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Highland Wildlife in early summer

A celebration of the scarce botany, invertebrates, birds and mammals of the Highlands

2025 Dates
  • 21 Jun - 28 Jun 2025
  • 28 Jun - 05 Jul 2025
Duration8 Days
2025 Price
£1595 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300
Max Group Size7 per guide

A cracking celebration of wildlife covering the birds, mammals, insects and plants of this fantastic area. Aimed at the natural history all-rounder, our itinerary is designed to be a leisurely and thoroughly enjoyable exploration at a relaxed pace. Stretching from the high tops of the Arctic-alpine mountains, to the summer plants and birdlife of the Moray Coast, this will be a celebration of all the wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park and beyond. We also visit key sites in Perthshire to see sought-after dragonflies, butterflies and flora. The holiday is perhaps focused 25% on birdlife, 10% on mammals, 35% on insects and 30% on flora, though these are rough approximations; we try to see everything as we go, and while choosing sites where rare and interesting wildlife is found, we enjoy a vast range of both flora and fauna. The habitats we visit are truly fascinating, and the variety of wildlife and rare species on offer will enthral both the natural history all-rounder and the birder who wants to see something extra.

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

  • Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Mountain Hare and perhaps Otter and cetaceans.
  • Key birds, perhaps including Black Grouse, both eagles, divers, Slavonian Grebe, Osprey, Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill.
  • Twinflower, Lesser Twayblade, Serrated, One-flowered, Common and Intermediate Wintergreen, Coralroot, Greater and Lesser Butterfly, Bird’s Nest, Small White, and other rare orchids, Alpine Saw-wort, Scottish Asphodel and other mountain plants, Moonwort and any available fungi.
  • Mountain Ringlet, Northern Brown Argus, White-faced Darter, Northern Damselfly and other rare butterflies and dragonflies. Moth-trapping each night if weather allows in a variety of local habitats.
  • Our exciting boat trip to Troup Head and its colony of breeding Gannets, auks (including a few Puffin), Shag and Kittiwake.

Please also consider our 'Highland Wildlife in High Summer' holiday, timed just three weeks later. The two tours should witness a marked change in seasonal wildlife.

Day 1: Saturday 
Arrival, welcome and dinner. Don’t forget our courtesy collection from Aviemore! Exploring our grounds, Northern Marsh Orchid are likely to be in flower, while the new pond can be great for Frogs, Toads and has already attracted a range of dragonflies including rare Northern Damselfly. Our first Mountview Hotel Chanterelle may also be seen!

Day 2: Sunday - Speciality Local Wildlife
After an investigation into our Hotel moth trap, our first day will be spent locally as we enjoy an introduction to the habitats of this special area. Birds on our list might include Crested Tit, Common, Scottish and Parrot Crossbill, Redstart and Tree Pipit in the Abernethy Forest. In these places our first plants of interest might include Field Gentian, Twinflower, Serrated and Common Wintergreen, a variety of orchids including Fragrant, Coralroot, Greater and Lesser Butterfly, Northern Marsh and Creeping Ladies Tresses. We will also cover any available fungi. Butterflies on the wing include Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus. Northern Dragonflies could include Common Hawker, White-faced Darter, Northern Damselfly and Northern Emerald. 

Day 3: Monday - Cairngorm Mountain
An idyllic day on the mountains, with Ptarmigan, Ring Ouzel and Snow Bunting our bird targets. Mountain Hare and a wide range of alpine plants helping to provide an absorbing day. We head into the coires rather than the high tops, searching for rare flowers including Moss Campion, Trailing Azalea, Dwarf Cornel, Alpine Ladies’ Mantle, Alpine Saw-wort, Lesser Twayblade, Scottish Asphodel, Alpine and Interrupted Clubmoss. A 'forest' of Least Willow about an inch high might also be spotted and we also have a chance of rare Black Mountain Moth.

Day 4: Tuesday - Lochs for birds, flowers and dragonflies
A second local day, where we begin on the moors where we hope to find Osprey, Red and Black-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Red Grouse. Local birchwoods offer a range of different species to our first day, with Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler among the possibilities as well as some new botany. Notable flowers today might include Intermediate Wintergreen, Water Lobelia, and Stagshorn Clubmoss and should also see Petty Whin and Bearberry. We also plan to visit a moorland loch famous for dragonflies, where many of our target species can be found.

Day 5: Wednesday - Strathspey Moors
Today we visit high moorland regions, where Golden Eagle, Peregrine and Dipper can be found. Orchids on this day include Frog and Small White, and other plants of interest include Grass of Parnassus, Starry Saxifrage, Sundew and Butterwort. Dark Green Fritillary and Large Heath butterflies also occur, as well as the stunning Golden-ringed Dragonfly. We should see Red and Roe Deer, and perhaps White-tailed Eagle too.

Day 6: Thursday  - Perthshire
A drive to a special site in Perthshire to see Mountain Ringlet, one of our real speciality butterflies. This butterfly is famously difficult to see, but we have a good site by the roadside, and in the past have even seen them from inside the buses! Large Heath and Dark Green Fritillary are also found here. Day flying moths might include Northern Eggar, Small Argent and Sable and Beautiful Yellow Underwing. Birding can be good too with Osprey, Hen Harrier, Goshawk, Golden Eagle, Wheatear, Whinchat and Ring Ouzel among the possibilities. Later we travel to other sites to find more orchids (including Bird's Nest) and Small Cow-wheat before we return to Strathspey.

Day 7: Friday - Troup Head Boat Trip
A highlight today will be an exciting boat trip into the Moray Firth, for a visit to the bird colony at Troup Head. Mainland Scotland's only Gannetry we will enjoy great views with breeding Shag, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and a few Black Guillemot adding interest. We watch out for marauding Great Skua or flashing Peregrine with Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise possible too. Later in the day we again search for orchids, and perhaps One-flowered, Serrated and Common Wintergreen. Summering birdlife may include four breeding tern species and Osprey, plus Common Scoter and farmland birds such as Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer.

Day 8: Saturday 
Breakfast and departure.

Please note, because of the vagaries of the season, not all species mentioned above will be seen on every holiday.

This holiday can be combined with:

Highlands and Orkney, North West Scotland Explorer, Butterflies, Dragons and Birds


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

  • Seven 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.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days wildlife watching.
  • 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.
  • An extremely detailed natural history 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.

More holiday information

Accommodation at Mountview Hotel can be seen here. All accommodation is en-suite unless otherwise advised before your booking is confirmed.
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, though frequently over uneven, rocky and boggy ground to search for the scarcer plants and insects. The optional mountain walk is a return walk of between 4-5 miles, taken at a slow pace with plenty of stops for botany and birding!
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 including hat and gloves. Please bring wellies, though we will try to avoid their use!
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, especially when moth trapping or looking for dragonflies. A good repellent is advised.
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, Dublin, Birmingham, 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