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NEW! Outer Hebrides Summer Explorer

An exciting new tour to the Hebrides, featuring TWO boat trips and some less visited islands

Destination
Focus
2025 Dates
  • 28 Jun - 04 Jul 2025
Duration7 Days
2025 Price
£2345 pp
£225 single supplement. Deposit £300

This is a real adventure, working our way from the Butt of Lewis at the top of the Hebridean chain, enjoying great wildlife and some rarely visited places all the way down to South Uist. It is a brilliant time to visit the archipelago, as young birds including waders take their maiden flights and an abundant of raptor chicks reach the point of fledging too. We explore the land where breeding birds are busy and southbound migration is just starting, and the sea where seabirds will be abundant and we have excellent chances of marine mammals.

Dividing our time between Lewis, Harris, Benbecula and the Uists we spread out into remoter areas to search for a variety of wildlife. Raptors will feature, with Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine and Short-eared Owl all likely. Other key birds include Red-throated and Black-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Golden Plover, Greenshank, Great and Arctic Skua, Common, Arctic and Little Tern, Corn Bunting and Twite. We look for Red-necked Phalarope at the quietest lochs and have chances of Corncrake, and though a sighting at this time of year is less likely with the grass long, we should still hear them. We enjoy all wildlife on this tour, looking out for Otter and seals off the coasts and appreciate the wildflower machair which should be in full bloom by now!

Travelling by boat is one of the best ways to explore the Hebrides, and with two scheduled boat trips (plus two ferry crossings) in the itinerary, we will certainly be busy! We plan to land on Taransay, a beautiful and isolated island great for wildlife and best known for featuring in the Castaway reality series over 20 years ago! We also visit key historic sites including the Callanish Standing Stones, explore the truly wild Uig peninsula for eagles and seabirds and look out for cetaceans in the Minch from Tiumpan Head and during ferry crossings. As well as favourite places Heatherlea have been visiting for many years, our adventure takes us to a number of rarely visited islands so come and join us on this fabulous new holiday to the Outer Hebrides!

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:

SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
Highland Wildlife in early Summer, North West Scotland Explorer, Butterflies, Dragons and Birds 

SCOTTISH ISLANDS
Inner Hebrides from Canna to Iona

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

  • Six nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation. We choose hotels from our personally inspected shortlist, where birders are welcome and the hospitality is special. Guests are never expected to share. Full details with your joining pack.
  • Full Scottish breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening till Friday  morning, packed lunch daily.
  • All transfers by comfortable minibus. Drop off on the departure morning to transport links in Aviemore is included.
  • Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at The Mountview Hotel.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • All ferry costs and boat excursions.
  • Entry fees to historical sites and museums.

What's not included in your holiday price

  • Extra night in Nethy Bridge area at beginning and end of holiday. This can be arranged for you if requested at time of holiday booking.
  • Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
  • Transfers from transport links in Aviemore on arrival.

More holiday information

Accommodation is en-suite, in comfortable hotels throughout.
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 to moderate on most days.
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, especially for boat trips. 
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 Outer Hebrides

WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA FOR YOUR SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURE?

Heatherlea is THE company for top quality birding holidays in Scotland, chosen by more and more birders each year. Relax and enjoy first-rate birding with Scotland’s best guiding team, as we do all the planning! 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. Above all, we make it our business to show key wildlife to you.

These popular holidays are carefully designed to explore the beautiful and wildlife-rich Scottish islands and far west coast. Many itineraries are unique, designed to give you the best of island wildlife at the best time of year. All are run at a leisurely pace, though we might move a little faster when rare migrants and vagrants are in our sights!

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • This holiday has a maximum ratio of 7 clients per guide, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Heatherlea are Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’ This is the highest available grading, classified as ‘exceptional’ by visitScotland.
  • Single guests are never expected or invited to share.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance packed lunch and tips to hotels.
  • 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

'Exceptional'
Visit Scotland

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248

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