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Outer Hebrides in Spring

Superb spring birding on the southern Outer Hebrides: North and South Uist, Benbecula and Berneray.

2024 Dates
  • 11 May - 17 May 2024
  • 18 May - 24 May 2024
Duration7 Days
2024 Price
£1845 pp
£195 single supplement. Deposit £300
2025 Dates
  • 10 May - 16 May 2025
  • 17 May - 23 May 2025
Duration7 Days
2025 Price
£1895 pp
£195 single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

This cracking holiday celebrates the tremendous birding available here in spring. We stay for six nights on the Outer Hebrides, giving us maximum time to enjoy the very best birding on the islands, including Corncrake, both eagles, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, four Skuas, waders in summer colours, Otter and perhaps Red-necked Phalarope, on the islands of South Uist, Benbecula, and North Uist. We also target any rarities on the southern Hebrides during our visit, and these can be special; Black-billed Cuckoo, White-winged Tern, Snowy Owl, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Rose-coloured Starling, Arctic Redpoll, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Wigeon have all been recorded in recent years, and Dotterel are possible too – a great six days!              

We cross the famous Skye Bridge, travelling across the island to Uig. Birding as we cross The Little Minch to Lochmaddy might include skuas; Manx Shearwater are usually seen, and Fulmar, Gannet, Black Guillemot and other auks are expected.

Everyone who has ever joined this holiday (and we have been running at least two departures each year since 2000)  has seen Corncrake! Other vocal breeders include Corn Bunting, Ringed Plover, Meadow Pipit and Skylark -  the machair of the Hebrides really is a special habita! Summer plumaged Great Northern Diver are likely, as are ‘real’ Rock Dove and Raven. Both Arctic Skua and Great Skua breed, and in rough (westerly) weather we frequently see the passage of hundreds of Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua - an unforgettable experience! Mountainous areas hold both Golden and White-tailed Eagle, and we often watch Otters playing on the coastline whilst an adult Sea Eagle circles above against a stunning mountain backdrop. Rare and delicate Red-necked Phalarope are usually present in small numbers from the middle of May, and other summer-plumaged waders should include good numbers of Whimbrel, both godwits, many Dunlin and Sanderling, Knot, Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone with Ruff or Dotterel if we are lucky. Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl are present, and we usually enjoy very good views.

The Outer Hebrides have recently developed a strong reputation as a good place in spring for rarities. We are sure this is happening because there are more birders visiting the islands, rather than because avian habits are changing! This holiday has been extended in recent years by a couple of nights so we could also spend time looking for some of the cracking birds found here every year. We stay in comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation with great birding on the doorstep.

Day 1: Saturday
Depart Nethybridge and head across the Highlands to cross the famous Skye Bridge, travelling across the island to the ferry point at Uig. We may not have much time for birding en-route, though we may hear Corncrake and see eagles before we board the ferry! Birdwatching as we cross The Little Minch to Lochmaddy, then transfer to our comfortable hotel. Great, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua are worth watching for, Manx Shearwater are often seen, and Fulmar, Gannet, Black Guillemot, Puffin and other auks can be (nearly!) guaranteed.

Days 2 - 6 Sunday - Thursday
Heatherlea have never failed to find Corncrake on this holiday, and you are birding in the right place at the best time to see these beautiful birds. We often achieve sightings on our first day, though in some years the birds can be difficult to find, and some patience is required. Over the years we have seen them crossing the road, jumping up out of the grass, flying short distances and even mating!

Out on the machair Corn Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Skylark will all be full of song with Linnet in the fields and Twite vocal on moorland. Waders will also feature highly on this tour with breeding Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank Oystercatcher and Snipe in the fields, machair and beaches, the latter habitat busy with passage birds too. Dunlin, Sanderling, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper can be present in the hundreds and we search through them for summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint, or something rarer! Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel favour the machair and we have chances of Dotterel or Ruff and if lucky, rare and delicate Red-necked Phalarope can be seen on a few roadside pools from mid-May.

An absence of persecution means Hen Harrier and particularly Short-eared Owl are present in good numbers, with Peregrine, Merlin and Kestrel likely too. Golden and White-tailed Eagle may both be seen over higher ground, often joined in the skies by Raven and Hooded Crow. Three species of diver are possible and all in summer plumage - Red-throated and Black-throated both breed while sheltered bays provide feeding for passage Great Northern Diver.  Arctic Skua breed, Great Skua are frequently seen, and we sometimes see passage of hundreds of Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua. We know the weather conditions favoured by the birds, and this experience can be special! Our days are governed by the weather and our progress during the week, and your guide will plan each day according to the conditions. Optional early and late birding trips may be offered, perhaps targeting rarities and again depending on weather and progress.   

Day 7: Friday
Our final day’s birding ends by the ferry on North Uist, and we sail back to Uig, enjoying the drive across Skye as we return to Nethybridge early evening on Friday. We may enjoy more views of both White-tailed and Golden Eagle, Arctic Skua harassing terns, Manx Shearwater and Black Guillemot on the return ferry journey.

Most clients join this holiday in Nethy Bridge, and this fabulous island experience is the perfect end to your week's birding holiday at Heatherlea. You may as an alternative join us at Uig on Skye if travelling the Highlands.

This holiday can be combined with:

Birding the Highlands in May, Birding the North Coast 500Highlands & Corncrake, High Season Across the Highlands

North Ronaldsay & Orkney in Spring for Birders, Shetland in Spring for Birders, Shetland Island Explorer, Orkney Island Explorer, Islands on the Edge

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).

Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, which can be wild and unpredictable, with temperatures perhaps averaging around 15 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 walking boots or shoes, weatherproof clothing and a small rucksack. The holiday will be run at a relaxed pace, with time for photography and botany as well as fabulous birdwatching in a spectacular setting! There will be optional short to moderate (1 to 3 mile) walks some days. 

What's included in your Outer Hebrides in Spring holiday price

• Six nights comfortable en-suite hotel/guest house accommodation on the Outer Hebrides. 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 Scottish breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening till Friday morning, packed lunch daily.
• All transfers by comfortable minibus. All ferries and other boat trips. Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at The Mountview Hotel. We can also drop off to Aviemore on the Saturday morning.

• Guidance from a professional Group Leader.

What's not included in your Outer Hebrides in Spring holiday price

• Extra night in Nethy Bridge area at beginning and end of holiday. This can be arranged for you if requested at time of holiday booking.
• Transfers from Aviemore.
• Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.

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