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NEW! Classic Scottish Birding

Birding the wonderful Scottish Highlands in springtime is one of the greatest pleasures available in the UK. With summer visitors now here in good numbers, and key speciality birds still displaying or breeding, there is so much going on. We enjoy six tremendous days of wildlife watching, and all within striking distance of our Hotel here in Nethy Bridge. All the special birds of the Scottish Highlands are in our sights, and this is a perfect option to make the most of this wonderful time of year.

An ideal tour for the first time visitor or the seasoned expert, 'Classic Scottish Birding' offers a wealth of variety. On local days we look for forest specialities including Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill, plus Slavonian Grebe on moorland lochans. Raptors including White-tailed Eagle will be at the fore on a day touring the stunning west with summer-plumaged Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Diver and Otter likely too. Time spent exploring estuaries, coastal bays and farmland on the Moray Coast and Black Isle help amass a high bird-list! Capercaillie are increasingly scarce, and we no longer look for them at this time of year, though incidental sightings are possible.

We also travel eastwards from Nethy Bridge to uncover some real delights in the Crown Estates. The Black Grouse lek here is a great start, and we watch for breeding Goshawk nearby. Travelling through fields of waders we reach Royal Deeside to have a chance of Ptarmigan without walking, before stopping to look for raptors which might include Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Osprey and Red Kite among other species. We have exclusive vehicle access to secluded spots where you won’t see many other birders. We are well placed to look for Golden Eagle from here, and Merlin, Raven, Ring Ouzel, Red Grouse and a range of other woodland and moorland species make a truly special day.

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

Day 2: Sunday
We begin with a local day, and our award-winning hotel is right in the middle of the best birding habitats. After breakfast we head to nearby Abernethy Forest, to look for Crested Tit, other local breeding birds and Red Squirrel. Scottish Crossbill are found in the pine forests and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge!

Later we seek out secluded locations with Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Merlin, Red Kite, Ring Ouzel and Slavonian Grebe as our targets, and may visit a number of moorland spots on this lovely day, including a drive which may give views of Red Grouse and Black-throated Diver in breeding finery.

Day 3: Monday
Just when you thought you had been everywhere with Heatherlea, we came up with a brand new day! We go eastwards from Nethy Bridge to uncover some real delights. The Black Grouse lek here is a great start to our day, and we watch for breeding Goshawk and crossbills at nearby woods. Travelling through fields of waders we reach Royal Deeside to have a chance of Ptarmigan, Red Grouse and numerous Mountain Hare perhaps without any, or very little walking. Later we scan from viewpoints for raptors which might include Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Osprey and Red Kite among other species. On the Crown Estates at Glenlivet, we have exclusive access to secluded spots where you won’t see many other birders, with further chances of Golden Eagle and perhaps Merlin too. The stunning surrounding scenery, less known among birders with Raven, Ring Ouzel and other moorland species all contribute to a truly special day.

Day 4: Tuesday
The Black Isle to the north of Inverness is a great birding location, with the added advantage of being small enough to be explored in less than a full day. Red Kite are well-established now, and usually give excellent views. At Udale Bay the last remaining Wigeon and Teal will be joined by waders including Curlew, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Ringed Plover, with perhaps Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, migrating Dunlin, Knot and maybe an unexpected rare wader too. Iceland and Glaucous Gulls might still be around, and we search favoured spots for Tree Sparrow, declining but still found here in a few places. For the rest of the day, we may visit favourite sites east of Inverness, to search for Golden Plover, or rarity such as an American Wigeon or Green-winged Teal.

Day 5: Wednesday  
We spend most of the day on the Cairngorm plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we search for Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Our record in May/June is very good, with Ptarmigan pairs on territory and Dotterel settling in. This day may be earlier or later in the week as we carefully choose the best time to visit for your comfort and safety, and of course we also take care not to disturb the birds. Look out also for Snow Bunting, Wheatear and Ring Ouzel as we enjoy brilliant birding in a very special habitat.

Day 6: Thursday
Today we head across the Highlands to the West Coast, where our key target is White-tailed Eagle. We have excellent chances of Golden Eagle too, and other western birds of interest are Hooded Crow, Twite and Cuckoo and on the sea Great Northern Diver and Black Guillemot in full breeding plumage. White-billed Diver can be found at this time, and we will be paying attention to look for them. Otter, seals and cetaceans may also be seen on this fantastic day amidst fabulous west coast scenery.

Day 7: Friday 
We drive across Moray to Troup Head, mainland Scotland’s only Gannetry, to see the nesting birds. Auks on the sea will include Puffin and Black Guillemot, and the first Great and Arctic Skuas of the season may be seen too. Later we work our way westwards along the Moray Coast to enjoy spring birding as newly settled migrants complement the last few winter visitors. We may see Osprey fishing, rafts of Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, the odd late-staying Common and Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Glaucous and Iceland Gull, Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern and lots of spring waders including Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Sanderling and Dunlin, many of them in bright summer plumage. Farmland specialities including Corn Bunting, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge are all still found on this fertile northern coastline too on this rewarding day!

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).

What's included in your holiday price

  • Seven 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 might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days birdwatching.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus during six full days' birding. All access fees.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • Saturday courtesy pick-up and return service to Aviemore.
  • A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.

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 the optional mountain walking for Ptarmigan and other mountain species, is strenuous.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Cold winds, sunshine, rain and snow are all possible! Bring waterproofs, walking boots, and warm clothing. Hats and gloves are essential at this time of year.
Biting insects could possibly be encountered, but still unlikely at this time in May.
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 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

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