• Tel: +44(0)1479 821248
  • Request a Brochure

Short Breaks - Scottish Birding in Early Autumn

Three days of exciting birding across the Highlands, featuring pelagic birds and sea mammals!

As summer turns to autumn in the north of Scotland, join this exciting short break to catch early migration, combined with the best available birding on the Scottish mainland. We search inland for iconic species including Golden Eagle, Crested Tit, Osprey, Scottish Crossbill, Red Grouse and more, and our sea and coastal birding should be memorable. We cross The Minch to the Outer Hebrides on an exciting pelagic birding adventure, where sightings might include Great and Arctic Skua, White-tailed Eagle, Black Guillemot, Storm Petrel, Manx Shearwater, Red-throated Diver, and even Sooty Shearwater, Long-tailed or Pomarine Skua. Another day at the coast should produce migrating waders in bright breeding plumage, plus divers, gulls and terns, and with three full days to explore, your birdlist should be packed with exciting northern species.

Above all, your holiday includes the services of a resident Heatherlea Guide, a very valuable asset! Much more than a friend to help you identify birds, or a driver to take you to special places, your Heatherlea Guide plans your entire holiday, from briefing on the first evening to round-up on the last. Knowing where the birds and mammals have been showing, and the best route to maximise your chances. They will organise everything to suit wildlife, weather and your progress through the holiday. We think you will see far more with a Heatherlea Tour Guide than without, and of course you can relax and enjoy your holiday as we do the planning.

Ideal for your first guided wildlife experience, or for busy birders who don't have a full week to spare, this holiday is based here at our Hotel in Nethy Bridge, at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. As usual, this Heatherlea holiday is fully inclusive, meaning all travel, accommodation and food is included.

This 'Short Break' offers an exciting birding experience, though we recommend a full week holiday to target all available Scottish birding including all specialities. A full week is also recommended to those who would like to enjoy birding in a second centre on the islands or in the far north. Your holiday may run alongside a Heatherlea Full Week 'Mainland Scotland' tour.

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

Day 2: Local day
Our first day is firmly focused on the birds which make this wonderful part of the country so special. Before breakfast we take a local drive to places where Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier and Black Grouse are possible, and we hope to obtain good close views of Red Grouse. After breakfast we head for the Caledonian Pinewoods with Crested Tit and Capercaillie in our sights. Scottish Crossbill occur too, though with Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! Red Squirrel are likely, though you may have already seen them at close quarters during breakfast on our hotel feeders! Later we head for open moorland looking for Golden Eagle, Osprey, Raven, Peregrine, Dipper and perhaps Ring Ouzel. A classic day birding the Scottish Highlands. 

Day 3: West Coast sea-trip
This exciting day trip takes you all the way to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides! We join the ferry as foot passengers, enjoying great birding and with the added chance of seeing some special mammals. Seabirds might include Great and Arctic Skua, Storm Petrel, Sooty and Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Kittiwake, terns, gulls and auks including Puffin and Black Guillemot. Rarities worth watching for include Leach’s Petrel, Sabine’s Gull and both Long-tailed and Pomarine Skua. Whilst close to land, we also have the chance of White-tailed Eagle and Hooded Crow. Minke Whale, Basking Shark, Bottle-nosed and Common Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise are possible during our seatrip. With Heatherlea, birders with limited time have the chance to enjoy all the fun of Scottish pelagic birding with experienced guides at the best time of year!

Day 4: Coastal day
Our third day offers a complete contrast as we visit the northern coastline. The Moray coast offers a good selection of waders, perhaps including Turnstone and Sanderling. We should also see a variety of gulls and terns, and will look for farmland birds including increasingly rare species such as Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge and Yellowhammer. As an alternative we might visit the Black Isle, where Red Kite and returning summer-plumaged waders can be found. Either day offers a good chance of Bottle-nosed Dolphin and both Common and Grey Seals. Scarce waders in either location might include Pectoral Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper. Your Guide will choose the best option depending on weather and recent sightings.

This short break is merely a ‘dip’ into the birdlife of the Highlands. You can reasonably expect around 90 species, including many key Scottish summer specialities, and a host of northern birds which might be difficult to see elsewhere in Britain.

Day 5: Departure 

Breakfast and depart. Don’t forget our courtesy service to transport links in Aviemore.

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

  • Four 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.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Three full days wildlife watching.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus, access to reserves and private estates.
  • 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.
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 very light throughout. We do not go to the mountain on this itinerary.
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, including hat and gloves for the boat trip.
Biting insects may be encountered, though not as a major problem.
Group size maximum 8 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 on 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

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

Trip Reports

Coming Soon

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248