Hogmanay 10-night birding extravaganza!

A brilliant start to birding in 2023

2022 Dates
  • 28 Dec - 07 Jan 2023
Duration11 Days
2022 Price
£2195 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300

SPECIAL OFFER! Early Birder Discount - Book Now for 2023 and Save £200!

Many of you are looking for special birding at this time, and this holiday is a real cracker! Come to the beautiful Highlands for a wonderful Hogmanay (we usually have snow on the mountains), and enjoy a bird-filled end to 2022 , followed by a full week to begin 2023 in style.

We aim to see as many species as possible, and this tour is ideal for all birders who want an exciting winter holiday, as well as those who keep lists. During the last birding days of 2022, we spend time inland looking for Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Scottish Crossbill and Crested Tit, mingling our efforts with exciting coastal birding, which could produce a big range of wintering specialities and uncommon or rare vagrants.

In the past two years, these weeks have produced Snow Goose, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Surf Scoter, King Eider, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Little Gull, Little and Great White Egrets, Waxwing, and Great Grey Shrike!

Hogmanay is a time of great celebration in the Highlands, and on the night itself guests might have the opportunity to visit a nearby party, which could typically involve live music and dancing. Held in the open air, this is entirely subject to vagaries of the weather, so wrap up well! For those who prefer to stay indoors we will celebrate ‘The Bells’ in the warmth, toasting the old year list with a variety of local malt whiskies!

We begin New Year's Day full of anticipation, and with a full week at our disposal, Scottish specialities will be high on the itinerary again as we carefully judge local feedback, rarity sightings, weather and tides to round-up as many key species as we can! We will spend at least one full day birding the Moray Coast, and another on the 'Black Isle', where wintering passerine flocks can number into the hundreds, and, with our finger on the pulse, round up rarities perhaps including Ring-billed Gull, Surf Scoter, Great Grey Shrike, Snow Goose and many other northern surprises. By the end of the holiday, you should have seen many 'difficult' northern birds you might otherwise miss without a Guide, or which rarely turn up further south in the UK.

There is usually an Iceland or Glaucous Gull on the coast, a vagrant American duck somewhere (in the past few years, we have seen American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck and Green-winged Teal at this time), an unusual goose in with the vast flocks of Pink-footed Geese, or even a fall of seabirds if there have been northerly storms.

Locally we could find Waxwing, Brambling, Merlin, Jack Snipe, both Golden and White-tailed Eagle, and of course Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and even Capercaillie.

Holidays are based here at Mountview Hotel, with all transport and expert guidance from our resident team. Your Guides will closely monitor weather, tides and local bird news to make sure we maximise our birding as we use all the available daylight (up to eight hours per day).

We anticipate that the whole Hotel will be given over to our holiday, meaning a great birding atmosphere as the entire week is run BY birders FOR birders, a very enjoyable prospect!

Key birds:
Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle.   

Probables for your list:
Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Goosander, Red Grouse, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Red Kite, Golden Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Iceland Gull, Dipper, Hooded Crow, Raven, Tree Sparrow, Common Crossbill, Lesser Redpoll, Snow Bunting and Peregrine.

Highly possible:
Black-throated Diver, Barnacle Goose, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Brent Goose, Pintail, King Eider, Surf Scoter, Green-winged Teal, Grey Partridge, Hen Harrier, Goshawk, Merlin, Glaucous Gull, Little Auk, Waxwing, Great Grey Shrike, Brambling, Twite, Corn Bunting.

Outside chance/rarities:
(by no means a definitive list as anything is possible, though all these have been seen at this time in the past few years). Capercaillie, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Snow Goose, Red-breasted Goose, Tundra Bean Goose, Harlequin Duck, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, White-billed Diver, Red-necked Grebe, Bittern, Greater Yellowlegs, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Ross's Gull, Ivory Gull, Brünnich’s Guillemot, American Coot, Parrot Crossbill and even Sperm Whale!

Plus of course many commoner species – expect around 120 in total.

Day 1: Wednesday 28 December 2022

Arrival, welcome, briefing and dinner.

Days 2 - 4: Thursday 29 – Saturday 31 December 2022

In these three days we concentrate on finding as many Scottish specialities as we can before the year ends! Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill and (weather permitting!) Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting are the main species in our minds as we visit a range of local habitats from the mountains and high hills, to the pine forests and moors. PLEASE NOTE! We always go birding with the interests of wildlife foremost in mind. Capercaillie are particularly sensitive, read more here.

Other birds may include flocks of finches in local fields which should include Brambling, Linnet and Lesser Redpoll, and if the conditions are harsh on higher ground, Twite.

We will also make at least one visit to the nearest coastal areas to target rarities or uncommon species within range. 

Days 5 – 10: Sunday 1 – Friday 6 January 2023

There is nothing quite like the thrill of waking to the start of a brand new Birdlist on 1st January! Some years we have Crested Tit on the hotel feeders, and Black Grouse are usually counted early on the first day. Our itinerary will be flexible depending on weather conditions, tides, reports of rarities, and the state of our list! We round-up the Scottish specialities again, maybe adding some new species in the same habitats on some days, and on our other days we visit coastal sites further afield – possibly heading west to see Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, or to Aberdeenshire or the Sutherland coast to maximise the chance of seeing the most winter species and perhaps rarities. For serious birders there can surely be no better start to the year!

Day 11: Saturday 7 January 2023

Breakfast and depart.

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

* Ten 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.

* Nine full days wildlife watching.

* Guidance from a professional Group Leader.

* All transport by comfortable minibus. Access to estate grounds.

* A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.

* Courtesy bus service to and from public transport in Aviemore.

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 moderate, although mountain walking for Ptarmigan is strenuous depending on the snow level.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, though cold winds and snow are likely. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing. Wellies not needed!
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.

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

Trip Reports

Coming Soon

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248