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NEW! Hebridean Island Explorer

A combination tour with top wildlife experiences, key archaeological sights, and stunning island scenery.

2025 Dates
  • 03 May - 09 May 2025
Duration7 Days
2025 Price
£2395 pp
£235 single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7

An archipelago of mixed habitats featuring rugged mountains, peat moorland, pristine sandy beaches, freshwater lochs and the distinctive machair, the Outer Hebrides are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful islands in Scotland! On this new tour, we enjoy the best wildlife experiences, alongside key archaeological and historical sites and some lesser-known places and islands within the Hebridean chain. We explore by land and sea taking two brand new boat trips, seeing Harris and its forgotten villages from a different perspective, and the wildlife inhabiting the islets and skerries to the east of Benbecula.

The Hebrides are full of birds at this time of year. Breeding wildfowl, waders, passerines, gulls, terns, raptors and passing migrants can all be watched side by side here, at a range of easily accessible sites. Our boat trips will be firm highlights, and sightings from these unique sailings may include Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Great Northern, Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, auks including Black Guillemot, Red Deer, Otter, seals, cetaceans and more! On dry land in the Uists and Benbecula, it is the best time to look for newly arrived, vocal Corncrake while the grass is still short. Raptors will feature, with Hen Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl popping up just about anywhere! Breeding passerines include Corn Bunting, Twite, Skylark and Wheatear while summer-plumaged waders around the coasts include Golden Plover, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Sanderling, Knot, Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone with chances of Ruff and Dotterel too.

This is a relaxing tour, with three nights at each of our two centres on the Hebrides with a little time on Skye and the Scottish Mainland as we travel too. On Lewis amidst stunning mountain scenery, we walk among the Standing Stones at Callanish and visit Dun Carloway Broch, the Blackhouse at Arnol and Lewes Castle too. On Benbecula and the Uists, we plan to visit many new places perhaps including the Bronze age site at Cladh Hallan and if lucky, may catch a glimpse of St Kilda on a fine day. There is certainly something for everyone on this fabulous new Outer Hebrides itinerary!

Day 1: Sat 3 May 2025 – Nethy Bridge to the Outer Hebrides
Driving north from Nethy Bridge, we head straight to Ullapool for the mid-morning ferry to the Outer Hebrides. Our destination is Lewis, and as we sail across the Minch, majestic mountain scenery can be seen in all directions! From the upper decks of the ferry, we will see our first seabirds with Gannet, Fulmar, Shag, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin all likely. Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and other cetaceans may also be seen during our crossing.

We will have already noticed the majestic Lews Castle from the ferry as we arrive into harbour, looming large over the town of Stornoway. After taking lunch in the castle grounds, where we may encounter the Hebridean races of Song Thrush and Wren, we can take a look around the museum for an introduction to island life, past and present. Later, we may visit the nearby causeway at Braighe to look for Great Northern, Red-throated and Black-throated Diver in summer-plumage, or continue out to Tiumpan Head for Twite. We stay overnight in Stornoway for three nights.

Day 2: Sun 4 May – Isle of Lewis
Today we explore Lewis, working our way along its Atlantic (west) coast. At the northernmost point of the Hebrides, we walk around the famous Butt of Lewis headland looking for breeding Wheatear, Rock Pipit and any newly arrived migrant passerines. A rugged and at times windswept spot, Fulmar breed on the cliffs and Merlin are often be found hunting around the fields. Most of the Island interior is made up of vast peatland, and as such is of international importance for breeding waders including Curlew, Greenshank and Golden Plover. High densities of Golden and White-tailed Eagle are present, and attention to the skies should also yield Raven and Hooded Crow. Quieter bays can be good for Otter, and we also visit key archaeological sites including the Standing Stones at Callanish, Dun Carloway Broch and the Blackhouse at Arnol today too.

Day 3: Mon 5 May – Harris boat trip
Travelling south through the peatlands of Lewis, the terrain soon becomes much more mountainous as we enter into Harris. Today we see the Hebrides and its wildlife from a different perspective, taking a wonderful boat trip from Tarbert to explore the west coast. Cruising close to shore we have great chances to see wildlife, with Golden and White-tailed Eagle both possible. Seaduck including Eider, Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander are likely, as are Black Guillemot, all three divers and waders including Common Sandpiper. Red Deer line the hillsides, and we lookout for Otter, Common and Grey Seal around the rocks. From our comfortable boat, we pass the remains of a number of former townships inaccessible by road, as well as the uninhabited islands of Scarp, Great and Little Soay. Lewis and Harris are actually the same island and at the northern point of our voyage we cruise into Loch Reasort, a narrowing sea loch where land to the north makes up the former, and the south the latter! Depending on tides and the weather, we plan to have some time ashore exploring one or two sites, before we return to harbour at Tarbert via the same route.     

Day 4: Tue 6 May – Harris and transfer to North Uist
With a little time on Lewis and Harris, we can perhaps investigate Luskentyre and some of the other bays and beaches around the south end of Harris. A flock of Common Scoter are often seen here, and recently arrived Sandwich, Common, Arctic and even Little Tern may be found roosting among the gulls on glorious sandy beaches. Our ferry to the Uists takes a slow and meandering journey through the many islets of the Sound of Harris, perfect for spotting White-tailed Eagle, divers and hauled out seals. Landing on Berneray, we might choose to look for wildlife on this small island, though with a busy couple of days ahead we may decide to head straight to the Corncrake hotspots on North Uist! Rarely an easy bird to find, early May really is THE time of year to try for this iconic species, and before the Iris beds and grass cover can grow tall, we have a great chance! We stay overnight on Benbecula for three nights.

Day 5: Wed 7 May – Benbecula by land and sea
Dividing our time between land and sea, we may start the day on either North Uist or Benbecula searching for Corncrake again. Waders will also feature around the numerous beaches, bays and on the distinctive machair, with impressively high numbers both breeding and passing through on migration. Many will be in summer-plumage and there will be plenty of variety, with Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed, Golden and Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Curlew, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Snipe, Dunlin, Sanderling, Knot, Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone, with chances of Ruff and Dotterel too. In the Uists, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl are abundant, and both eagles inhabit higher ground. A remnant population of Corn Bunting still survive on North Uist, and we should also see ‘real’ Rock Dove, Meadow and Rock Pipit, Twite, Skylark and Wheatear in the sandy fields.

In the afternoon we enjoy our second boat trip, slowly exploring the coast of the island of Ronay and the skerries off the east side of Benbecula. Being on the water offers a unique opportunity to see wildlife at close quarters, with White-tailed Eagle, Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, Bottlenose Dolphin, Otter, Grey and Common Seal among the possibilities.

Day 6: Thur 8 May – South Uist
Much like the rest of the Uists, the southern, and second largest island within the archipelago boasts a number of great wader beaches and some fantastic raptor watching spots. Maintaining some flexibility, any as yet unseen wildlife may dictate where we try today. White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and Short-eared Owl can turn up just about anywhere, and there are some good hills on the east side for Golden Eagle. As well as divers, a few pairs of Whooper Swan breed on freshwater lochs, and other duck might include Shoveler, Pintail and passing Garganey. There are more patches of scrub and tree cover on South Uist, home to Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Stonechat plus Cuckoo and other migrants. If our targets have been met, we might consider some ‘exploratory’ seawatching, the point at Ardvule being a good place to observe passing Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua and rarer species in the right conditions. As will have been the case all week, we make time for historical sites of interest, visiting the Bronze age site and stunning beach at Cladh Hallan, or taking the causeway across to Eriskay to ‘bag’ another island and look for Otter and seals.

Day 7: Fri 9 May – Return to Nethy Bridge via Skye
A few hours on the Uists gives us time to revisit one or more of our favourite sites before taking the ferry to Uig on Skye. Driving the length of the island, we marvel at the incredible mountain scenery of the imposing Cuillin range, before the Skye bridge leads us back onto the mainland. Though a travel day, we have time for a few wildlife stops, quiet glens on Skye being good for Dipper, Whinchat, Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo, Lesser Redpoll and eagles overhead. Coastal locations are good for divers, seaduck, waders plus Slavonian Grebe and Otter, or your guide may select one last historical site of interest to investigate such as Eilean Donan Castle. Our eventful tour will come to its end at Nethy Bridge where we arrive in the early evening, at around 6pm.

This holiday can be combined with:

Highlands and Orkney 

North Ronaldsay and Orkney in Spring 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

  • Six nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation. We choose hotels from our personally inspected shortlist, where birders are welcome and the hospitality is special. Guests are never expected to share. Full details with your joining pack.
  • Full Scottish breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening till Friday  morning, packed lunch daily.
  • All transfers by comfortable minibus. Drop off on the departure morning to transport links in Aviemore is included.
  • Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at The Mountview Hotel.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • All ferry costs and boat excursions.
  • Entry fees to historical sites and museums.

What's not included in your holiday price

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

More holiday information

Accommodation is en-suite, in comfortable hotels throughout.
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 to moderate on most days.
Weather - Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine or rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, warm clothing, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing, especially for boat trips. 
Biting insects are possible at times so would advise bringing a good repellent. 
Group size maximum 7 clients.
Optics. You should bring binoculars. A telescope will be useful, though your Guide will carry a scope for group use. Bringing a camera if you have one would be worthwhile too!

Other birdwatching holidays in Outer Hebrides


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

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248