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Highlands and Wester Ross

High Summer wildlife by land and sea

2024 Dates
  • 13 Jul - 20 Jul 2024
Duration8 Days
2024 Price
£1695 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
2025 Dates
  • 26 Jul - 02 Aug 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
£1695 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

'Wester Ross' refers to a remote, beautiful and wild area of western Scotland, located roughly between Ullapool and Loch Broom in the north, Loch Carron in the south, and Kinlochewe in the east. Unspoilt and spectacular with rugged and empty coastlines, mighty mountains often rising directly from the sea, beautiful lochs and remnants of Caledonian pine forest, Wester Ross is rich in wildlife. This holiday aims to show you the very best during three memorable days, exploring remote places and also includes an exhilarating boat trip on which we may find Minke Whale, Harbour Porpoise, dolphins and perhaps Basking Shark. 

We target a wide range of Scottish speciality birds, including Ptarmigan at a scenic west coast location to avoid the strenuous Cairngorm walk normally required to see them. With a couple of days to see the exceptional high-summer birdlife of mountain, moor and forest here in Strathspey, and another coastal adventure at Troup Head, Scotland's only mainland Gannetry, this holiday is full of exciting adventures from beginning to end. We take our time in picture-postcard villages, including Applecross, Shieldaig, Pennan and Crovie to give a different flavour of wildlife and local culture. This is a holiday ideal for the wildlife enthusiast looking for a gentle, relaxing week in the Highlands, with special attention to the wonderful west coast.

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

  • Golden and White-tailed Eagle above the picturesque west coast
  • Ptarmigan on high ground within walking distance of our minibus
  • Storm Petrel skimming around the boat as dolphins breach yards away
  • Scotland's only mainland Gannetry at Troup Head

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

Day 2: Sunday - Local birding
Purple heather moors, the deep greens of the ancient pinewoods and long warm days make this a lovely time to visit the Scottish Highlands. We take a gentle stroll to look for Crested Tit and other summer breeders. 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! Later in the day we explore local moorland for breeding waders, lochans for Slavonian Grebe and Red-throated Diver and fast flowing streams for Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Goldeneye, Goosander and Common Sandpiper.

Days 3 - 5: Monday - Wednesday - WEST COAST BIRDING, Gruinard Bay to Applecross
We drive to the West Coast, south of Ullapool watching out for Golden and White-tailed Eagle throughout our three days away. Other likely birds including Raven, Hooded Crow, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Meadow Pipit, with Red Deer and Mountain Goat likely as we travel. On the coast, Black-throated Diver are beginning to gather post-breeding in sheltered bays and they should still look their best in summer plumage. Gannet, Kittiwake, terns and auks will be on the water and we scout for Otter along the rugged shoreline. Waders may include Dunlin, Sanderling, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, perhaps in summer plumage as birds return south.

We stay overnight on the West Coast for two nights, and on one day take an exciting boat trip out into the Minch. Taking a fast RHIB we get to the best areas to look for cetaceans including Minke Whale, Common and Risso's Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise. Rarer, large Whales are also being more frequently recorded in these waters and Basking Shark can occur too. Seabirds including Great and Arctic Skua, Storm Petrel, Manx Shearwater and Black Guillemot may be seen among commoner species on this fantastic trip.

We spend time in the Applecross hills, where we search for Ptarmigan within a short walk of our vehicles. Surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, on a clear day we can enjoy magnificent views across to Skye, and even the Outer Hebrides. Exploring sheltered bays around picturesque Applecross village sea-duck including Eider and Red-breasted Merganser are likely, and there is a high density of Otter on these coasts! Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll and a variety of summering passerines may be found in quiet wooded areas fed by clear streams, with Twite and Rock Pipit possible on coastal headlands. Moorland breeders include Great Skua, Golden Plover, Greenshank, Snipe with Merlin a possibility just about anywhere in the far west! We return to Nethy Bridge via Torridon for further chances of eagles - the stunning mountains here a great way to end our three days away.

Day 6: Thursday - Troup Head
Scotland's only mainland Gannetry is at Troup Head, and we spend the day in western Aberdeenshire enjoying the spectacle of several thousand seabirds! At this time, Gannet are the most populous bird on the cliffs, though there will still be many other species on the waters below, including Razorbill, Guillemot, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Shag and a few Puffin and Black Guillemot too. We visit the picturesque local villages of Crovie and Pennan, returning via Banff and Macduff, where the outlet of the River Deveron often produces excellent birding and a few surprises such as terns or an out-of-season Iceland Gull.    

Day 7: Friday - Local round-up/Black Isle
An optional early start to a remote local spot where Short-eared Owl are often seen feeding large chicks on the open moorland, or to find Black Grouse as they return to lekking sites. After breakfast we again enjoy local birding to find anything we may have missed earlier in the week. Red-throated and Black-throated Diver or Slavonian Grebe may feature, or if we have seen desirable Speyside targets we may venture north to the Inner Moray Firth or Black Isle. There a favourable tide should give us good views of returning waders, wildfowl alongside breeding terns. Osprey and Red Kite are both likely, as are farmland birds including Grey Partridge and we may also encounter the semi-resident pod of Bottlenose Dolphin.   

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

This holiday can be combined with:

Eagles, Divers & Dotterel including Mull, Butterflies, Dragons and BirdsHighland Wildlife in High SummerHighland Mammals and more

Mull and Ardnamurchan Wildlife Spectacular, Coll and Tiree in SummerOrkney 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 may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • Two nights at a comfortable hotel on the west coast with full en suite facilities.
  • 2-3 hour boat trip out into the Minch for birds and cetaceans
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days wildlife watching.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader, and any extra guiding services on the west coast.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus.
  • 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 unless otherwise advised before your booking is confirmed. Our accommodation for two nights on the west coast is a comfortable, fully en-suite hotel.
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 mountain walking for Ptarmigan can be on rough and rocky terrain. All walks are optional.
Boat Trips Guests must be able to get on to a RHIB with saddle seats if they wish to take the optional boat trips.
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, with hat and gloves in your day sack especially if you wish to take the boat trip!
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, especially in the west of Scotland, though not as a serious problem. Please bring a 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 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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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248