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Scottish Highlands in November

Late autumn birding on this memorable short break

November in the Highlands is always rewarding, as key resident species are augmented by winter visitors inland, and our coasts hold large numbers of geese, seaduck, waders and passerines. This is a unique short break for 2021, designed for beginners and experienced birders alike, as we enjoy the full range of birdlife in the Scottish Highlands at a time when autumn begins to turn to winter.

During four full days birding we make the maximum use of daylight, giving us plenty of time to round up a strong northern birdlist. Capercaillie can be easier to see at this time as they forage for remaining berries in quiet locations, Black Grouse return to their lekking grounds, and Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill are found in the forest. Ptarmigan are moulting in quiet mountain corries, there are geese and harriers at the roost, and eagles patrol territories, with younger, wandering birds also in evidence. At the coast, rafts of Common Scoter are joined by Velvets, and Long-tailed Duck are usually here in good numbers. Wintering geese include occasional rarities among the large flocks of Pinkfeet and Greylags, Whooper Swans are back on their wintering grounds, there are usually Glaucous and Iceland Gull at quiet harbours, and waders and passerines can include surprises including Waxwing. Rarities can perhaps include Surf Scoter, King Eider and Great Grey Shrike, though anything is possible at this time!

As the very busy Scottish 2021 tourist season subsides, choose November for a peaceful short break; you probably won't see many other birders!

Day 1: Mon 15 November                                                   Arrival                    
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.

Day 2: Tues 16 November                                               Local Day
Our first day is focused on the birds which make this wonderful part of the country so special. An early start for Black Grouse will get us off to a great start before breakfast, and you might see Red Grouse too. After breakfast we visit ‘hotspots’ in Caledonian pine forest to see Crested Tit, which can usually be found locally. Scottish Crossbill are also found in the forests, and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! We also look for Capercaillie, travelling to our own private forested estate where any views will be from our vehicles. Capercaillie are active at this time, though our chances are weather dependent, and of course we will be very sensitive to the welfare of the birds. Read more about Capercaillie watching here. Later we visit remote Highland glens looking for Golden Eagle. In suitable weather in beautiful upland surroundings, we can expect sightings of other species, possibly including Peregrine, Buzzard, Raven, and White-tailed Eagle.

Day 3: Wed 17 November  The Crown Estate and Moray Coast
We drive to the Crown Estate at Glenlivet, where we have chances to see wintering raptors. With private access to an elevated location where eagles are frequently found, you will see this beautiful part of Scotland from a place not available to others. Hen Harrier, Merlin and Goshawk are possible, as are commoner raptors including Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Next we drive to the Moray Coast, where birding is excellent in November. There are rafts of Common and Velvet Scoter, plus good numbers of Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser. Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe may also be offshore, and in recent years we have seen rarities including King Eider, Surf Scoter and White-billed Diver. Iceland and Glaucous Gull are both regular, and many wader species can be expected. In the fields, Whooper Swan and goose flocks are worth checking for scarcer species. Farmland birds may include Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Stock Dove, Grey Partridge and Yellowhammer. A great day's birding!

Day 4: Thurs 18 November     Cairngorm Mountain
Today we visit the mountains to look for Ptarmigan, most often seen in small groups, with individuals perhaps moulting into white ‘winter’ plumage. We anticipate a walk of perhaps three hours into the northern corries, where birds tend to gather at this time, and we hope for good views of this iconic Scottish species. Lingering Snow Bunting are also possible, we may see Peregrine, and as we descend any remaining time will be used to look for forest species and wintering geese.

Day 5: Fri 19 November         The Black Isle and round-up   
November on the Black Isle is always rewarding, with flocks of Greylag and Pink-footed Goose often augmented by uncommon Bean, Barnacle or White-fronted, and perhaps rarer species such as Snow Goose. Waders and seaduck can be expected at the coast, flocks of wintering finches can hold Brambling, and Waxwing are also regular at this time. We also round-up anything we may have missed earlier, with the possibility of rarities at Redcastle, Alturlie or Loch Flemington among the places we keep an eye on!

Day 6: Sat 20 November                        Departure
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).

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 might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Four full days birdwatching.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus during four full days' birding.
  • All access and ferry fees.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • Courtesy pick-up and return service to Aviemore.
  • A 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 light, although the optional mountain walking for Ptarmigan and Dotterel 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. Even hardened Heatherlea guides will have hat and gloves in their bag at this time of year!
Biting insects are highly unlikely in November
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 at 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.

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