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NEW! Birding the Highlands in summer

A welcome return to Scotland's wide open spaces!

Max Group Size7 per guide

A new tour designed to maximise your enjoyment of Scotland’s wonderful birdlife and wide-open spaces. This tour can be run anytime during June and July. At the moment, 'lockdown' means we can't confirm dates, though we will publish them as soon as we are able!

In this welcome return, we focus on the highlights of Scottish birding in summer from difficult to find Highland favourites, to breeding seabirds and specialists of the rugged west coast. Mid-June and July means long evenings, increasing the prospects of seeing many special birds as the Scottish summer gets into full swing.

We enjoy glorious scenery exploring a range of habitats including tranquil Caledonian pinewoods, picturesque glens and moorland, flowing rivers and calm lochs, the vast Cairngorm plateau and the Moray and Black Isle Coast. An exciting visit to the head of mainland Scotland’s only Gannetry will be a real thrill, as will a tour of the dramatic west coast to see soaring eagles, graceful divers and perhaps Otter, seals and cetaceans too. There will certainly be many highlights!

We stay at our own Mountview Hotel in Nethy Bridge throughout, offering flexibility so your guide may select daily activities based around the weather and known birds. We take time to watch birds at their best, aiming to see Ptarmigan, Capercaillie, Red and Black Grouse, all three divers, Slavonian Grebe, Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Osprey, Dotterel, summer plumage waders, terns, Crested Tit, Ring Ouzel, Scottish Crossbill and much more! This holiday will be a welcome breath of fresh air, ideal for general birders who want to see Scotland’s birds in their very best plumage, as well as those who like to keep lists. Join us as we enjoy Birding the Scottish Highlands in summer!

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

Day 2: Sunday – Local birding
We begin locally, searching the Pine forests for specialist Crested Tit and summer breeders including Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit and Redstart. Also found in the forests are Scottish Crossbill and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! Red Squirrel may also be seen and nearby rivers supports Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Goosander and Goldeneye. After lunch, if the weather is favourable we go to a nearby glen to look for Golden Eagle, with White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Raven and Ring Ouzel also possible. Alternatively, we visit moorland lochs for memorable views of Black-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe in full summer finery. Red Grouse plus Golden Plover, Common Tern and Osprey should also be enjoyed and we finish the day with a late-afternoon or Highland summer evening visit to the moors close to The Mountview Hotel. Short-eared Owl breed here, and we frequently see adults quartering the heather while Black Grouse may be encountered loafing close to a lekking site. Breeding Lapwing, Curlew, Snipe, Skylark and Meadow Pipit are present too, a wonderful introduction to Highland birding.

Day 3: Monday – Troup Head boat trip and the Moray Coast
We take an exciting cruise to the foot of Troup Head, to see the nesting birds at mainland Scotland’s only Gannetry. Shag, Fulmar and Kittiwake will be present, and auks on the sea will include Guillemot, Razorbill plus a few Puffin. Marauding Great and Arctic Skua patrol the sea, and we should also see Grey Seal with cetaceans including Bottlenose Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and even Minke Whale possible. Stunning summer plumage Great Northern Diver linger of this coastline well into June and if we are very lucky, we have an outside chance of a late White-billed Diver, which are becoming increasingly regular off the coast here. A fantastic boat trip!

Later we explore the Moray Coast, where there is plenty to see now summer migrants are in breeding mode. Fishing Osprey are likely, along with rafts of Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser and late-staying Common Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. Several species of tern may be seen with Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little possible, as is a late staying Glaucous or Iceland Gull. Waders including Bar and Black-tailed Godwit, Knot, Sanderling and Dunlin should be in bright summer plumage and farmland specialities including Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge are all still found on this fertile coastline too. A day of real variety.

Day 4: Tuesday – Cairngorm Mountain
We plan to spend a full day on the Cairngorm plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right places for Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Our record in June is good and your guide will carefully choose the best day for your comfort and safety, taking care not to disturb the birds. We watch out and for Snow Bunting (often singing), Wheatear, Ring Ouzel and Peregrine as we enjoy the plateau. Brilliant birding in a very special habitat.

Day 5: Wednesday – A West Coast adventure
Today we journey across the Highlands to the stunning West Coast, where our key target is White-tailed Eagle. We should see Golden Eagle too, and with both of these powerful raptors especially active at this time as they hunt to feed growing young, we have excellent chances. Other western specialist birds include Cuckoo, Hooded Crow and Twite, and on the sea will be Red-throated and Great Northern Diver and Black Guillemot in full breeding plumage. As we enjoy the fabulous west coast scenery, we scan the shoreline for Otter and may also encounter Common Seal and cetaceans on this fantastic day.

Day 6: Thursday – Capercaillie
CAPERCAILLIE - a responsible and caring attitude, especially in the breeding season! Our private estate access and unbeatable local knowledge are invaluable for seeing Capercaillie, and our success rate on this holiday is excellent. Heatherlea helped to write the RSPB Code of Conduct for Capercaillie watching, and this is a reliable and responsible way to see the wonderful ‘Horse of the Forest’. Read more... Later, we enjoy a stroll through local birchwoods for Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Tree Pipit and Spotted Flycatcher. Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Treecreeper may also feature and we may choose to revisit the pine forests to search for crossbills and Crested Tit again.

Day 7: Friday – The Black Isle
An optional early start to perhaps catch the last Black Grouse on or near the lek - the birds are more active through May, though we still have a chance of a few males lingering. After breakfast we visit the Black Isle, a great birding location to the north of Inverness. Red Kite are well-established now, and usually give excellent views and at Udale Bay the last remaining Wigeon and Teal will be joined by waders including Curlew, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin , Sanderling, Redshank and Ringed Plover, with perhaps Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Ruff or an unexpected rare wader too. Red-throated Diver, a summering Scaup or other sea-duck are possible and Tree Sparrow are still found here in a few places. Our final day will be flexible, and we may also round up any species we have missed during the week, or search for any known rarities within reach.

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

  • Seven 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 might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days birdwatching.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus during six full days' birding. All access and boat trip fees.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • Saturday courtesy pick-up and return service to Aviemore.
  • A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.

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 light, although the optional mountain walking for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is strenuous.
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. Even hardened Heatherlea guides will have hat and gloves in their bag at this time of year!
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, though not as a serious problem.
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 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 at 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

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248