Spring back to Birding!

Wonderful Scottish birding - welcome back!

Max Group Size5 per guide/vehicle

A wonderful short holiday to welcome you back to Scottish birding in spring. We search for all the specialities of the Highlands, and can offer only one date for this unique tour. Numbers are strictly limited so contact us now, and spring back to birding in style!

Birding the Scottish Highlands in late-April is magical. With summer visitors arriving daily, and key species displaying or breeding, there is so much going on as we enjoy four tremendous birding days, all within striking distance of our Hotel here in Nethy Bridge. This is an exceptional opportunity to look for Scottish speciality birds, and this holiday is ideal for the first time visitor or the seasoned expert.

Key species include: Capercaillie, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Black Grouse, Osprey, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and Ptarmigan, with spring migrants arriving, winter visitors still with us, and a host of resident birds on territory.

Other important species inland might include Red Grouse, Dipper, Snow Bunting, Buzzard and Goldeneye. On local fields and moors a host of northern breeding waders include Golden Plover, Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Curlew, and lots of spring passage at the coast might yield Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Sanderling and Dunlin, many in bright summer plumage. Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, late-staying Common and Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern Diver, Glaucous and Iceland Gull, Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern can all be seen at the coast, and farmland specialities include Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. On higher moorlands, Peregrine, Merlin, Raven, Slavonian Grebe, Black- and Red-throated Diver, Red Kite, Ring Ouzel, Stonechat and Wheatear are found, and in birch woodland Redstart and Tree Pipit join Willow Warbler, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and perhaps an early Pied Flycatcher or Wood Warbler.

We might also be lucky enough to connect with a rarity such as White-billed Diver, King Eider, Surf Scoter, American Wigeon or Green-winged Teal.

Seals and cetaceans, Red and Roe Deer, Mountain Hare and Red Squirrel add interest to this wonderful return to Scotland. Welcome back!

Please note: Heatherlea is resuming birding holidays at Mountview Hotel, Nethy Bridge, on Monday 26 April, in line with guidance from both UK and Scottish Governments. Our Hotel and Restaurant will be closed to non-residents, we are operating exclusively as a Birding Activity Centre (but with Hotel standard accommodation and meals) for the duration of this holiday. If things change and you are unable to join because of legal restrictions, you will be entitled to either reallocate to a different holiday or take a full refund.

KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up – which will be yours?

Capercaillie, Black Grouse and the other forest specialities.

Ptarmigan, eagles and more on the hills.

Wonderful coastal birding, including a visit to the west coast.

Divers and Slavonian Grebe in fresh spring plumage.

Day 1 Mon 26 April
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.

Day 2 Tues 27 April
Our award-winning hotel is close to an active Black Grouse lek and following breakfast we take a local walk to see Crested Tit and other breeders. Scottish Crossbill are found in the forests too and with both Common and Parrot Crossbill also present, separation of these species can pose a real identification challenge! We also visit our exclusive private estate woodlands for viewing Capercaillie. Staying inside our large minibus, we have good chances of seeing a bird. In quiet moorland areas we see both Black and Red-throated Diver and Red Grouse, and other local birds might include Dipper, Buzzard, Goldeneye and Osprey, and a host of northern breeding waders including Golden Plover, Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Curlew. A great first day!

CAPERCAILLIE - we have a responsible and caring attitude towards these magnificent birds. Our private estate access and unbeatable local knowledge are invaluable for seeing Capercaillie, and this is a reliable and responsible way to look for the wonderful ‘Horse of the Forest’. Read more...

Day 3 Wed 28 April
Spring birding along the Moray Coast is particularly enjoyable as newly arriving migrants complement the last few winter visitors. This day could include Osprey fishing, rafts of Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, late-staying Common and Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Glaucous and Iceland Gull, Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern and lots of spring waders including Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Sanderling and Dunlin, many in bright summer plumage. Farmland specialities including Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge are all still found on this fertile northern coastline on this rewarding day!

Day 4 Thurs 29 April
Today we search for mountain and moorland raptors including Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Peregrine and Merlin. Later we head towards the Black Isle north of Inverness, perhaps with Slavonian Grebe, Stonechat and Wheatear en-route. Red Kite are well-established, and we expect a big list of waders and duck, perhaps including a rarity such as American Wigeon or Green-winged Teal.

Day 5 Fri 30 April
We head for the hills to see Ptarmigan. 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 crossbills as we descend, and local birchwoods hold the first singing migrants, with Redstart and Tree Pipit joining Willow Warbler, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and perhaps an early Pied Flycatcher or Wood Warbler. If time allows, we also try to round-up any Scottish speciality we might have missed.

Day 6 Sat 1 May
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).

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 might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
  • Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
  • Four full days birdwatching.
  • All transport by comfortable minibus during six full days' birding. All 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.

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 light, although the optional 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. Even hardened Heatherlea guides will have hat and gloves in their bag at this time of year!
Biting insects could possibly be encountered, but still unlikely in early May.
Group size maximum 5 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

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248