A holiday with the accent on both birds and sea mammals. We use our specialist knowledge to find the birds, and enjoy two great boat trips, one off the West Coast and the other off the Moray coast to see whales, dolphins and seabirds. Back on dry land we concentrate on the Scottish special birds, with early autumn migration to add to the excitement. A thoroughly enjoyable week of birding and marine wildlife by land and sea.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?
• Minke Whale off the West Coast
• Bottle-nosed Dolphin on our exciting Moray Coast trip
• Sooty Shearwater and Storm Petrel at close quarters on our West Coast pelagic!
• Golden Eagle above, with 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 deep greens of the ancient pinewoods and long warm days make this a lovely time to visit the Scottish Highlands. 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 should also see Red Deer stags looking at their very best before the start of the rut in the coming weeks.
DAY 3: (Monday) WEST COAST WHALES and BIRDING SEATRIP
We drive to the West Coast, watching out for Golden and White-tailed Eagle, before boarding our RHIB for an exhilarating seatrip. Our skipper is very experienced, and will know where cetaceans can be expected today. Minke Whale is a top target, though rarer whales and even Orca are possible. Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Basking Shark are also found here at this time. Birding can be superb, with Manx and Sooty Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua likely, Storm and Leach's Petrel possible, and the chance of rarities such as Sabine's Gull, Great Shearwater, Long-tailed and Pomarine Skua, with all of the regular seabirds in great numbers and at extremely close quarters!
DAY 4: (Tuesday)
At this time in our private estate hen Capercaillie with large chicks which often show well whilst taking autumn berries. Later we drive to the Cairngorms, where Ptarmigan can be found skulking in the coires. For the rest of the day we explore the birdlife of the moorlands, with Golden Eagle, Raven, Slavonian Grebe, Red Grouse and perhaps Short-eared Owl and Black-throated Diver to entertain us.
DAY 5: (Wednesday) DOLPHIN EXPERIENCE
Today we enjoy a day on the Black Isle, where the highlight will be our expedition on the open waters to see Bottle-nosed Dolphin at close quarters. Our skipper is a local Cromarty girl and an old friend of Heatherlea, very experienced in these waters and with an unrivalled ability to see dolphins at long distance! Onshore, we will find time to check key sites for passage waders, terns, ducks and geese, with marauding Peregrine a distinct possibility. Harbour Porpoise, Grey and Common Seal, Turnstone, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit and perhaps Curlew Sandpiper, Red Kite and Tree Sparrow are found here too. A lovely and memorable day.
DAY 6: (Thursday)
Ptarmigan and perhaps the last few Dotterel (depending on the breeeding season) are our target as we devote a full day to birding the mountains. The weather will be all important, so we will choose the best day for this experience, as we hope to walk across the plateau to see the birds. This can be one of the best times to visit Cairngorm, with good numbers of young birds to help us locate key species. Apart from Ptarmigan and Dotterel, Red Grouse, Snow Bunting and Golden Plover might be seen and Wheatear, Meadow Pipit and lingering Ring Ouzel might also be on the hills.
DAY 7: (Friday)
Another great coastal experience, we go north to the Moray Coast or east to Aberdeenshire, depending upon the local birding. Birdlife includes Gannet, gulls, terns and auks on the open seas along with the occasional passing Great or Arctic Skua. Waders on passage might include Little Stint, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Ringed Plover, many in breeding plumage. Fishing Osprey is a key target, and the first wintering geese and ducks may be arriving. We will also round-up any rarities within reach.
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).
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 or wellies.
Walking will be moderate, although 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.
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, especially in the west of Scotland, though not as a serious problem.
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.
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 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.
* Two wildlife watching seatrips, one on the west coast, one in the Moray Firth.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader, and any extra guiding services on the west coast.
* 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 25 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!’