Day 1: Saturday 22 July 2023 – West to Ardnamurchan
Departing Nethy Bridge, we drive west through the Highlands, pass Fort William and onto the Morvern Peninsula. Looking out for Brown Hare, Red, Roe and Sika Deer as we travel will get our mammal list off to a good start. Osprey might be seen over larger lochs or even Black Grouse where moorland meets young birch plantation. On the shores of Loch Linnhe, comes our first chance of coastal species including Black Guillemot, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Common and Arctic Tern plus Common Seal and once across the great glen, the Morvern Hills may give us our first eagles. Eventually we work our way to the fabulous Ardnamurchan peninsula, the most westerly point on the island of Great Britain, and a location where stunning scenery and wildlife combine for one of the best wildlife experiences in the UK.
We are based close to Glenborrodale RSPB and our accommodation offers comfortable, warm, private rooms. Our group will be the only occupants, and we have an exclusive opportunity to enjoy the local wildlife including Pine Marten. Baiting nightly, we have good chances, and hope to see the animals from the comfort of our living room through glass panels which are excellent for viewing! We stay overnight here for 3 nights.
Day 2: Sunday - Loch Sunart and Ardnamurchan Point
From our base to Loch Sunart, we are well placed to access all the best areas of Ardnamurchan. At Loch Sunart we aim to see Otter and Common Seal, the sealoch supporting thriving populations of both. Red Squirrel are present within Ardnamurchan, but far fewer number than in the Highlands, while Red and Roe Deer, Fox and Badger are all very possible nearby. And with many of these key mammals best looked for after dark, we might consider a night drive (if Pine Marten are seen easily). Who knows we might even glimpse - even a Scottish Wildcat perhaps...! We also plan to run a Moth trap nightly at our base, checking it each morning before heading out for the day.
Birding on the shores of the sea-lochs should give us Hooded Crow, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Black-throated and Red-throated Diver, Common Tern and waders including Greenshank, Redshank and Common Sandpiper. At wooded plantations we listen for Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Common Crossbill and Scotch Argus butterflies should be on the wing. Later we take the slow, meandering road out to Ardnamurchan Point with ample opportunity and habitat to spot Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Merlin, Peregrine and Raven. Scanning offshore from Mainland Britain’s most westerly point, we may encounter our first seabirds and on a calm day, cetaceans. Harbour Porpoise, Common and Bottlenose Dolphin and Minke Whale may be seen, while Humpback Whale and even Orca have been reported from here in recent summers.
Day 3: Monday - Muck boat trip
Cetaceans are the day’s main target as we take a boat trip out to Muck – an island gem rife for exploring! Minke Whale are regular in these waters through July, and we keep a sharp eye out for this thirty-foot whale surfacing. Common and Bottlenose Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise are possible too, and we even have a chance of Basking Shark. Seabirds will feature and with Manx Shearwater breeding on nearby Eigg, feeding rafts may be seen from our boat as will Shag, Cormorant, Gannet, Kittiwake, Arctic and Common Tern, Guillemot, Razorbill, a few Puffin, Great and Arctic Skua. We plan to land on Muck and explore on foot for approximately three hours. Sightings might include White-tailed Eagle, Merlin, 'real' Rock Dove, Twite, Wheatear, Rock Pipit and perhaps an Otter, and all in idyllic island surroundings with the neighbouring isles of Rhum, Canna and Eigg in the background. A great day out!
Day 4: Tuesday – Ardnamurchan to Mull
After a final morning exploring Ardnamurchan for any target species, we leave for Mull arriving into Tobermory for the next stage of our wildlife adventure. Mull is a real raptor paradise, with more Golden and White-tailed Eagle here than anywhere else in Britain! By late-July, young eagles will be taking to the skies for the first time, and it is a great period of the year to watch them as they seek out territories of their own. A range of moorland waders including Curlew, Snipe, Greenshank and Golden Plover are likely, with returning coastal species beginning to pass south too. We explore the island to its fullest, perhaps birding Northern, less-watched locations close to our arrival point today. A good area for Hen Harrier and Merlin, Whinchat breed in good numbers on the moors, small estuaries and marsh habitat can be good for passage waders and Otter may be found in quiet places. Overnight Mull for 4 nights.
Day 5: Wednesday - Treshnish Isles boat trip
If overnight conditions were deemed favourable, we begin with a check of our mobile Moth trap for interesting species. The rest of the day couldn’t be more different, as we enjoy a thrilling boat trip to the offshore islands west of Mull. We visit Staffa, where we should have enough time to investigate Fingal’s Cave while scanning the water for divers and breeding Great Skua. Moving on to the tiny Isle of Lunga, we land to witness the fabulous auk colonies on the cliffs above the beach and beyond to Harp Rock. Many thousands of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Shag are present while the ‘Puffin experience’ is one of the best in the British Isles, with views down to a few feet, at your own feet! A joy for photographers, we enjoy time here before returning to Mull in the afternoon.
Day 6: Thursday - Exploring ‘Mainland’ Mull
A full day on ‘Mainland’ Mull, promising a feast of raptor sightings with Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl all likely. We may see raptors virtually anywhere, and a full, leisurely day on quiet roads means we will also have time to look for Otter when close to shore. Lesser known areas inland may produce Common Crossbill and Tree Pipit on plantation edges, breeding warblers, including Wood Warbler, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher in the ancient oak woodlands and Dipper and Grey Wagtail on flowing streams. A range of Orchids, including Greater and Lesser Butterfly, Heath Spotted and Northern Marsh Orchid may be flowering, offering a subtle sense of perspective to the spectacular hills all around. Dragonflies might include Golden-ringed and Keeled Skimmer and several species of butterfly including Large Heath and Dark Green Fritillary are possible.
Day 7: Friday – Iona
Heading down to the far south-west tip of Mull and across a narrow is Iona, and we take the ferry by foot to spend some time on this lovely little island. Dominated by its imposing Abbey, it is the grassy fields and meadows which hold Iona’s most famous wildlife – Corncrake! The island supports a small, fragile population (up to 20 calling males) in a very small area and though with the grass at its tallest, chances of a sighting are slim we have been lucky on Iona in the summer months before, and could still hear the birds rasping calls. Another absorbing day, passerines including family flocks of Twite, Linnet, Wheatear and pipits are likely in the fields and scanning offshore on calm days from this the most westerly point in the Mull archipelago we have more opportunities to look for cetaceans. A very pleasant island to conclude our tour, and for those who wish too there should be enough time to visit the Abbey before returning to Mull.
Day 8: Saturday - Return to Nethy Bridge via Morvern
We have a few hours on Mull to round up anything we might have missed, or revisit birding sites we enjoyed the most, before taking the ferry to Morvern. Travelling along quiet, minor roads skirting the north shore of Loch Linnhe we will certainly see plenty of wildlife, perhaps with a few additions or surprises before our late-afternoon arrival in Nethy Bridge.
This holiday can be combined with:
Highlands and Wester Ross, Highlands and Outer Hebrides