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NEW! Scotland's Specialities

Wonderful Scottish birding at an unbeatable price

Max Group Size7 per guide/vehicle

An exciting holiday designed to maximise our birding as winter turns to spring. This tour is available at an unbeatable price!

Speciality species include Scottish Crossbill, Crested Tit, Black Grouse, Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting,  good chances of Slavonian Grebe and three or even four diver species in breeding plumage. Winter birds will still be with us in good numbers, and one of the main advantages of birding this far north is the opportunity to see many at close quarters. We will also pay attention to rarities within reach, and this can be an excellent time for ducks, geese, gulls, raptors and passerines to augment an already outstanding birding experience. This is an exceptional opportunity to look for Scottish speciality birds, and this holiday is ideal for the first time visitor or the seasoned expert.

Based at the Mountview Hotel, we have maximum flexibility to plan the week according to weather, tides and bird reports. The outline itinerary allows for three days at the coast and three days in Strathspey and the Cairngorms, though if we are successful with our key targets locally we may adapt plans daily to increase your birdlist. A definite highlight will be a visit to the east coast - this gives us a superb opportunity to  explore some of rural and coastal Aberdeenshire, featuring some of the best birding areas in Scotland. 

We will of course delight in all the birds (and other wildlife) we encounter, though these will be our 'Twenty Scottish Specials' that we use as a fun focus for the tour:

1. Golden Eagle

2. White-tailed Eagle

3. Capercaillie

4. Black Grouse

5. Red Grouse

6. Ptarmigan

7. Crested Tit

8. Scottish Crossbill

9. Slavonian Grebe

10. Peregrine

11. Long-tailed Duck

12. Velvet Scoter

13. Common Scoter

14. Black-throated Diver

15. Red-throated Diver

16. Iceland Gull

17. Glaucous Gull

18. Purple Sandpiper

19. Snow Bunting

20. Hen Harrier

... and a few mammals are possible too, including Otter, Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Brown Hare, Mountain Hare, Red Squirrel, Grey Seal, Common Seal, Red Deer, Roe Deer.

Other important species inland might include  Dipper, Buzzard and Goldeneye. On local fields and moors a host of northern breeding waders include Golden Plover, Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Curlew, and lots of spring passage at the coast might yield Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Sanderling and Dunlin, many in bright summer plumage. Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter, and Great Northern Diver can all be seen at the coast, and farmland specialities include Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. On higher moorlands, Merlin, Raven, Red Kite, Ring Ouzel, Stonechat and Wheatear are found, and in birch woodland Redstart and Tree Pipit join Willow Warbler, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.

We might also be lucky enough to connect with at least one rarity such as White-billed Diver, King Eider, Surf Scoter, American Wigeon or Green-winged Teal.

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

Day 2: Sunday - Birding the Cairngorms
Our award-winning hotel is right in the middle of the best birding habitats, and a local drive should produce Black Grouse popping and cooing at the lek, followed after breakfast with a walk in the nearby Abernethy Forest to look for Crested Tit. Scottish Crossbill are found in the forests and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these three species can pose a real identification challenge! During these months we may see Capercaillie in the forests while open ground gives us chances of Golden and White-tailed Eagle with Hen Harrier and Goshawk very possible at this time of year too!

Day 3: Monday - The East Coast
Today we head eastwards, to Aberdeenshire. We will study the tides, weather and recent sightings to plan the best possible locations to maxmise our time in the area. We work a good selection of our favoured harbours and bays, with our journeys between the sites being through mixed farmland favoured by finches, waders and a good selection of farmland birds. Indeed parts of the arable country here have some of the highest densities of nesting Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge in the UK!

This whole coastline is massively underwatched, with few resident birders. We have excellent chances of finding our own rarities, this being a superb time to find White-billed Diver, King Eider and rare gulls. East coast harbours can often be the winter home of several Glaucous and Iceland Gulls and Little Gull may be encountered after storms. Depending on time and weather we may visit the excellent RSPB Loch of Strathbeg or the Ythan Estuary, always busy with birds. A good region for raptors, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and perhaps even Rough-legged Buzzard may feature. Swans, geese, thrushes and sometimes Golden Plover occupy the fertile fields and offshore we should find good numbers of scoter, divers and auks, with the bonus of Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone on the rocks below.

Day 4: Tuesday - Moors and Woodlands
Today we begin in our exclusive private estate woodlands, where we have outside chances of Capercaillie. Staying inside our large minibus, we look to all sides, though these days the birds are increasingly rare, so sightings must be viewed as incidental. Later we search for moorland raptors including Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Merlin and perhaps the first returning Osprey. The day finishes with a moorland drive, which may give views of Red Grouse, Black-throated Diver and perhaps Hen Harrier or Short-eared Owl if we are lucky.

Day 5: Wednesday - The Black Isle
Today we take our first look at the Inner Moray Firth. This is an exciting time to be birding here, with the majority of wintering birds still present, numbers swelled by northbound migrants. We will time our visit to maximise numbers of waterbirds, with a close look at the tide times as we pick from superb birding sites such as Udale Bay, the Beauly Firth, the Cromarty Firth and Munlochy Bay. All of these sites will be busy with large numbers of waders, wildfowl and gulls to scan through. The Black Isle is good arable ground and we should see plenty of Linnet, Yellowhammer, Red Kite and other raptors too. The stubble fields will be getting ploughed at this time of year, concentrating the winter flocks of finches and especially geese. We should see hundreds of Pink-footed Geese today, just a few weeks before they begin to return northwards. The flocks can sometimes hold rarer species such as White-fronted, Tundra Bean or Snow Geese and there might also be a lingering winter rarity on offer too, for instance an American Wigeon or Green-winged Teal!

Day 6: Thursday - Ptarmigan in the hills
In the mountains we seek Ptarmigan (NB conditions can be wet and sometimes snowy, therefore difficult at times in the spring melt). Other birds may include Snow Bunting, the first Ring Ouzel, Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Goldeneye and Peregrine, and local birchwoods hold Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. The first returning Osprey and many breeding wader species are possible as we enjoy the best of local birding. Waders alone could include Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Common Snipe, Golden Plover, and in the evenings in good weather, Woodcock roding. Lingering Waxwing and Whooper Swan are sometimes present with occasional rarities too!

Day 7: Friday - Moray Coast
Spring birding along the Moray Coast is particularly enjoyable as newly arriving migrants complement wintering birds. This day can easily include Osprey fishing, rafts of Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Stonechat, Common and Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, and spring waders including Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Ringed Plover, many changing into bright summer plumage. Watch out also for Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. We often see Bottle-nosed Dolphin, and with auks, Gannet, gulls and more, this is a rewarding day!

Day 8: Saturday - 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

  • 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 birdwatching.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus during six full days' birding. All access fees.
  • Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
  • Saturday 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 other mountain species, is strenuous.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Cold winds, sunshine, rain and snow are all possible! Bring waterproofs, walking boots, and warm clothing. Hats and gloves are essential at this time of year.
Biting insects are not an issue in March!
Group size maximum 7 clients per guide.
Optics Telescopes will be useful, and you should bring binoculars. 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

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248