An exciting summer itinerary to see the birdlife of mountain and moor, forest and coast, with special attention paid to the rugged beauty and desolate vistas of the islands of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, voted as the best island destination in Europe!
On this two-centre holiday we spend time enjoying glorious scenery, long evenings and some of the best summer birding in Britain. With five nights at our own Mountview Hotel in Nethy Bridge, we have time to comb all the special habitats, including tranquil Caledonian pinewoods and the vast Cairngorm mountain plateau. We will watch Slavonian Grebe, Red and Black-throated Divers, Peregrine, fishing Osprey, Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill and Crested Tit and lots more! Breeding Ptarmigan and Dotterel should give us a great day out on the mountains, and we also utilise the evening light to seek out quartering Short-eared Owl over local heather moorland. Guaranteed excitement from magnificent mountaintop to the scenic grandeur of Lewis and Harris, where we spend two nights to watch for Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and Otters. The double ferry crossing of The Minch also promises exciting birding, with Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua, Black Guillemot, other auk species, gulls, terns and Gannet to entertain us.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?
- Glorious Hebridean island landscapes
- Dotterel and Ptarmigan on the high plateau
- Hen Capercaillie with chicks from the safe vantage of our mobile hide
- Golden and White-tailed Eagles wheeling overhead in a clear blue sky
DAY 1: Saturday
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday
A morning in the Abernethy forest to look for Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill. We often see adults with fledged young at this time. Later we investigate local lochs and rivers, birchwoods and moorland. Your list may include Osprey, Dipper, Buzzard, Goldeneye, Red Grouse, Black-throated Diver, Lesser Redpoll, Peregrine, a host of breeding waders and Slavonian Grebe. Often over fifty species are seen on this day. The beauty of divers and grebes in breeding plumage spellbinds many of our guests, and during this holiday we make time to find them at close quarters to admire them. Obviously this will be done in a sensitive and responsible way, and our mobile hide minibuses will be invaluable!
DAYS 3 - 5: Monday - Wednesday THE OUTER LIMITS ADVENTURE
A three-day, two-night visit to the northern Outer Hebrides, one of the most spectacular island destinations in the world! We sail from Skye to Harris, and in summer sunshine this can be an unforgettable experience, with majestic mountain scenery and rugged coastlines. We have often added an eagle species and a cetacean to our list before leaving the inshore waters of the west coast! The mountains of the Outer Hebrides loom larger as we scan for seabirds and mammals; Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua, and Storm Petrel are possible, as are Minke Whale, Bottle-nosed and Common Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise and Grey and Common Seal. On Lewis our activities will suit the weather and any known rare birds. We visit the Butt of Lewis to search for seabirds and vagrants, and explore the remote west coast for raptors on the peatlands, and check a few hidden lochans that hold nesting waders. White-tailed and Golden Eagle, Merlin and Hen Harrier are realistic targets on the vast moorlands, with Golden Plover and the occasional Greenshank and diver on the peatlands. Our last morning may be spent looking for eagles or cetaceans perhaps from viewpoints such as Tiumpan Head. We then head for home on the ferry via Ullapool, a long crossing with an excellent chance of cetaceans and scarcer seabirds, returning to The Mountview on Wednesday evening. A great birding adventure!
DAY 6 - 7: Thursday – Friday
We spend a full day on the plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right spots for Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Our record in June is very good, we carefully choose the best day for your comfort and safety, and also take care not to disturb the birds. Look out also for Snow Bunting (often breeding). Brilliant birding in a very special habitat.
We visit our exclusive private estate woodlands in our large minibus to look for Capercaillie, and in June hen birds are more likely, perhaps with chicks. Later we drive to the Inner Moray Firth, and expect to see a range of breeding birds including Osprey fishing, Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern, Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill are also possible, and stray waders may include Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit and Red Knot in breeding plumage. We may also round up any species we have missed during the week, and search for any 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).
This holiday can be combined with:
Highlands and Orkney, Highland Wildlife.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
Islands on the Edge, Outer Hebrides and Shiants, North-west Highlands.
More Holiday Information
Accommodation at Mountview Hotel can be seen here. www.mountviewhotel.co.uk . All accommodation is en-suite unless otherwise advised before your booking is confirmed. Our accommodation in Stornoway is comfortable and 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.
Walking will be mostly light, although mountain walking for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is a strenuous, full day hike of around 5 or 6 miles with over 1000ft of climb. Guests can opt out of this day.
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 whatever the time of year!
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, though not as a serious problem. A good repellent is always recommended just in case.
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.
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 might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Two nights comfortable en-suite accommodation on Lewis.
* 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 ferry 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.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
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 27 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!’
'Exceptional' - VisitScotland