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Highland Wildlife in High Summer

Superb wildlife watching from mountain to sea featuring birds, mammals, insects and plants

2024 Dates
  • 20 Jul - 27 Jul 2024
Duration8 Days
2024 Price
£1595 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

A holiday aimed at the general naturalist, celebrating all the wildlife that we encounter during our short and exciting Highland summers. The holiday is slow paced, working several sites well, looking at birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and flowers, all in stunning scenery.

Birding is good, with over 110 species expected; all our summer migrants are still present, and waders, gulls and terns are on the move in numbers at the coast. Scottish Crossbill, Ptarmigan and Crested Tit are resident and of course we look for them, though perhaps not spending as much time on birds as on other itineraries; there is just so much wildlife to fit in!

Mammals might include Mountain and Brown Hares, Roe and Red Deer, Red Squirrel, Bottle-nosed Dolphin and perhaps Otter and Badger. We start most days with a look at the moth trap, which we move around to 2 or 3 sites throughout the week. Catches number into the hundreds at this time of year, with good chances of large and colourful hawkmoths and tiger-moths. Butterflies should include the first emerging Scotch Argus and other stunners such as Mountain Ringlet, Dark Green Fritillary and Large Heath, while dragonflies and damsels should be on the wing in good number.

Those who have joined our popular 'Highland Wildlife' tour earlier in the summer should find this holiday particularly interesting, as changes in the season mean many changes to wildlife, especially to flora and insect life. 

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

  • Key birds, perhaps including Black Grouse, both eagles, divers and Slavonian Grebe, Osprey, Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill.
  • Mountain Ringlet, Scotch Argus and other rare butterflies and dragonflies. Moth-trapping each night if weather allows in a variety of local habitats.
  • Red Squirrel (perhaps on our feeders before your first breakfast!), Red Deer and Mountain Hare.
  • Our exciting boat trip to Troup Head and its colony of breeding Gannets, and other seabirds including Shag and Kittiwake.
  • Watching leaping dolphins in the Moray Firth, and perhaps Otter on shorelines.

Please also consider our 'Highland Wildlife in early summer' holiday, timed just three weeks earlier. The two tours should witness a marked change in seasonal wildlife.

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

Day 2: Sunday
After our first moth-trap session we start locally, amid superb Highland scenery where we can find Red and Black Grouse, Black-throated Diver, Short-eared Owl, Ring Ouzel and Golden Eagle amongst others. At our frequent stops we will be looking at everything we can find, which should also include stunning flowers such as Field Gentian, Bog Asphodel and many varieties of Heather. Butterflies could include Large Heath, Dark Green Fritillary, Scotch and Northern Brown Argus, with several dragonfly species also on the wing. A great introduction to the massive diversity of Highland wildlife!

Day 3: Monday
A complete contrast as we head to the coast and make an exciting boat trip along rarely visited sections of the Moray Firth coastline. We will make our way towards Troup Head RSPB reserve, fascinating from the water, with towering cliffs covered in thousands of noisy and smelly Gannets; a bustling seabird colony in late July is a sight to behold! Many of the auks will have fledged already, but we should see groups of Razorbill, Guillemot and perhaps a few lone Puffin and Black Guillemot on the water. Other birds should include large numbers of Fulmar, Kittiwake, Shag and Cormorant with chances of Great and Arctic Skua, terns and perhaps even a Manx Shearwater out to sea. At this time of year we hope to find cetaceans, with chances of Minke Whale and Basking Shark though Bottlenose Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise are more likely. After our boat trip we have a few hours to explore the Moray Firth coastline to the west. Good numbers of Common and Grey Seal, fishing Osprey, waders and farmland birds including Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting may be seen, as may a small, localised population of Grayling butterflies.

Day 4: Tuesday
Today we head south into Highland Perthshire, exploring a range of habitats as we go. We will investigate sections of boggy moorland, looking for Mountain Ringlet butterfly amongst other butterflies and day-flying moths. Birds may include Whinchat and Hen Harrier, with dragonflies including large Golden-ringed Dragonfly. We move on to Kelteney Burn Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve where we look for a range of flowers and rare plants, with several species of Orchid still in flower, and again a range of butterflies if the weather is good. In the afternoon we visit one of the oldest (if not the oldest) tree in the British Isles, the Fortingall Yew, believed to be up to 5000 years old. Our route back has many options, though a drive under the iconic hill Schiehallion is a popular choice, with several stops on limestone pavement looking for scarce flowers.

Day 5: Wednesday 
Today we take a slow drive around to the Cairngorm mountains, stopping at freshwater lochs to look for Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe on the way. In the morning we head into the Cairngorm Northern Corries to look for some of the specialist montane species only found at this altitude. Birds should include Ptarmigan and Red Grouse, with chances of rare breeding Snow Bunting too! Insects are in short supply up here but may include Black Mountain Moth and other rare species. Top targets today are alpine flowers, which may include Frog Orchid, Dwarf Cornel, Alpine Saw-wort, Starry Saxifrage, Roseroot, Trailing Azalea, Moss Campion and Least Willow amongst others. Please note that we do not plan to visit the highest Cairngorm plateau on this day, so are unlikely to see Dotterel. If weather allows we will spend several hours in one of the corries before dropping down to look at areas of Caledonian Pinewood, where we hope to see Crested Tit and local birds. Scottish Crossbill are found in the forests and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! Tonight we employ the bat detectors and search for Long-eared, Daubenton’s and two species of Pipistrelle Bats. We may see mammals as we go too, perhaps including Badger.

Day 6: Thursday 
We drive north to the Black Isle, a fertile promontory of land that juts out into the Moray Firth. We will look carefully at the tides and plan a visit to a couple of coastal wetlands, which should have hundreds of wading birds present, including Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Curlew. Scarcer waders at this time of year can include Greenshank, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and on a few occasions in the last decade, Pectoral Sandpiper. There will be hundreds of gulls and terns too, with excellent chances of Osprey today. We move round to search for Bottlenose Dolphins, Seals and Otters at other coastal sites, with the right tide being vital for our efforts. Coastal birds should include lots of waders and terns, with chances of Arctic Skua too. If we have time we may take some rural backroads to search for farmland birds, with Red Kite, Yellowhammer, Linnet and Tree Sparrow all likely. Time may allow for searches of a few remote lochans too, good for warblers as well as waterbirds.

Day 7: Friday
We finish our week of wildlife with another local day – looking for species we may have previously missed such as Golden Eagle, crossbills and Crested Tit amongst others. We may visit a variety of habitats, include remote Highland glens where we can look for Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Atlantic Salmon by the river, and search for Peregrine, White-tailed Eagle, Goshawk and Hen Harrier overhead. Mammals may include Mountain and Brown Hare, Roe and Red Deer and Red Squirrel. Flowers will hopefully include stunning Grass of Parnassus, with chances of several butterflies and moths too. A fitting finale to a stunning week of High Summer Highland Wildlife.

Day 8: Saturday
Breakfast and departure. Don't forget our courtesy drop off service to Aviemore!

Please note: Because of the vagaries of the season, not all species mentioned above will be seen, though we can expect a few surprises!

This holiday can be combined with:

Highlands and Wester Ross, Highlands and Outer Hebrides, Birds and Mammals featuring Muck and Eigg, Eagles, Divers & Dotterel

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 wildlife watching.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus during six full days' birding. All access and ferry fees.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • Saturday courtesy pick-up and return service to Aviemore.
  • An extremely detailed natural history 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 moderate, though frequently over uneven, rocky and boggy ground to search for the scarcer plants and insects. The optional mountain walk is a return walk of between 4-5 miles, taken at a slow pacewith plenty of stops for botany and birding!
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing including hat and gloves. Please bring wellies, though we will try to avoid their use!
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, especially when moth trapping or looking for dragonflies. A good repellent is advised.
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

Visit Scotland

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248