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Outer Hebrides and the Shiant Isles - July

A High Summer tour of the Inner and Outer Hebrides: The best of Skye, Harris, Lewis and the Shiant Isles.

A unique holiday, taking you to some of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes in the whole of Britain. This holiday visits some of the most remote and isolated parts of the UK, and includes two boat trips to help us reach Little Bernera on the west side of Lewis, and later the Shiant Isles on the eastern side.

We travel across Skye, where highlights include Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Otter and incredible scenery with the Cuillin Ridge as a backdrop. We also search for Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl on remote back roads. As we cross to Harris the day after, Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel and hopefully a summering Great Northern Diver are our targets.

On Lewis, we explore the rarely visited south and west corner, targeting Golden Eagle, White–tailed Eagle, Merlin, Twite, Wheatear, Red-throated Diver, Cuckoo, Eider, Greenshank and other waders, Common and Grey Seal and Otter. Other highlights are a visit to the heritage site of Callanish standing stones and the ancient Dun Carloway broch. At the Butt of Lewis, seabirds fly around the north-western edge of the British Isles, and occasionally breeding birds from Iceland can descend. 

A major destination is the Shiant Isles, twelve miles from the northern tip of Skye. This is a very important Puffin site, hosting around 240,000 birds, two percent of the World population! We charter our own RHIB, and as we head over the water we often see Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua and Great Skua around the ‘flurries’ of fish, hosts of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, the occasional Storm Petrel, and more - the seas can teem with birds! We have excellent chances of Rock Dove, Peregrine and White tailed Eagle. On our final morning we visit Tiumpan Head to scan the sea - the list of cetaceans spotted from here is amazing.

Day 1: Saturday - Skye
We depart Nethy Bridge in the morning and travel across Scotland past Loch Ness and the Seven Sisters of Kintail to the famous Skye Bridge. We have time to explore the southern part of Skye, Scotland’s largest island, and may enjoy our first sightings of Golden Eagle today. Otter are frequently seen in the sealoch outside our hotel, and we will also enjoy sightings of waders, gulls, auks and Gannet, and passerines such as Wheatear, Rock Pipit and Twite. We overnight on Skye.

Day 2: Sunday - across the Little Minch from Skye to Harris
We cross Skye looking out for both Golden and White-tailed Eagles, with Raven, Hooded Crow and perhaps Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl also in view. We join our large ferry and enjoy birding as we cross The Little Minch to the Isle of Harris. Great and Arctic Skua are frequently seen, Black Guillemot and other auks are likely, as are Kittiwake, Gannet, Cormorant and Shag. Manx Shearwater and Storm Petrel are also possible, and on arrival we look for eagles and seals. We stay at our comfortable base on Harris for two nights.

Day 3: Monday - Harris
Listed as one of the top island destinations in the world, we will take a slow tour of this spectacular ancient landscape, enjoying the wonderful views and wildlife as we go. Golden Eagles live here at a high density and we can expect several encounters throughout the day. The Sound of Taransay and Luskentyre beaches are two good birding sites which we will bird throughout the day. Ask anyone who has been, Harris on a fine summer's day is one of the most stunning places in the world!

Day 4: Tuesday - The Shiant Isles
We journey to the neighbouring island of Lewis which will be our base for the next three nights. Today, we take a chartered RHIB to the Shiant Isles, twelve miles from the northern tip of Skye. This is a major Puffin site, hosting around 240,000 birds, two percent of the world’s population! We take a non-landing cruise, as there are no facilities for visitors on the Shiants. As we sail, Manx Shearwater, Arctic and Great Skua around the ‘flurries’ of fish, hosts of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, the occasional Storm Petrel, and more will be seen. The seas can teem with birds, with perhaps an early Sooty Shearwater fresh from the Southern Hemisphere may sail through! We have excellent chances of Rock Dove, Peregrine and White tailed Eagle, and should encounter Otter on rocky beaches and inlets. During the trip, Minke Whale, Basking Shark, Bottle-nosed, Common and Risso’s Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise are all very possible.

Day 5: Wednesday - West Lewis and Little Bernera
The west coast of Lewis is one of the most remote and unexplored parts of the British Isles. We travel down scenic minor roads, enjoying roadside Red Deer and numerous upland birds targeting Golden Eagle, White–tailed Eagle, Merlin, Twite, Wheatear, Red-throated Diver, Cuckoo, Eider, Greenshank, Common and Grey Seal as well as Otter. Heading to one of our favourite corners of the Hebrides, this is the wild west of Lewis, especially around Uig and Valtos with its stunning beaches and rugged scenery. From here we will take a RHIB boat trip around the rocky headlands and islets, seeing Common Seals and other sealife. Weather permitting we will land on Little Bernera for an exploration of this uninhabited isle, taking a close look at the botany and birdlife.

Day 6 : Thursday - Lewis
Today we explore the north and west coast of Lewis. Amid stunning scenery we also look for waders including Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone and Dunlin in summer plumage on the beaches, and Red Deer on the hills. We will also seawatch from the Butt of Lewis where seabirds fly around the north-western edge of the British Isles. We also scan the network of shallow lochs and lochans on the west coast, looking for early scarce migrant waders such as American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper or Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the water's edge or in neighbouring boggy fields. A few pairs of rare and elusive Red-necked Phalarope may be present also. Hebridean Dunnock, Wren and Song Thrush are found here, and we will take time to look for them. Other highlights are a visit to the heritage site of Callanish standing stones and the ancient Dun Carloway broch.

Day 7 : Friday - Lewis and across the Minch back to the Mainland
Our final morning on Lewis, and we may visit Tiumpan Head to scan the sea. Bays can hold sea-ducks and Black-throated Divers, which may congregate here in late summer. The seas around Tiumpan Head are increasingly productive of Orca and Risso's Dolphin, and we hope for an encounter here. We join the afternoon ferry from Stornoway to the mainland, and return to Nethy Bridge in the evening.

This holiday can be combined with:

The ‘Outer Limits’ in Summer, Eagles, Divers and Dotterel.

Inner Hebrides from Canna to Iona,  Ultimate Outer Hebrides.

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 accommodation at 3 centres. All rooms are en-suite. Single guests are never expected to share, though a single supplement is payable as above. Single guests might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, packed lunch, and a delicious dinner. Meals are included from Dinner on the first day until breakfast on the final day.
  • Six days wildlife watching.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus.
  • All ferry fees and boat trips, including chartered RHIBs to Shiant Islands and Little Bernera, and ferry to and from Harris and Lewis, and Harris to Berneray.
  • We offer a courtesy drop off service to Aviemore on the Saturday morning at the end of the trip.
  • A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.

What's not included in your holiday price

  • Transport to Nethy Bridge.
  • Extra night in Nethy Bridge area before and after your holiday. This can be arranged for you if requested at time of holiday booking.
  • Meals, accommodation and transport outwith the holiday as described above.
  • Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.


More holiday information

Accommodation is en-suite, in comfortable hotels.
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 moderate, with some of the terrain uneven, rocky or boggy, with a few stiles to negotiate. Guests must be able to get on to a RHIB with saddle seats if they wish to take the optional boat trips.
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. Strong winds can be a feature on the islands so a hat and glove are essential, especially for boat trips.
Biting insects may be encountered. A good repellent is recommended, just in case.
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!

Getting here is easy!
BY CAR/RAIL This holiday departs from our Hotel in Nethy Bridge. You may leave your vehicle securely parked free of charge.
Nethy Bridge is approximately 13 miles from Aviemore, our closest mainline station with regular links from the south.
BY AIR. Flights to Inverness from regional and London airports. There is a rail link from Inverness railway station to Aviemore.

Other birdwatching holidays in Outer Hebrides


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

Visit Scotland

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248