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NEW! Northumberland in Winter

A winter exploration of one of the most beautiful counties in England

2025 Dates
  • 01 Nov - 07 Nov 2025
Duration7 Days
2025 Price
£1995 pp
£195 single supplement. Deposit £400
Max Group Size12

Northumberland is one of the most picturesque and unspoilt corners of England, and is home to some of the UK’s premier winter wildfowl and wader sites. This slow-paced single-centre holiday takes in the highlights of the coast, islands, farmland and forest of this beautiful region, with a range of birds and wildlife on offer, and including visits to iconic cultural and historical sites along the way.

Beautiful sweeping coastal bays play host to hundreds of waders such as Sanderling, Knot and Purple Sandpiper. Offshore rafts of Eider, Long-tailed Duck and at least two species of Scoter can be found. Winter thrushes should be present in good numbers and there is a good chance of rarities such as Waxwings.

We will visit reserves such as RSPB Saltholme, Cresswell Pond, Druridge Bay, Hauxley and, if weather and tide allows, the island of Lindisfarne. We also visit Kielder Forest and Kielder Water, good in winter for forest and wetland birds with Whooper Swan and Crossbill possible. Our return takes us along the Military Road, running parallel to Hadrian’s Wall where we may have time to walk a section.

The scenery alone in Northumberland is spectacular but pair this with the fabulous bird life available here and this promises to be a special break.

Day 1: Saturday                Arrival
After arriving by train, road or other means we gather at our comfortable hotel, our base for the next 7 nights, for our first group meal and an introduction to the week ahead. Please note, if travelling by train your guide will meet you at Alnmouth station at 15:00 on arrival day.  If travelling by car, we will meet at our hotel at approx. 16:00. You can leave your vehicle parked here for the duration of your holiday.

Day 2: Sunday                   Druridge Bay
We stay relatively local to our hotel today, exploring the many reserves along the AONB designated Druridge Bay. Cresswell Pond should hold wintering ducks with a chance of Jack Snipe on the reedy margins and Tree Sparrow are also resident here. The dune system here can be a good place to watch Barn Owl hunting in the late afternoon if weather conditions have been harsh.
A former open-cast mine, Hauxley Nature Reserve is now run by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and is a real haven for wildlife. Tree Sparrow, Bullfinch and Siskin should be seen on the feeders while the pools attract wintering ducks such as Goldeneye, Wigeon and Teal.

Newbiggin Bay, the River Coquet and Amble Harbour are all great sites, and we choose the best according to the weather and recent sightings.

Day 3: Monday                  Kielder Forest
Heading inland we go west over the Otterburn Moors and Ministry of Defence Training area to Kielder Forest and Kielder Water. Both are very good in winter for forest and wetland birds with Whooper Swan, Mandarin Duck, Siskin and Crossbill all possible. We will take a walk along the forest trails at Bakethin Nature Reserve, hopefully spotting charismatic Red Squirrels along the way. The reservoir itself should hold good numbers of wintering wildfowl including Pochard, Wigeon, Teal and Goldeneye.

Our return will take us back along the Military Road, running parallel to Hadrian’s Wall where we may have time to walk a section (at Steel Rigg or Cawfields) that typifies this ancient site. A series of local lakes and pools along this route can often yield surprises such as Greater Scaup, Green-winged Teal or even Rough-legged Buzzard.

Day 4: Tuesday                  Morpeth and North Tyneside
The area around the town of Morpeth has plenty of former mining sites which have been reclaimed as local nature reserves and often attract winter rarities such as Smew, Green-winged Teal and Greater Scaup. Wintering flocks of Waxwing or Hawfinch are sometimes in the local area too.

Further south we visit the coast at Whitley Bay where the island of St Mary’s is a good wintering site for waders including Golden Plover, Knot and Curlew. The fish quays at North Shields sometimes have white-winged gulls so Glaucous and/or Iceland Gulls are possible. We keep an eye on local bird news and, if a rarity is within easy reach we have the flexibility to go for it.

Day 5: Wednesday          RSPB Saltholme, Teesmouth and Cleveland
Today we venture south of the Tyne to the RSPB Saltholme reserve on Teesside. An area of wetland, reedbeds, grassland and meadow, great for birds and visiting migrants with the backdrop of industry and post-industrial architecture. This fairly newly constructed reserve has developed well during its short life span and the area attracts a whole host of wintering wildfowl. A reserve rapidly becoming famed for migrant waders too, we can expect to build a high bird-list today as we explore the site via well-placed hides. We may also see Bittern, Long-eared Owl, and Water Rail and we have chances of late-autumn and early-winter rarities. With several other good coastal birding options within striking distance, we will be sure of a great day’s birding wherever we spend our time. 

Day 6: Thursday                Holy Island and surrounding coastline
If the tides are suitable we will cross to The Holy Island of Lindisfarne - where the causeway floods twice daily. It is comprised of 3500 hectares of dunes, saltmarsh and mudflats; great for walks along the rocky shore watching flocks of wintering waders and with both Grey & Common Seal resident. The island is famed for its Christian and bloody Viking past, the Castle, Gertrude Jekyll garden and of course the Priory. When the tide is high the island relaxes from the pressures of modern life and takes on a discernible spiritual tranquility similar to Iona, where there are ancient monastic connections.

In the afternoon, we may visit other coastal locations which can be excellent for birds. In the shadow of Bamburgh Castle we may find Purple Sandpiper in amongst the Turnstone on the rocky shore while out to sea rafts of Eider and Long-tailed Duck may mix with Common Scoter, occasionally with the odd Velvet or Surf Scoter too. Budle Bay usually holds wintering flocks of geese with Pink-footed, Brent and White-fronted all possible.

Day 7: Friday                    Departure
After our final breakfast, guests will be dropped off at Alnmouth railway station for ongoing trains departing from 09:30am onwards.

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 en-suite hotel accommodation. We choose from our personally inspected shortlist, where birders are welcome and the hospitality is special. Guests are never expected to share. All rooms are en-suite. Full details with your joining pack.
  • Full English breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening till Friday morning, packed lunch each day from Sunday to Thursday.
  • All entrance fees for reserves
  • All transport by comfortable minibus.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.

What's not included in your holiday price

  • Travel to Alnmouth Railway Station, or any other agreed meeting point.
  • Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.

Field Notes

Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, which can be wild and unpredictable, with temperatures perhaps averaging around 8 degrees Celsius. Sunshine, rain and strong winds are all possible, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Biting insects are not expected. Please bring waterproof walking boots or shoes, weatherproof clothing and a small rucksack. Exposed coastal locations can be cold at any time of year if the wind picks up, please pack accordingly. The holiday will be run at a relaxed pace, with time for photography and general wildlife as well as fabulous birdwatching in a spectacular setting! There will be short to moderate (1 to 3 mile) walks most days, mainly on well walked tracks and paths with nothing over strenuous but a reasonable level of health would be an advantage to be able to get off the beaten track and away from vehicular access.


Easily accessible by car with good road connections (A1, A69, A19) or by mainline London-Edinburgh rail services – collection available from Alnmouth rail station. Newcastle Airport is not too distant with good taxi/public transport links for transfer too. Any questions please just contact the office.

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Northern England

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday?

Heatherlea is one of Britain's leading wildlife holiday operators. In 2019 we celebrate our 29th Anniversary with more choice than ever, both in Scotland and overseas. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248