A fantastic holiday from Heatherlea, featuring a rewarding few days on Skye. Key targets here are Golden and White-tailed Eagle, and we should enjoy prolonged views of both as they contest territories. Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier are also targets in this exciting environment which has a high density of breeding raptors. Other highlights include waders and seabirds including three diver species (very occasionally four with White-billed!) in full summer plumage. Taking quiet back roads, we will take you to lots of exciting birding sites amid stunning scenery, and many migrants may include Whimbrel, Greenshank, White Wagtail and Whinchat, with Wheatear, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit turning up everywhere on the heaths and rough pastures.
The rest of our time is spent around our home territory in Strathspey, where a great spring experience awaits. Resident birds are breeding, many summer visitors are now here, and birding is excellent. We also have very good chances of Ptarmigan from a roadside location. This is a very cost effective way of including Skye in your Highland birding holiday, combining the island with all our special spring birds.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?
• Golden & White-tailed Eagles over the jagged peaks of Skye
• Capercaillie in our private estate woodlands
• Otters playing on the coastline
* Scarce spring waders including Whimbrel, Greenshank, Great Northern Diver and White Wagtail.
DAY 1: Saturday - Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday - Our award-winning hotel is close to a very active Black Grouse lek, followed after breakfast with a local walk to see Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill. In quiet moorland areas we see Black and Red-throated Divers and Red Grouse, and other local birds of interest might include Dipper, Buzzard, Goldeneye and Osprey, a host of northern breeding waders including Golden Plover, Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Curlew.
DAYS 3-5: Monday – Wednesday WILDLIFE on STUNNING SKYE
En-route we search for roadside Ptarmigan and Golden Plover on a mountain pass if weather allows, followed by a rewarding few days on Skye as birds settle to breed, and before the main tourist season. Key targets are Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and Otter, and we will enjoy a leisurely exploration of the island, visiting the dramatic Trotternish Peninsula, and exploring other wild and remote corners of Skye where tourists seldom venture, and with plenty of time to enjoy the best birding places. We should enjoy prolonged views of both species as they fly around highly contested territories checking for rivals. Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier are also targets in this exciting environment which has a high density of breeding raptors.
Along the miles of coastline we catch up with waders and seabirds including Great Northern Diver and Black Guillemot, and have the chance of Otter, with seals and Harbour Porpoise offshore too. We have chosen our timing carefully, targeting three diver species (very occasionally four with White-billed!) in full summer plumage. Taking quiet back roads, we will take you to lots of exciting birding sites amid stunning scenery, and many migrants are possible at these under-watched locations, often showing very well. These may include scarcities such as Whimbrel, Greenshank, White Wagtail and Whinchat, with moorland species including Wheatear, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit turning up everywhere on the heaths and rough pastures.
Our hotel is comfortable and popular, situated immediately by the sea, and perfect for Otter watching in early morning and evening.
As we return to Strathspey, we visit Applecross, Loch Carron and Beinn Eighe to complete a lovely scenic birding experience on the beautiful west coast. Another unforgettable highlight on our recent holiday was the sight of two Ptarmigan close to the bus at an elevated location. despite high winds, rain and 'Scotch mist'. Everyone got good views, some from the side of the minibus!
DAY 6: Thursday CAPERCAILLIE - a responsible and caring attitude, especially in the breeding season! We may join the RSPB if birds are showing at the local Capercaillie Watch, or visit our exclusive private estate woodlands. Our private estate access and unbeatable local knowledge are invaluable for seeing Capercaillie, and our success rate at this time of year is excellent. Staying inside our large minibus, we have an excellent chance of seeing both male and female birds. Heatherlea helped to write the RSPB Code of Conduct for Capercaillie watching, and this is a reliable and responsible way to see the wonderful ‘Horse of the Forest’. Later we round up inland specialities we may have missed on Sunday, including Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Merlin, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Slavonian Grebe and warblers.
DAY 7: Friday - We head for the hills to see Ptarmigan, if we haven't seen them on the west coast already. These mountains support few other species, though we watch for Snow Bunting, Ring Ouzel and Raven. We may also see Red-throated Diver, Goldeneye, Peregrine, Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill as we descend, and local birchwoods hold Lesser Redpoll and Siskin flocks. Osprey, Slavonian Grebe, Whooper Swan and many breeding wader species are likely as we enjoy the best of local birding. Waxwing is often seen till late April. In the afternoon we head for the Black Isle, where migrating terns, waders and perhaps late staying Scaup and Iceland Gull will be welcome birds. Red Kite and Tree Sparrow should be found at traditional sites, and our birdlists will be filling rapidly today!
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).
This holiday can be combined with:
Spring into Scotland inc Mull, Birding the Highlands in May.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
North Ronaldsay & Orkney in Spring for birders, Outer Hebrides in Spring.
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.
Walking will be moderate, although mountain walking for Ptarmigan can be 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 are not expected.
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
* 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 may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Two nights comfortable en-suite accommodation on Skye.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days birdwatching.
* All transport by comfortable minibus. All estate 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.
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 27 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!’