Go on a wildlife holiday to Scotland

Join other BBC Wildlife readers and local experts to discover Scotland’s rich and diverse wildlife on this seven-day trip.

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The Cairngorms offers truly jaw-dropping scenery.
11th July 2015 - 18th July 2015

TRIP OVERVIEW

There is no better way to see the stunning diversity of Scotland’s wild places than in the hands of an experienced guide. Book yourself on this exclusive reader trip from our chosen operator Heatherlea and our experts will help you discover a host of wildlife as you travel on a grand tour of the Highlands, from Aviemore to the islands of Skye, Eigg, Muck and Mull.

Starting in the Cairngorms National Park, you’ll boost your bird list as we look for capercaillie, red grouse, Slavonian grebe, red- and black-throated diver, osprey, crested tit and Scottish crossbill. Then on the route to Skye we’ll be keeping an eye out for ptarmigan. Once on the island you’ll be looking for white-tailed and golden eagle, hen harrier, short-eared owl and otters. Then you’ll grab a ferry to the islands of Eigg and Muck, and later you’ll visit a private site for viewing pine martens, an exclusive offering for BBC Wildlife Magazine readers.

Crossing over to the beautiful island of Mull, you can keep your eyes peeled for otters and both species of eagle, while enjoying one of the most beautiful landscapes in Scotland.

As we journey eastwards, watch out for such species as black guillemot, eider, common seal and hooded crow.

Numbers are limited to just seven people per guide – the small group guarantees you personal attention from our experienced experts. So you can be confident of coming away with some amazing encounters and a deeper understanding of the wildlife of Scotland.

Ptarmigan is just one of the species you could encounter. © Neil McIntyre

20 SPECIES WE AIM TO SEE

  • Capercaillie
  • Red grouse
  • Slavonian grebe
  • Red-throated diver
  • Black-throated diver
  • Osprey
  • Red squirrel
  • Crested tit (below)
  • Scottish crossbill
  • Ptarmigan (above)
  • White-tailed eagle
  • Golden eagle
  • Hen harrier
  • Short-eared owl
  • Otter
  • Grey seal
  • Common seal
  • Pine marten
  • Black guillemot
  • Hooded crow

© Neil McIntyre

Look out for crested tit when you visit Caledonian pine forests. © Neil McIntyre

In association with Heatherlea

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1: Saturday 11 July

Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Heatherlea offer a courtesy collection service from Aviemore. Overnight in Nethy Bridge for the first two nights at the three-star Nethybridge Hotel, with breakfast and dinner taken at Heatherlea’s Mountview Hotel, immediately adjacent. Red squirrel are often seen on the hotel’s feeders in the morning.

Day 2: Sunday 12 July 

We are based in the heart of the best birding habitats in mainland Scotland, and in high summer can enjoy a very fruitful day’s birding to begin our tour. We begin with a visit to nearby Caledonian pinewoods, where crested tit, Scottish crossbill and other woodland species are our targets. Next we search for capercaillie in our exclusive private estate woodlands. Female birds with chicks are more likely than male birds at this time of year, though either are possible. This is a responsible way to search the wonderful ‘Horse of the Forest’, and staying inside our large minibus gives us reasonable chances of spotting this increasingly rare bird at this time of year. In the afternoon we visit moorlands and secluded lochans to see both red- and black-throated diver in breeding plumage, with good chances of osprey fishing and families of red grouse. We finish a full day with a visit to another sheltered water where Slavonian grebe may be on territory. A day full of Scottish speciality birds!

Day 3: Monday 13 July

After a morning to round-up anything missed yesterday, we head westwards towards Skye, with time spent en-route to look for ptarmigan at relatively close quarters. A highlight on many occasions is the sight of these birds close to the bus at an elevated roadside location, despite the possibility of high winds, rain and ‘Scotch mist’. Sometimes the birds are close enough to be seen from beside the minibus! We end the day on Skye, where our comfortable hotel is situated immediately by the sea, perfect for otter watching in early morning and evening. Overnight on Skye for two nights.

Day 4: Tuesday 14 July

Raptors and scenery are the major attractions of Skye in high summer, and our key targets include golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and otter, as we make a leisurely exploration of the southern part of the island, visiting wild and remote corners where birders seldom venture. Taking quiet back roads, we take you to exciting birding sites and breathtaking viewpoints amid stunning scenery. With a high density of breeding eagles, we should enjoy views of both white-tailed and golden, with an eye also for hen harrier and short-eared owl.

Day 5: Wednesday 15 July

We take the ferry across to Mallaig, then another to Eigg and Muck. This can be a spectacular wildlife experience, with minke whale, basking shark, manx shearwater, grey and common seal, gannet, kittiwake, breeding auks, gulls, terns and waders to entertain us. Later we travel through the rugged scenery of the west coast to our comfortable hotel base. Overnight Strontian.

Day 6: Thursday 16 July

In the morning we explore quiet back roads in remote Morvern north of Mull, where eagles are often surprised at close quarters. We head south towards the ‘Isle of Eagles’ itself, a must-see place for all wildlife lovers, making the short ferry crossing to Mull mid-morning. Using our knowledge of the island, we immediately target white-tailed eagle and golden eagle, found here at their highest densities in the UK. Moorland species may include hen harrier and short-eared owl, so expect wonderful scenery and excellent birding before we transfer to our hotel and settle in. We spend one night on Mull.

Day 7: Friday 17 July

Another morning around Mull to round up, then return by minibus and ferry to Strathspey. As we journey eastwards, watch out for black guillemot, eider, common seal and hooded crow amongst other wildlife as we travel. Overnight in Nethy Bridge for a third night, including dinner at Mountview Hotel.

Day 8: Saturday 18 July

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 factors beyond our control, such as weather. 

Golden eagles can be seen on the Isle of Mull, also known as ‘Eagle Island’. © Neil McIntyre

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION 

Where: Scottish Highlands and Islands 

When: 11–18 July 2015

Cost: £1,495pp (single supplement £160, deposit £100)

Accommodation: This holiday is based in four private hotels in Strathspey, Mull, Skye and Strontian, where accommodation is en-suite and comfortable. Hotels are unpretentious and homely, and all are chosen for their location in exactly the right birding areas.

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 or wellies.

Walking: Walks will be moderate throughout. Most of the birding is adjacent to our vehicles. An exception is our search for ptarmigan, where some uphill walking will probably be required, though please note group members often see the birds from next to the minibus.

Weather: Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine, snow and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing.

Biting insects: These could be encountered, though not expected to be a major problem.

Group size: Maximum of 7 clients per guide.

Optics: Telescopes will be useful, and you should bring binoculars and a camera. Heatherlea have a limited number of top quality Swarovski binoculars, which you may borrow at no charge (subject to availability). 

What is included in your holiday cost: 

  • Seven nights comfortable accommodation. This includes three nights at Nethybridge Hotel in Strathspey, two nights on Skye, one night in Strontian and one night on Mull. All rooms are en-suite, with a TV and a hospitality tray.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Six full days wildlife watching.
  • Guidance from a professional group leader.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus.
  • All estate access and ferry fees.
  • A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
  • Courtesy bus service to transport in Aviemore.

What’s not included in your holiday price:

  • Transport to Nethy Bridge (other than our courtesy shuttle).
  • Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.

How to get to Aviemore:

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 (10 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: 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. This train stops at York (13.54), Darlington (14:22), Newcastle (14.53) and Edinburgh (16.32). Change of train may be required at Edinburgh. We recommend you connect with this service if possible. Travellers can reach Edinburgh direct from Plymouth, Bristol, Birmingham, Crewe or Preston. 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), 10.00 and 11.33. Please check details before you travel. Rail enquiries: 0845 7484950, www.nationalrail.co.uk Don't forget Heatherlea’s courtesy collection service on Saturdays!

By air: Flights to Inverness are becoming available all the time, for latest info call Heatherlea. Currently flights to Inverness are available from: Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, London Gatwick, Isle of Man, Jersey (via Manchester or Gatwick), Newquay (via Manchester) Bergen, Amsterdam (Flybe), Luton, London Gatwick, Bristol (Easyjet), Dusseldorf (Lufthansa) Zurich (Helvetic).

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