Featuring fabulous migration around the coastline of northern Scotland and all the special resident birds of the Highlands, this is an absorbing and exciting holiday where anything might turn up! Each week we visit the very best spots on the coast and travel across The Minch to the Outer Hebrides to see migrating shearwaters, petrels and skuas. Absorbing birding and a wonderful Hebridean experience! With all speciality birds found in good numbers, and seabird flocks beginning to build, this is one of the best times to come to Scotland.
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, perhaps on the same morning!
Three diver and three scoter species - all in summer plumage
Golden Eagle above, with roaring stags in the background
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 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 the first of the Red Deer stags bellowing at the rut - a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
DAY 3: Monday OUTER HEBRIDES MIGRATION SEA TRIP
We travel to Ullapool, joining the ferry to the Outer Hebridean Isle of Lewis. The ferry is a large ship, excellent for birding. As we cross The Minch we see the Scottish mainland recede, and as the mountains of the Outer Hebrides loom larger we scan for migrating seabirds. Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua are likely, and possibles include Sooty and Balearic Shearwater, Storm Petrel, the first Leach’s Petrel and Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua. Other rarities seen at this time in the past have included Cory’s and Great Shearwater. Just to keep us interested, we have a better than average chance of Minke Whale, Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Grey and Common Seal. In both Ullapool and Stornoway we trawl for Otters and maybe a rare gull, with Raven, Hooded Crow, moulting Black Guillemot and maybe some surprises too before returning home to The Mountview. A great day’s birding!
DAY 4: Tuesday
In autumn our private estate woodlands are excellent for both cock and hen Capercaillie, which often show well whilst 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, 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. Ospreys can be found fishing till mid-September.
DAY 5: Wednesday
An early (but not too early!) start for Black Grouse returning to the lek. Ptarmigan are our target after breakfast, 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 and Red Grouse are also possible on this day.
DAY 6: Thursday
Another great coastal experience, we go north to the Moray Coast or east to Aberdeenshire, depending upon the local birding. Amongst the passing terns, auks and Gannet we watch out for Skuas, and we also visit favourite spots where just about anything might drop in! Likely sites include the Ythan Estuary or the Loch of Strathbeg, with a great range of ducks and waders wherever we choose.
DAY 7: Friday
Round-up day, meaning a good look around for anything we may have missed, plus another coastal location with great birding. We may look for concentrations of waders, including Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone, Knot and many more, some individuals in summer plumage, or we may take a special trip for one of the rarities which make a Scottish autumn so special.
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:
Short Breaks, Specials and Migration including ‘The Burma Bank’, The ‘Outer Limits Adventure’.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
North Ronaldsay & Orkney in early autumn for Birders, Outer Hebrides in early autumn for Birders, North Ronaldsay & Orkney 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 light, although optional mountain walking for Ptarmigan is a strenuous hike into the coires. Guests can opt of this excursion.
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 and essential for the mountain excursion and boat trip.
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, please bring a general repellent, just in case.
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
* Seven nights comfortable accommodation at The Mountview Hotel, VisitScotland rated 3 Star. All rooms are en-suite, with colour 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.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days wildlife watching.
* Ferry trip to the Outer Hebrides.
* 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!’