A real adventure where the underwatched northern Outer Limits (sorry Hebrides) are finally readily accessible with Heatherlea. Join us in the unforgettable island wilderness of Lewis, Harris and Skye, and see what rarities have blown in on the breeze. With Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Golden Eagle, Sea Eagle, Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill around in good numbers, seabird flocks beginning to build, migration busily underway all around the coastline and the possibility of rarities on the Hebrides, this is a unique and exciting holiday.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?
- Shearwaters, skuas and more as we cross ‘The Minch’ to Stornoway
- Capercaillie and Black Grouse, often on the same morning!
- Three diver and three scoter species - all in summer plumage
- Rarities on the Hebrides, perhaps waders or gulls, perhaps a repeat of the 2004 Purple Martin!
DAY 1: Saturday
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday
Purple heather moors, the gold and red of a Highland autumn in the birchwoods, the first snows on the Arctic tops, the deep greens of the ancient pinewoods, this is a lovely time to visit Scotland. Mixed parties in the Caledonian pines contain good numbers of Crested Tit, and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill form their own noisy flocks, often in dozens. Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel are the main upland raptors we seek today, though White-tailed Eagle are often seen at this time. You may also hear Red Deer stags bellowing at the rut - a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
DAYS 3 - 5: Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday THE ‘OUTER LIMITS’ ADVENTURE
A three-day, two-night visit to the northern Outer Hebrides, a fantastic place now famous for outstanding birding and rare visitors. We head out through Skye, spend time birding on Harris, and head north to our comfortable base on Lewis. With stunning autumnal light these are unforgettable days in a remote Scottish wilderness, with majestic mountain scenery and rugged coastlines. We head west and give ourselves a few hours of birding on Skye, where we often pick up divers, eagles and a host of waders before we join the ferry at Uig. Our vessel is a large ship excellent for birding. As we cross The Minch, the mountains of the Outer Hebrides loom larger as we scan for migrating seabirds. Manx Shearweater, Great and Arctic Skua, Storm and Leach’s Petrel are possible, as are Sooty Shearwater, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua. Rarities have included Great, Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters. We have a better than average chance of Minke Whale, Bottle-nosed, Risso’s and Common Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise and Grey and Common Seal. Raven, Hooded Crow, moulting Black Guillemot are all common here. We also investigate the ducks off Harris, where Surf Scoter or King Eider might be hidden amongst the commoner species. 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 (especially Snow Bunting and Jack Snipe), walk in the woods in Stornoway for migrants and Hebridean Wren, Dunnock and Song Thrush, and target boggy lochans where American vagrants are most likely. In the past few years we have recorded Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Lapland Bunting, Rose-coloured Starling, American Golden Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Yellow-browed Warbler on this holiday! Golden Eagle, Merlin and Hen Harrier are also realistic targets on the vast moorlands and peatlands we pass. Our last morning may be spent looking for migrants or perhaps another look at White-tailed Eagles before returning home on the ferry via Ullapool, returning to The Mountview on Wednesday evening. A great birding adventure!
DAY 6: Thursday
An early (but not too early!) start for Black Grouse returning to the lek. After breakfast we visit our private estate woodlands, excellent for both cock and hen Capercaillie taking autumn berries. Later we drive to the Moray Firth, to examine the concentrations of seabirds, which make this coastline such a great magnet for birders. Common and Velvet Scoter, the first Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern, Black and Red-throated Divers are all possible on this day, but perhaps our key target is Surf Scoter, a regular visitor arriving mid September. Geese should now be arriving en masse, with large numbers of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese. Pale-bellied Brent Geese are also possible, as are Barnacle, White-front or Bean - we must check the flocks carefully!
DAY 7: Friday
Ptarmigan are our target, skulking in mountain corries within walking distance of transport. The birds give good sightings once located as they rely upon camouflage more than flight whilst moulting into white winter plumage. Lingering Snow Bunting may also be seen. Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Redwing, Fieldfare and Red Grouse are also possible on this day as we explore the delights of Strathspey.
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:
Autumn Migration and Scottish Specials, Highlands and Skye in Autumn.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
North Ronaldsay & Orkney in Autumn for birders, Shetland in Autumn for birders, Outer Hebrides in Autumn for birders.
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.
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 is strenuous.
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. Hat and gloves are essential for boat trips and exposed coastal locations.
Biting insects are unlikely to be encountered this late in the season.
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 on 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 may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Two nights comfortable en-suite accommodation on the Outer Hebrides.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days wildlife watching.
* Ferry crossings to and from the Outer Hebrides. All estate access fees.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
* All transport by comfortable minibus.
* A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
* Courtesy bus service to and from transport in Aviemore.
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!’