Highlands and the Bass Rock

Scottish specialities, the Lothian coast and the largest Gannetry in the world!

On this two-centre holiday we have five nights at our own Mountview Hotel in Nethy Bridge, targetting all the special birds of a Highland summer. We visit tranquil Caledonian pinewoods and the vast Cairngorm mountain plateau, enjoying glorious scenery, long evenings and some of the best summer birding in Britain. We watch Slavonian Grebe, Red and Black-throated Divers, Peregrine, Scottish and Common Crossbill, Crested Tit and more. Breeding Ptarmigan and Dotterel should give us a great day on the mountains, and we also utilise the evening light to seek out quartering Short-eared Owl over local heather moorland.

We also include two nights in Lothian, and take a memorable boat trip around the Bass Rock, home of the largest Gannet colony in the world, holding over 150,000 individuals at the peak of the season. Gannets prefer windblown rocky stacks, allowing them to make vertical takeoffs and landings, and our visit to see them at close quarters will be a highlight. We also visit Musselburgh, where breeding terns and the first early autumn migrants on return passage can be expected. Depending on time available we may also visit key sites in Perthshire to see nesting Ospreys and other summer birdlife of interest.

A great new itinerary, with very limited availability!

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

  • Your visit to the largest Gannet colony in the world
  • Dotterel and Ptarmigan on the high plateau
  • Crested Tit and summer breeders in woodlands filled with young birds.
  • Exciting birding in Perthshire and Lothian

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

Day 2: Sunday
A morning birding in the Abernethy to look for 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! Osprey, Red Squirrel, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Goldeneye may also be searched for and after lunch we visit a quiet glen to look for Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Buzzard, Red Kite, Golden Eagle, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Ring Ouzel and Wheatear. Later we enjoy a Highland summer evening with a leisurely drive to the moors close to The Mountview Hotel. Short-eared Owl breed here, and we frequently see the adults quartering over the heather. Black-throated and Red-throated Diver and Red Grouse are also likely, and we look out for waders including Dunlin, Redshank and Common Sandpiper in smart summer plumage. A lovely evening!

Days 3 - 5: Mon - Wed  PERTHSHIRE, LOTHIAN and BASS ROCK
Our visit to Lothian begins with a drive south through Perthshire, where we may stop off at Loch of the Lowes or other sites of interest. Depending on breeding status, we may be able to view nesting Osprey at one of a number of places. We stay for two nights in Lothian, taking a memorable boat trip to Bass Rock, famous as the home of the largest Gannet colony in the world. We circumnavigate the island, gaining fabulous views of these beautiful seabirds, and other residents including good numbers of Puffin. Gannets prefer windblown rocky stacks, allowing them to make vertical takeoffs and landings, and our visit to see them at such close quarters will be a highlight of the holiday.

We also visit Musselburgh and other key sites in the area, where breeding terns and the first early autumn migrants can be expected on return passage. We have plenty of options and take our time on the return journey to Nethy Bridge, perhaps looking for raptors and flocks of crossbills in the forests of northern Perthshire.

Day 6: Thursday
In early July our private estate woodlands often produce Capercaillie, seen safely from Heatherlea mobile hides. Moorland and upland specialities such as Slavonian Grebe, Hen Harrier, Stonechat, Common Sandpiper, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, plus Golden Eagle and Osprey... your raptor list should be impressive today!

Day 7: Friday
A full day on the Cairngorm plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right spots for Ptarmigan and Dotterel, both perhaps with piping young running behind. Snow Bunting may also be seen on a brilliant day’s birding in a very special habitat.

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

This holiday can be combined with:

Highlands and Wester Ross, NEW! Birds and Mammals featuring Muck and Eigg, Highlands and the Outer Hebrides

Orkney in High Summer

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

  • Five 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.
  • Two nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation in Lothian.
  • 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 and boat 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 mountain walking for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is a strenuous all-day hike. July sees the birds typically on the highest tops, with a 6-7 mile return walk with around 1200ft of climb. Guests can opt out of this excursion.
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, especially hat and gloves for the mountain excursion.
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, though it is rarely a problem. Please bring a good general 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 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 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 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 Saturdays 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

Other birdwatching holidays in Mainland Scotland

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: 01479 821248