Day 1: Sat 28 June 2025 – Travel to the Hebrides
Departing Nethy Bridge after breakfast, we travel through the Highlands and drive onto Skye via its famous bridge. We should have time for a couple of birding stops en-route, perhaps seeing our first Raven, Hooded Crow, ‘real’ Rock Dove or even eagles before boarding the ferry at Uig and crossing the Minch on a course for the Hebrides. Scanning from the ferry deck, we look out seabirds including Gannet, Fulmar, Shag, Kittiwake and auks including a few Puffin before arriving at Lochmaddy, on North Uist mid-afternoon. With many great birding sites here, we may choose to investigate moorland lochans for breeding Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, perhaps also seeing Red Grouse, Cuckoo, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit among the heather. We stay overnight on Benbecula for three nights.
Day 2: Sun 29 June – North Uist
We take our time today to fully explore some of the best natural locations on North Uist, especially the Balranald RSPB reserve. Famous for its nesting waders, rich machair and seascapes, this is a true gem and is arguably one of the best places in the UK to look for Corncrake. There can be no guarantees, especially at this time of year when the grass is long, though we should hear the males rasping calls, and with perseverance may be rewarded with a glimpse or two… We also dedicate time to waders, 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, Curlew, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Snipe, Dunlin, Sanderling, Knot and Turnstone among the likely species. Red-necked Phalarope are another target on some of the quieter lochs, with Whooper Swan and other wildfowl including Shoveler, Gadwall and Tufted Duck also breeding at freshwater sites. A remnant population of Corn Bunting survive on North Uist, and we should also see Meadow and Rock Pipit, Twite, Skylark and Wheatear in the sandy fields.
Day 3: Mon 30 June - Benbecula, Ronay and South Uist
In the morning we take the first of two planned boat trips, slowly exploring the island of Ronay and adjacent skerries off the east side of Benbecula. Being on the water offers a unique opportunity to see the wildlife at close quarters, giving us excellent chances of memorable encounters with White-tailed Eagle, Red-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Bottlenose Dolphin, Otter, Grey and Common Seal.
Later we work our way down through South Uist, the second largest of the Hebridean islands featuring a range of habitats from rocky crags and glens, sea and freshwater lochs, rich croft and machair land to an unbroken, 20 mile long sandy beach! Both of the eagles are likely and Hen Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl can turn up just about anywhere. We have a chance of Corncrake in the meadows and iris beds here too, and with more patches of scrub and tree cover than other parts of the Hebrides, Sedge Warbler, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll are breeding. If our wildlife targets have all been met, we can make time for historical sites of interest, or take the causeway across to Eriskay to ‘bag’ another island and look for Otter and seals.
Day 4: Tue 1 July - Berneray and transfer to Lewis/Harris
With a little time on North Uist, we can revisit some of our favourite places or perhaps explore the island of Berneray – a great place to appreciate the machair in full bloom! Departing the Uists around lunchtime, our ferry takes a slow and meandering journey through the many islets of the Sound of Harris, perfect for spotting White-tailed Eagle, divers and any hauled out seals. On arrival in Leverburgh, the high, white granite hills dominate and with such different terrain to the Uists, it instantly feels like a different place entirely! Needing to head north for our accommodation, the ‘golden road’ is a good route to lead us away from the busier areas, deep into the hills and through numerous eagle territories. Later we drive onto Lewis, not actually a separate island to Harris but home to Stornoway, the Hebridean capital where we stay for the next three nights.
Day 5: Wed 2 July – Harris boat trip and the Isle of Taransay
A full day on the water, with exciting prospects to explore Hebridean Islands where remote communities have come and gone. Our boat trip begins at Tarbet, where we slowly meander our way down the east side of Harris to Leverburgh, watching out for seals and eagles as we go. Both are likely around the many islets of the Sound of Harris too, as are Red-throated Diver, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser. And while the weather conditions will dictate our exact route, we will likely see the islands of Ensay, Copay, Pabay and Shillay, passing close enough to some of them to look for wildlife. With local history and stories to tell from each and every island, throughout the day we take in former settlements, spanning eras including the Iron and Bronze ages up to 3000 years ago.
Taransay will be our main target island, a fascinating place and home to some of the best sandy beaches in the Hebrides and of course the Castaway reality series over 20 years ago. We plan to spend a few hours ashore here, where the wildflower machair can be fabulous despite the sizeable Red Deer population. Young eagles often venture this way from Harris in search of food, while the beaches can be a great place to watch feeding Sanderling, Dunlin and Turnstone and roosting Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern. Departing Taransay, we look out for the summering Common Scoter flock, before a wonderful day on the ocean wave comes to its end at Tarbet.
Day 6: Thurs 3 July – Lewis
Dedicating the day to the northernmost Island in the Hebridean chain, we visit the Butt of Lewis looking out into the Atlantic for any passing seabirds and cetaceans. Working our way along the west side of Lewis, in between the rugged coastline a number of sheltered bays can be good for wildlife while much of the interior is a vast peatland, internationally important for breeding divers, waders such as Greenshank and a few pairs of Great Skua. A high density of White-tailed and Golden Eagle are present, activity in the skies often distracting from key archaeological sites such as Dun Carloway and the Standing Stones of Callanish. We visit both and if time allows the Blackhouse at Arnol too, or the wild Uig peninsula and its stunning beach where the Lewis Chessmen pieces were discovered in 1831.
Day 7: Tiumpan and return to Nethy Bridge
Our last morning may be spent at Tiumpan Head, a location with an excellent track record for large whales. Joining those watching from the headland, in the summer months Fin and Humpback Whale are increasingly recorded from the Minch, along with more regular Minke Whale. Large pods of Common Dolphin play offshore, with Risso’s, Bottle-nosed and Atlantic White-beaked Dolphin possible too, while Harbour Porpoise are common. There may be chance to visit the museum and grounds at Lews Castle too, a good place for a last minute Hebridean Song Thrush or Hebridean Wren. After lunch we head for home on the ferry, the marine rich waters of the northern Minch offering a good chance of Storm Petrel, Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua. After docking at Ullapool, we drive back to Nethy Bridge arriving at around 7pm when our tour ends.
This holiday can be combined with:
Highland Wildlife in early Summer, North West Scotland Explorer, Butterflies, Dragons and Birds
Inner Hebrides from Canna to Iona