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Highland Mammals and More!

A dedicated tour for Scottish mammals including Beaver, Pine Marten, Otter, cetaceans and many more!

2024 Dates
  • 20 Jul - 27 Jul 2024
Duration8 Days
2024 Price
£1695 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
2025 Dates
  • 19 Jul - 26 Jul 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
£1695 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7

 This is an exciting summer holiday, where we try to see as many of Scotland’s mammals (including some which can be a challenge!) Our time is divided between Strathspey, under watched Angus and Perthshire, the Moray Firth and the Minch – the latter a marine rich stretch of sea between the West coast and Outer Hebrides. Many of our mammals have nocturnal habits and/or can be extremely elusive, so dedicated evening visits to a Pine Marten hide and a Beaver viewpoint give us good chances of connecting with these two key species. We also hope to see Otter, Badger, Mountain Hare, Red Squirrel and commoner land mammals including bats and deer. On the coasts we look for Common and Grey Seal plus cetaceans, of which Common and Bottlenose Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale are the most likely. Though with the Minch’s growing reputation for ‘large’ whales, even Humpback and Fin Whale may be possible on our ferry boat trip!

And while this tour specifically focuses on mammal watching, naturally we will see birds and other wildlife too. Highland birds could include Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Slavonian Grebe and Black-throated Diver amid spectacular forest and moorland surroundings. During our time in Angus and Perthshire, we may see Ptarmigan in the mountains, plus Black and Red Grouse, Ring Ouzel, Wheatear and raptors including Hen Harrier. Depending on the coastal sites visited, we might encounter moulting Common and Velvet Scoter, or flocks of terns containing a stray Black Tern or Little Gull? The Montrose Basin is a famous site, and returning wader passage will be well under way both here and on the Moray and Black Isle coasts. We also look for Osprey, Water Rail, Whinchat, Common Crossbill and other birds across a range of habitats in Perthshire.

Summer is a great time for other natural history too, and Speyside in particular is home to some scarce butterflies, dragonflies and wildflowers. Nothing will be ignored, though be prepared for shorter days in the field and late nights in our quest to see some of Highland Scotland’s most special mammals!

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

  • European Beaver (and perhaps Otter too) on a quiet river in Perthshire.
  • Pine Marten at a specialist hide. 
  • A range of cetaceans including Minke Whale from our ferry boat trip into the Minch.
  • Close views of Bottlenose Dolphin in the Moray Firth.

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

Day 2: Sunday – Local mammals and wildlife
Strathspey is a wonderful place for many of our targets, and we begin in local woodlands where delightful Red Squirrel may well be our first mammal. Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill are two specialist birds also found in the Highland forests, though with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, confident identification of the latter can pose a real challenge! Later we visit moorland and local hills with Brown Hare, Mountain Goat, Red, Roe and Sika Deer in mind. Raptors including Red Kite and eagles may be seen, while on lochs in the area we may encounter Slavonian Grebe and Black-throated Diver with well grown chicks.

A range of common mammals such as Stoat, Weasel plus mice, voles and shrews also frequent Speyside though these are difficult to predict and target. We often see the first Scotch Argus hatching around this time, while scarce dragonflies can include Northern Emerald. After dinner, we head out for a few hours on a night drive or walk for Daubenton’s, Common and Soprano Pipistrelle Bat. We have also added Badger and Hedgehog to our mammal list which we hope to see and Barn, Tawny, Short-eared and Long-eared Owl and Woodcock are sometimes seen too.

Day 3: Monday – Deeside and into Perthshire
We drive east through Deeside, skirting the edge of the Cairngorms National Park and into Angus with wildlife stops along the way. A good area for Red and Black Grouse, we may encounter the latter from the roadside or as birds return to known lekking sites. We make stops for raptors, with Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, Kestrel and Short-eared Owl perhaps over moorland, and Goshawk around Sitka Spruce plantations. Likely mammals as we travel include Brown Hare, Red and Roe Deer, and if the weather conditions are favourable, we take a scenic walk in the hills for Mountain Hare, Ptarmigan, Ring Ouzel and Wheatear.

After taking an early dinner, our attention is focused on European Beaver and Pine Marten, with dedicated visits to a hide or viewing area for these elusive mammals. Which mammal we target tonight will depend on the weather, with the other species being targeted the following night. Please note there is roughly a 2 mile walk to get to the Beaver watching location. It is over relatively good ground although a reasonable level of fitness is required. Each mammal watching session will likely last around 3 hours (and are of course are optional).

Day 4: Tuesday – Montrose Basin and the Angus coast,
Today (at least during daylight hours) we are mainly birding, visiting a range of exciting sites around the Angus coast. The Montrose Basin is renowned for passage waders and among those we may see are Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel, Redshank, Greenshank, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone. This is a good time of year for scarcer species, and we search through the flocks for Curlew Sandpiper or Little Stint with the possibility of rarities such as Pectoral Sandpiper. Later we visit Lunan Bay for moulting Common and Velvet Scoter, with chances of Grey Seal and Bottlenose Dolphin here too. At other sites around the coast, Little Gull, Black or Roseate Tern can sometimes tag onto post-breeding tern flocks and we will plan to visit harbours and roosting sites. After a day with some great coastal birdlife, we return to our hotel in good time for our second evening mammal excursion for either Pine Marten or European Beaver.

Day 5: Wednesday – Perthshire and return to Nethy Bridge
Loch of Kinnordy may be visited first today, where Otter may be seen with patience. Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Great Crested Grebe, Water Rail and breeding wildfowl including Gadwall and Shoveler might also feature, with Red Squirrel and Tree Sparrow just two of the species which regularly visiting the feeders. Nearby sites include Lintrathen and Backwater Reservoir - both good for raptors such as Osprey, Golden Eagle and Peregrine. Different habitats await as we begin our journey back to Nethy Bridge including the River Tay and local forests. Goosander, Common Sandpiper, Dipper and Grey Wagtail favour flowing rivers and streams, and on a woodland walk we may see Red Squirrel, Nuthatch, Jay, Common Crossbill, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Treecreeper. Forests in this area also support perhaps the highest concentration of Honey Buzzard in the UK, though they can be notoriously elusive. We keep things flexible, and if the sun is out may go looking for butterflies, with rare Mountain Ringlet and Large Heath possible in the region!

Day 6: Thursday – Cetacean watching in the Minch
We travel to Ullapool, perhaps seeing Red Deer, Raven and Hooded Crow on the way before joining the ferry to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The ferry is a large ship with excellent, elevated views in all directions – perfect for cetacean watching!

We take both the outbound and return sailings to maximise our chances, keeping watch for the tell-tale splashes of any whales and dolphins. Commoner species in this stretch of water at this time include Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale with a good chance of Risso’s Dolphin too. With a growing reputation for other scarce species, more and more cetacean watchers are focusing their attentions on the Minch! And with multiple recent records of Humpback and Fin Whale, Orca and White-beaked Dolphin, anything is possible during our 5 hours at sea. Seabirds add plenty of birding interest to our day with Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel, auks including Black Guillemot and Puffin, Great and Arctic Skua all likely. Scarcer species such as Sooty Shearwater could also be seen, and there are even chances of Golden and White-tailed Eagle over the surrounding hills on this absorbing day.

Day 7: Friday – Black Isle or Moray Coast round up day
We watch the weather and take stock of our progress with mammal targets before settling on the day’s activity. Options include the Black Isle or Moray Coast, and both offer chances of encountering the semi-resident pod of Bottlenose Dolphin which spend the summer in these waters. Grey and Common Seal may be seen and we could choose to look for Otter at known sites around the Inner Moray Firth if we didn’t see them in Perthshire. Bird wise, waders will be seen in any of the coastal habitats we explore, while in farmland we might come across Grey Partridge, Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer with a slim chance of Red Fox.

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

This holiday can be combined with:

Eagles, Divers and DotterelHighlands and Wester Ross, Birds and Mammals featuring Muck and Eigg, Highlands and Outer Hebrides

Shetland Wildlife in 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 comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation in Angus or Perthshire close to evening mammal sites. 
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days wildlife watching.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus.
  • All hide and ferry trip fees.
  • 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. In Perthshire we select from a range of comfortable Hotels. All accommodation is en-suite.
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.
Mammal Watching in Scotland means late nights, and on this tour periods waiting (up to 3 hours) in a dedicated hide or viewing area for Pine Marten and European Beaver. As such, this can feel like an intensive and busy tour, so guides will often shorten daytime sessions with later breakfast times to give time to recover.
Walking will be mainly light, although hill walking for Mountain Hare and Ptarmigan can be strenuous and may need us to cover some distance.  There is roughly a 2 mile walk to get to the Beaver watching location. It is over relatively good ground although a reasonable level of fitness is required.
Weather - Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine, wind and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing for evening excursions.
Biting insects are quite possible at this time of year and we would recommend you bring insect repellent as a precaution.
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, 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

Visit Scotland

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248