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NEW! Highlands and the Small Isles

Speciality local wildlife, with a little more walking than usual, as we explore the islands of Rum and Eigg.

2025 Dates
  • 02 Aug - 09 Aug 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
£1695 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300

Located off the West Coast of Scotland, lying to the south of Skye and north of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, there are four main islands which make up ‘The Small Isles’. They are Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck and it is the first two which feature on this tour, exploring both on foot for wildlife some fabulous scenery. This is also a holiday for those who want a little more walking than on many Heatherlea tours, as we follow forest trails for specialist birds including Crested Tit and crossbills. We hike in the Cairngorm mountains for Dotterel, Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting and see the Moray Coast and its wildlife from a different perspective on this enjoyable new holiday.

Rum is the largest of the ‘Small Isles’, and most of the land is managed as a nature reserve. The first (successful) White-tailed Eagle re-introductions took place here in 1975, and we may well get lucky with a sighting of one of their descendants. Eigg is the most populated of the islands, and dominated by the impressive An Sgùrr ridge - it still feels distinctly wild and remote. Possible wildlife as we explore both islands includes Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, Cuckoo, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and Twite, plus Red Deer, Otter, seals, butterflies, dragonflies and interesting flora.

We need to take two boat/ferry trips to reach the islands of Rum and Eigg, with seabirds such as Black Guillemot, Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Arctic and Great Skua likely during the journey. Cetaceans including Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale may also be seen, and it is a good time of year for Basking Shark and even jellyfish in these waters.

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

  • The wildlife and stunning island scenery of Rum and Eigg
  • Walking on the Cairngorm Plateau with Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting and perhaps Dotterel for company.
  • Eagles in several west coast locations, at a time when youngsters will be joining adults on the wing.
  • Strolling through Scots Pine forest, on the lookout for Crested Tit.

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

Day 2: Sunday – Local forests and lochs
The local Scots Pine forests are a great place to begin, with a number of good quality trails on our doorstep just waiting to be explored. Looking out for Crested Tit and the last of the summer breeders including Tree Pipit, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher as we stroll within unique Highland habitats, Red Squirrel may be encountered too. Scottish Crossbill are also present though with both Common and Parrot Crossbill here too, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge. In the afternoon we visit local lochs and rivers, with Osprey, Slavonian Grebe, Dipper, Goosander, Goldeneye and Common Sandpiper in mind. Birch woodland near such sites supports a different suit of birds including Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Bullfinch and can be a good place to look for Scotch Argus, Dark Green Fritillary Butterflies and dragonflies including Golden-ringed and Black Darter.

Day 3: Monday – Cairngorm Mountain
We spend the day in the mountains, walking amidst some of the very best mountain scenery looking for specialist Scottish breeding wildlife. Selecting the best weather day, this will of course be one of our more strenuous walks covering a distance in the region of 5 to 8 miles and rising from 600m to an elevation of 1200m above sea level. Bagging a Monroe as we go, we hope to find Ptarmigan perhaps with well grown chicks and scan for any late staying Dotterel on the highest plateaus. Snow Bunting, Ring Ouzel and Red Grouse are likely, while Wheatear and Meadow Pipit should both be common with chances of Raven and Peregrine too. Also possible are Mountain Hare, Red Deer and depending on which area we visit, the roaming Reindeer herd too.

Day 4: Tuesday – Transfer to the west coast via Morvern
Departing for the west coast after breakfast, we pass through Fort William before reaching the Morvern peninsula. A lesser-known region of Scotland, but one of the most beautiful, a plethora of wildlife exists here including both Golden and White-tailed Eagle. Red Deer are a permanent fixture of the hills, while Otter and Common Seal thrive in quiet sea lochs. We should also see Black-throated and Red-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Tern while post-breeding waders may include Curlew, Golden Plover, Greenshank and Snipe. A day with less walking, depending on our travel progress we may have time for a late afternoon stroll along the shore of a sea loch to look for Otter.

Day 5: Wednesday – Eigg day trip
Eigg is the most populated of the ‘Small Isles’. However, with the imposing An Sgùrr ridge towering high above the pier, being one of the first things you see as you arrive, it still feels like a very wild place! With up to 5 hours ashore, our exact walking route will depend on the days weather but heading west with the coast in the shade of An Sgùrr is one possibility. On a gentle incline out from the village, we scan the high ground for raptors including White-tailed Eagle and Peregrine, with Hen Harrier and Merlin possible over lower-level moorland. Stonechat, Wheatear and Twite are likely in similar habitats and with the smaller island of Muck in view to the south, coastal species might include Red-throated and Great Northern Diver, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser. With an hour-long boat trip at either end of our day to get to/from Eigg, seabirds including Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua, Gannet, Shag and a variety of auks are likely. Cetaceans including Harbour Porpoise, Common Dolphin and Minke Whale are another possibility, and the marine rich waters surrounding the ‘Small Isles’ archipelago are one of the best for Basking Shark.

Day 6: Thursday – Rum day trip
Much of Rum is a national nature reserve, and as such a high percentage of its land mass is actively managed for wildlife . The first (successful) White-tailed Eagle re-introductions took place here, and still thriving today we have chances of them and Golden Eagle soaring over the hills. The largest of the ‘Small Isles’, Rum is a big island and after arriving at the island’s pier within Loch Scresort, we take a walk around a section of its north end. Around the coast we have further chances of Red-throated Diver, seaduck, waders, Grey Seal and Otter. Much famed for its Red Deer population, while exploring inland as well as both eagles we may encounter a late Cuckoo, and hope to see passerines including Whinchat, Sedge Warbler, Rock Pipit and Twite. We have three hours ashore, and if time allows may take a look around the grounds of Kinloch Castle before returning to the Mainland, and onward to Nethy bridge via a more direct route.

Day 7: Friday – Moray Coast
An optional, early-morning excursion to look for Black Grouse returning to their lekking grounds plus other moorland birds will be a good start to our final day. After breakfast we head north to the Moray coast, where in a range of habitats we can expect to see a wide variety of birds and hopefully amass our largest daily bird list. At this time of year, wader numbers are beginning to build with passage species such as Knot, Sanderling, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Ruff and Green Sandpiper among the possibilities. Summering Common Scoter may be seen offshore as might Bottlenose Dolphin, plus roosting flocks of Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern on the beaches. Rich farmland boasts Tree Sparrow, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Stock Dove, Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge and we look for them from viewpoints along minor roads. A fine conclusion to a great week of walking and wildlife watching in the Scottish Highlands.

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

This holiday can be combined with:

Highlands and Wester Ross

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 may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • Two nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation at a West Coast location.
  • 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, boat trip and landing 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 is en-suite, in comfortable hotels.
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 on most days and we expect to walk between 3 - 5 miles each day with some uphill, rocky and uneven terrain. Walking in the Cairngorm Mountains may be over a greater distance, perhaps up to 8 miles and is more strenuous with an elevation of 600m. Getting around the islands of Rum and Eigg also requires a good level of fitness and a walking pole may prove useful.
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.
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. A camera would be useful too!

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