
  • Single guests are never expected or invited to share.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance packed lunch and tips to hotels.
  • 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

'Exceptional'
Visit Scotland

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Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

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