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Short Breaks - Scottish Birding in Winter

Three days of exciting birding across the Highlands!

2025 Dates
  • 22 Jan - 26 Jan 2025
Duration5 Days
2025 Price
£795 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

These easy-paced 'Short Breaks' target the birds which make Scotland such a special destination for so many birdwatchers. Enjoy some of the very best wildlife-watching in Britain as we look for  Golden Eagle, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Black Grouse and much more during this exciting short holiday. Add wintering waders, seaduck, divers, gulls and farmland birds at the Moray coast, and you have an absorbing and rewarding few days of Scottish birding in winter.

Ideal for those who don't want to walk too far, or for the visitor looking to see Scottish species for the first time, these holidays are filled with wonderful birding. For a faster paced holiday you may wish to join our Birders Blast short break.

As usual with Heatherlea, everything is included in the price you pay before you join, so there are no extras. Relax in our comfortable three-star Hotel, enjoy meals prepared by our expert Chefs, and travel in minibuses which are great mobile hides.

Above all, your holiday includes the services of one of our resident Guides, a very valuable asset! Much more than a friend to help you identify birds, or a driver to take you to special places, your Heatherlea Guide plans your entire holiday, from briefing on the first evening to round-up on the last. They know where the birds and mammals have been showing, and the best route to maximise your chances organising everything to suit wildlife, weather and your progress through the holiday. We think you will see far more wildlife with a Heatherlea Tour Guide than otherwise, and of course you can relax and enjoy your holiday as we do the planning.

Join Heatherlea, your gateway to the wildlife of the Highlands!   

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

Day 2: Local Day
Our first day is firmly focused on the birds which make this wonderful part of the country so special. An early start for Black Grouse will get us off to a great start before breakfast, and you might see Red Grouse too. After breakfast we visit ‘hotspots’ in Caledonian pine forest to see Crested Tit, which can usually be found locally. Scottish Crossbill are 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 are also present though are increasingly scarce, and we no longer actively look for them. Any sightings should be seen as incidental.

Day 3: Eagle Day
This is a firm favourite at Heatherlea, as we visit remote Highland glens looking for Golden Eagle, our top target today. In suitable weather we spend most of our time in the moorlands where we can expect sightings of other species, including Peregrine, Red Grouse, Buzzard and Raven. White-tailed Eagle may also be seen as young birds from wander from the west. Red Deer, Roe Deer, Sika, feral Goat and Mountain Hare are also likely on this day. Many guests tell us this is the day they were hoping for when they chose to holiday in Scotland; top birding amid superb scenery!

Day 4: Coastal Day
A complete contrast as we visit the Moray Coast, where birding is excellent at any time. This day is perhaps the most exciting, as every single minute can hold the unexpected. There are rafts of Common and Velvet Scoter, plus good numbers of Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser. Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe may also be offshore, and in recent years we have seen rarities including King Eider, Surf Scoter and White-billed Diver. Iceland and Glaucous Gull are both regular, and many wader species can be expected. In the fields, Whooper Swan herds and geese flocks are worth checking for scarcer species and other farmland birds may include Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Stock Dove, Grey Partridge and Yellowhammer. A great day's birding!

Day 5: Departure
Breakfast and depart.

These short breaks are merely a ‘dip’ into the birdlife of the Highlands. You can reasonably expect 80+ species including many of the key specialities, and a host of northern birds which might be difficult to see elsewhere in Britain. Please note we do not target Ptarmigan on this tour.

To see more birds on a longer holiday at a similar time, please consider our full week 'Highland Winter Birding' and 'Highlands and East Coast' itineraries.   

This holiday can be combined with:

Hogmanay birding FestivalBirders Blast, New Year Birdlist Booster

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

  • Four 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.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Three full days wildlife watching.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus, access to reserves and private estates.
  • 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 the 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. Please note we don't visit mountain areas for Ptarmigan during this holiday.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Cold weather, snow and rain are common during these months, you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing.
Biting insects are not expected.
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 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 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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Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248