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NEW! Welcome Back to Scottish Birding!

Full of northern specialities, with 'Twenty Summer Specials' as an additional fun focus.

Welcome back to Scotland's wide-open spaces! Until further notice, our minibuses will carry a maximum of five passengers each, with everyone guaranteed a free seat next to them. Please contact us for up-to-the-minute status on this departure.

Summer is a great time to visit the Highlands. All our Scottish speciality birds are available, plus the excitement of coastal birding, with chances of rarities too. Designed for those who would like to see as many birds as possible, we name twenty species to give the holiday a fun focus, though this tour is ideal whether or not you keep a birdlist, as we enjoy extensive birding at a relaxed pace. We are based at Mountview Hotel for the whole holiday allowing flexibility to travel to different habitats and destinations, including a rewarding day on the West Coast, where we should find many of our targets.

On the West we can find Red and Black-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Hooded Crow and White-tailed Eagle, all amid stunning summer scenery. We have two further days at the coast, one at the auk cliffs of Troup Head, the other in the inner Moray Firth, where waders, seaduck, divers and fishing Osprey will keep us happily occupied, and rich arable farmland is good for Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. Around the Cairngorms we spend time searching for Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Dotterel, Black Grouse and Red Grouse, as well as pinewood specialities including Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill. On several days we have good chances of Golden and White-tailed Eagle over high ground and crags, with the possibility of a roaming Hen Harrier over the moorland. We also visit Glenlivet, a new and bird-rich destination which, with exclusive minibus access we are excited to include for the first time.

We will of course delight in all the birds (and other wildlife) we encounter, though these will be our 'Twenty Scottish Specials':

1. Golden Eagle

2. White-tailed Eagle

3. Osprey

4. Black Grouse

5. Red Grouse

6. Ptarmigan

7. Crested Tit

8. Scottish Crossbill

9. Slavonian Grebe

10. Peregrine

11. Black Guillemot

12. Hooded Crow

13. Dotterel

14. Black-throated Diver

15. Red-throated Diver

16. Capercaillie

17. Great Skua

18. Merlin

19. Short-eared Owl

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.

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

Day 2: Sunday                            Strathspey woodlands and open moors
An optional early start to see Black Grouse at the lek offers a great start to our time in Strathspey. A few birds are usually present at this time, and we follow with a morning birding locally. Crested Tit and Scottish Crossbill are found in the forests, and in these weeks our private estate woodlands often produce Capercaillie, where hen birds may now be more active, and seen from Heatherlea mobile hides. At lunch we may see Osprey, Dipper, Buzzard, Goldeneye and perhaps Red Squirrel. Moorland and upland specialities will feature, perhaps including Ring Ouzel, Slavonian Grebe, Stonechat, Common Sandpiper, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and both Golden and White-tailed Eagle.

Day 3: Monday                            Cairngorm Mountains
A full day on the Cairngorm plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right spots for Ptarmigan and Dotterel, both perhaps with piping young running behind. Snow Bunting may also be seen as part of a brilliant day’s birding in a very special habitat, and we also check local lochs for Red-throated Diver in beautiful breeding plumage. A stop at birch woodlands gives us an opportunity to find Wood Warbler, Redstart, Tree Pipit and perhaps Pied Flycatcher, an uncommon breeding bird in these northerly parts (earlier dates better for this activity), with chances of Peregrine too.

Later we enjoy a Highland summer evening with a leisurely drive to the moors close to Mountview Hotel. Short-eared Owl breed here, and we frequently see the adults quartering over heather. Black-throated Diver and Red Grouse are also likely, and we look out for waders including Snipe, Redshank and Common Sandpiper. A lovely evening!

Day 4: Tuesday                                Troup Head and the Moray Coast
We drive north-east to Troup Head, where the only breeding Gannets on the Scottish mainland make their home. Enjoying clifftop views of the birds, we will also see other seabirds including Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Shag, Fulmar, Kittiwake and perhaps Great Skua. Rock Pipit, Skylark, Stonechat and other coastal passerines. At lowland coastal sites, summer waders might include Turnstone, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit in bright breeding plumage, and we may see Common Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern.

Day 5: Wednesday                               Glenlivet
Another early start for Black Grouse, and Hen Harrier are sometimes seen here too. The wetlands are filled with commoner wader species, and we should see breeding Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Snipe and perhaps Golden Plover. We have good chances of Golden Eagle, Raven, Merlin, Goshawk, Peregrine and more in secluded glens deep into the hills. A new destination for Heatherlea tours, the beautiful rolling scenery is usually devoid of other birders, which with a variety of habitats and exclusive vehicle access, guarantees we can get to the best areas making for an enthralling day.

Day 6: Thursday                               The West Coast
White-tailed and Golden Eagle are our main targets today, as we head west for some enjoyable coastal birding among exquisite scenery. Black Guillemot and perhaps a late Great Northern Diver may be on the open water, and other highlights might include Raven, Hooded Crow, and a quiet spot where clear stream waters join the northern sea, a favourite location for waders in summer plumage. Here we may see Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Twite and Wheatear. Rock Pipit, Great Skua, Merlin, all three Divers, Otter and cetaceans including Common Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise are also possible at this time of year.

Day 7: Friday                                     Round-up day
We search locally for any birds we have missed, including a second opportunity to revisit our private estate for Capercaillie, if we didn’t find the birds earlier. We might be able to collect any local rarities, ending up at coastal locations in the inner Moray Firth or perhaps the Black Isle, to add more waders, wildfowl and perhaps Red Kite and Tree Sparrow.

Day 8: Saturday                                 Departure
Breakfast and departure. We transfer you to Aviemore for transport links.

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 and ferry 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 generally be light, although the mountain walking for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is a strenuous all-day hike. In June and July the birds are typically on the highest tops, with a 6-7 mile return walk with around 1200ft of climb. Guests may opt out 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, especially hat and gloves for the mountain excursion.
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water. Please bring a good general repellent.
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