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Autumn in the Highlands with 'Easy Walking'

A unique birding holiday especially for those who don't want to walk too far

2024 Dates
  • 10 Aug - 17 Aug 2024
  • 17 Aug - 24 Aug 2024
Duration8 Days
2024 Price
£1595 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
2025 Dates
  • 16 Aug - 23 Aug 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
£1595 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

Would you like to see all the special birds of Scotland, but without too much exertion? On this new ‘Easy Walking’ itinerary, we look for all the Scottish specials including Ptarmigan, perhaps the most inaccessible of our native birds.

We explore the dramatic west coast, search for southbound migrants and enjoy a fantastic seabird trip to the Outer Hebrides, on a tour which involves very little walking, and on some days hardly any walking at all. We are based entirely at the Mountview Hotel, giving us flexibility to choose the best day for each of our activities.

You can enjoy the great birding the Scotland Highlands has to offer, visiting many special places by comfortable minibus and getting close to the best birding sites. As well as Ptarmigan, we seek Highland specialities including Black Grouse, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Osprey and much more.

Autumn is a great time of year as local breeders and migrants originating from Scandinavia begin to flood south towards warmer climes. We visit a range of superb coastal sites to search for birds within some of the most attractive regions of Scotland while our boat trip should give us exciting encounters with seabirds and cetaceans.

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

  • Ptarmigan without walking too far from our buses.
  • Seabirds and cetaceans in the Minch on our migration sea-trip.
  • Eagles soaring above the hilltops on the west coast.
  • An abundance of migrant waders at coastal hotspots, many still in stunning summer plumage.

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

Day 2: Sunday – Local forest and moorland birding
Strathspey is a wonderful place for many of our target species, and we begin in the local woods for Red Squirrel, Crested Tit and the last of the summer breeders before their departure south. Scottish Crossbill are found in our forests too and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! Later we investigate local lochs and rivers, birch-woods and moorland. Often over fifty species are seen on this day, among them Osprey, Red Grouse, Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Goldeneye, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. A great first day.

Day 3: Monday – Outer Hebrides migration sea trip
We travel to Ullapool, perhaps seeing Raven and Hooded Crow on the way, then join the ferry to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The ferry is a large ship, with excellent views in all directions, perfect for birding, and we take both the outbound and return sailings to maximise our chances. Entering the Minch, the Scottish mainland recedes and the Outer Hebrides loom larger, and our chance of migrant seabirds increases. Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel, Great and Arctic Skua and commoner auks are all likely and it is a great time of year for wandering Sooty Shearwater. Rarer possibilities in this stretch of water include Balearic, Cory’s or Great Shearwater, Leach’s Petrel, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua and perhaps even storm driven Grey Phalarope or Sabine’s Gull. The Minch has a superb reputation for cetaceans and we have a better than average chance of seeing Minke Whale, Harbour Porpoise, Bottle-nosed Dolphin and even Risso’s or Common Dolphin. Your guides will select the best day and conditions to maximise our chances.

Day 4: Tuesday – Moray coast
After breakfast we head north to explore the Moray coast. Here we can expect to see a range of birds including Osprey fishing, moulting Goosander, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Shag and perhaps early returning Common Scoter or Long-tailed Duck. Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern may be seen and during the migration season anything can turn up so we will look for any rarities within reach or perhaps find our own! Rich farmland boasts Tree Sparrow, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Stock Dove, Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge and we look for them from viewpoints along minor roads.

Day 5: Wednesday – Ptarmigan without Ptears and more!
Ptarmigan, only found at high altitude, is perhaps the most inaccessible of all British resident birds, and if you cannot walk far you may feel you will never see this grouse. We visit the stunning Applecross peninsula for a good attempt at seeing Ptarmigan without walking more than a few hundred yards, and your guides will use walkie-talkies to keep in contact with those remaining by the vehicle. You have every chance, and many of our guests have been delighted by results in the past!

This day will be about much more of course, and we enjoy spectacular mountain scenery as we travel. Time and weather will determine exactly which birdwatching route we explore, but we will plan stops to scan west coast hills and charming sea lochs. We hope to see Golden and White-tailed Eagle patrolling the skies while sea-duck, migrant waders, gulls, terns and auks including Black Guillemot may be seen from the roadside at sea-level. Post-breeding gatherings of stunning Black-throated and Red-throated Diver might be found in secluded bays and we hope to see Otter close to the shore. A superb west coast adventure, all geared around easy walking.

Day 6: Thursday – Black Grouse and local round up
An optional early visit to a nearby moor to look for Black Grouse returning to the lek is a great start. Scanning for raptors in open ground and at forest clearings we may see Osprey, Red Kite, Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Peregrine or if lucky a migrant species such as Marsh Harrier or Hobby. Another 'easy walking' option for Ptarmigan in Royal Deeside may be considered on this day, should the birds be more reliable elsewhere around this time or conditions prove unsuitable in the west. We may re-visit the forests in search of local targets and this is also a good time to look for post-breeding owls, as young birds leave the natal areas and search for their own feeding territories. We have even been lucky enough to see Long-eared and Barn Owl hunting the meadows beside the Mountview Hotel in recent autumns, while a late afternoon drive over moorland may produce Short-eared Owl.

Day 7: Friday – The Black Isle or Aberdeenshire
We will have built an impressive list so far and today we will plan a final day to round-up anything we may have missed. Whatever we decide to do, a visit to a coastal location such as the Black Isle or Aberdeenshire will offer great birding to finish. We may look for concentrations of waders, sifting through Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone, Knot for scarcer Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper or we may take a special trip for one of the rarities which make a Scottish autumn so special.

Day 8: Saturday - Departure
Breakfast and departure. Don’t forget our courtesy return service to Aviemore.

This holiday can be combined with:

 Highland Migration by Land and Sea   

Outer Hebrides in early Autumn, North Ronaldsay and Orkney in early Autumn 

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 may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • 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.
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 walking will be light, with slow walking on forest trails.
Travel is by comfortable nine-seater minibus, and carry a supplementary step to assist easy access.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine, wind and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing.
Biting insects are unlikely to be encountered, but bring a good repellent just in case!
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

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