SCOTLAND: Highlands & Inner Hebrides

SCOTLAND Atlantic Puffins

TOUR FOCUS
BIRDS & WILDLIFE

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SCHEDULED TOURS

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TOUR COST

From: $5,400 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Inverness, Scotland (INV)

GROUP SIZE

6 Participants

AVAILABILITY

Contact us for details

PRIVATE TOUR OPTION

This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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TESTIMONIALS

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Highlights of SCOTLAND: Highlands & Inner Hebrides

  • Glorious Scenery
  • Rugged Coastlines
  • Seabird Spectacle
  • Capercaille & Grouse
  • Otters & Seals

Description of SCOTLAND: Highlands & Inner Hebrides

Join us to enjoy a two week trip to one of the most scenic parts of the world, discovering the birds and wildlife of Scotland’s rugged coastal islands and remote highlands. With seasonally pleasant climate, June is a wonderful time to experience resident and migratory species breeding in diverse habitats.

An exciting journey through the Inner Hebrides highlights seven beautiful islands, Skye, Eigg, Muck, Mull, Staffa, Lunga and Iona. Multiple ferry rides provide great opportunities to see some outstanding wildlife, such as Minke Whale, Grey and Common Seal, Otter, Manx Shearwater, Northern Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwake. White-tailed Eagles soar over the western isles, while marauding skuas hunt for puffins, Razorbills, and Black Guillemots. On Iona we will hope to catch a glimpse of the secretive Corncrake.

In the famed Scottish Highlands we’ll explore rugged glens and vast moorlands from our base in the beautiful Spey Valley. The ancient Caledonian pinewoods are home to Britain’s only endemic bird, the Scottish Crossbill, along with Crested Tit, and Capercaillie, the largest grouse in the world. On the Cairngorms mountain plateau we’ll take an extended walk in search of our targets, Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Secluded lochs harbor stunning breeding plumaged Horned Grebe, Red-throated and Black-throated Loons. Rolling moorlands feature Golden Plover, Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owls and Red Grouse, while Red Kites are well-established on the Black Isle.

We will experience spectacular scenery, a wide variation in weather conditions, moderate walking and about 130 species of birds during our wonderful trip to Scotland’s Inner Hebrides and Highlands.

 

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Itinerary

Length of Tour

16-days/15-nights

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – AM arrival at Inverness; transfer to Nethy Bridge
Day 2 – Abernethy Forest and lochs
Day 3 – Moorlands and glens
Day 4 – Cairngorm Plateau
Day 5 – Troup Head and East coast
Day 6 – Moray Coast and Black Isle
Day 7 – Transfer to Western Isles, Mull, Inner Hebrides
Day 8 – Mull
Day 9 – Treshnish Isles – Lunga and Staffa
Day 10 – Iona
Day 11 – Ardnamurchan Peninsula
Day 12 – Eigg and Muck
Day 13 – Transfer to Skye
Day 14 – Skye
Day 15 – Transfer to Inverness
Day 16 – AM departure from Inverness

Itinerary

Day 1 – AM arrival in Inverness; transfer to Nethy Bridge

AM arrival (by noon) at Inverness Airport (INV) and transfer to Mountview Hotel, Nethy Bridge, our base in the Highlands for the next six nights.

Days 2 – 6 – Abernethy Forest and the Scottish Highlands

Five days birding the fabulous Scottish mainland. Our itinerary will vary according to weather and our success with birds as we progress, though the following outline gives a good idea;

Day 2

Today is firmly focused on the birds which make this wonderful part of the country so special. After breakfast we visit local ‘hotspots’ in Caledonian pine forest to see Crested Tit, and we often see adults with fledged young at this time. Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill are nomadic, though present throughout the year. Red Squirrel are seen on our Hotel feeders most days. Later we investigate local lochs and rivers, birchwoods and moorland, where your list may include Osprey, Dipper, Buzzard, Goldeneye, Red Grouse, Black-throated Diver, Lesser Redpoll, Peregrine, breeding waders and Slavonian Grebe. The beauty of divers and grebes in breeding plumage spellbinds many of our participants, and during this holiday we make time to find them at close quarters.

Day 3

An optional early start to see a Black Grouse lek is a great start, though please note the birds can be unreliable in June, though your chances are good. Later we visit our exclusive private estate woodlands in to search for Capercaillie. In June hen birds are more likely, perhaps with chicks. We have plenty of Capercaillie spots, so we have good chances, though the birds are elusive and rare.
Later we drive to the Black Isle, where birding should include Red Kite, ducks, waders, gulls and terns, particularly at Chanonry Point, a spectacular peninsula which juts into the Moray Firth, often giving close access. Depending upon the tides, we have excellent chances of seeing Bottle-nosed Dolphins too.

Day 4

We spend a full day on the Cairngorm plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right spots for Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Once Dotterel are ‘in’ by early May only bad weather can stop us seeing them. We carefully choose the best day for your comfort and safety, and we also take care not to disturb the birds. Look out also for Snow Bunting (sometimes singing). Brilliant birding in a very special habitat.

Day 5

We take an exciting cruise to the foot of Troup Head, mainland Scotland’s only Gannetry to see the birds up close! Auks on the sea will include Puffin and Black Guillemot, and the first Great and Arctic Skuas of the season may be seen too. It is an exciting boat trip! Divers may be present, and we should see Rock Pipit, newly arrived Northern Wheatear and more. We also know quiet and underwatched places on the west coast where waders can be found in bright summer plumage. We also target any available rarities on this day, perhaps including King Eider. Later we plan to visit a Speyside Distillery, and perhaps sample Malt Whisky too!

Day 6

A complete contrast as we visit the Moray Coast, where birding is excellent at any time of year. In summer we see gulls, terns, waders and duck, perhaps including migrants. We expect to see a range of breeding birds including Osprey fishing, Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Stonechat, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern, Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill are also likely.

Day 7 – Transfer to Mull in the Inner Hebrides

We take our time as we make our way to magical Mull, heading west via Fort William and two ferries. The scenery is outstanding, becoming more rugged as we pass Ben Nevis on our way to the west coast, and we watch out for Hooded Crow, Black Guillemot, a variety of gulls, terns and ducks, and perhaps both Common and Grey Seal. On arrival on Mull we take lunch and begin to explore the island, with our key targets being Golden and White-tailed Eagles and Otter. Overnight Mull for three nights.

Day 8 – Mull

Mull is a wildlife paradise, becoming ever more popular with birdwatchers. It’s easy to see why, with more Golden and White-tailed Eagles than anywhere else in Britain, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Raven and a range of northern moorland species. The fields hold lots of waders, including Snipe, Golden Plover, Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatcher, and we also intend to spend time Otter watching. All this amongst magnificent scenery, featuring towering mountainous cliffs, picturesque shorelines, rocky foreshores and beautiful pristine beaches.

Day 9 – Treshnish Isles (Staffa and Lunga) and Mull

The coastal habitat is extra special, and we enjoy a thrilling boat trip, first visiting the Isle of Staffa, where we have enough time to visit Fingal’s Cave and also scan for Great Skua. Next, on to the tiny isle of Lunga, where the ‘Puffin experience’ is one of the best in the British Isles, as we pass right by the burrows (the birds are tolerant, and a careful birder can enjoy views from a few feet). Further along auks, Shag and gulls can be safely appreciated at eye level just yards away. Photographers will love this! A quiet walk away from the main cliffs and we may hear Twite singing. Many Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Shag are present, with Black Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and perhaps tiny Storm Petrel, Great Skua, Arctic Tern and ‘real’ Greylag Goose offshore.

Day 10 – Iona

As well as thoroughly exploring Mull itself, including a special place or two rarely visited by birders, we visit the small island of Iona. Any lingering Great Northern Diver will be superb in summer finery, and an absorbing day should once again include both eagle species and Red Deer. On Iona at this time the grassy fields around the ancient Abbey hold Corncrake. There can be up to 20 males calling, and although we can’t guarantee a sighting, we should hear the birds rasping, and are usually rewarded with a glimpse or two! In late afternoon we take the ferry back to the mainland and make the short transfer to Strontian, where we are based for three nights. On this night we hope to spot Pine Marten at a quiet and private place.

Day 11 – Ardnamurchan Peninsula

One of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. North of Mull, west of Fort William, often overlooked, yet blessed with wonderful wildlife. Rugged coastline and mountains, vast moorland and lovely sea lochs. We also expect excellent views of Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle, Red Deer, both seals, Raven, Hen Harrier…quiet parts of western Scotland hold very special wildlife!

Day 12 – Eigg and Muck

Minke Whale is the main target on this unforgettable boat trip. Watching a 30-foot whale swimming alongside and even underneath our boat is one of the truly wonderful wildlife experiences of Scotland. Basking Shark, Grey and Common Seal, Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Raven, and maybe dolphins, Harbour Porpoise, and a tiny darting Storm Petrel ensure a wildlife day to remember! We may also see ‘real’ Rock Dove, Hooded Crow, Red-throated Diver, and perhaps eagles and skuas, plus thousands of Guillemot, Razorbill, a few Puffin, lots of Gannet, Kittiwake… birds all the way! We will call at Eigg in both directions, and stay longer on Muck, where we have time to walk and enjoy views across to Rum, and have another chance at Corncrake.

Days 13 & 14 – Skye

This morning we drive north-west to Mallaig, and take the ferry to Skye. We cross the famous Syke Bridge and explore quiet places in the hope of finding waders, eagles and other birds of prey. We have time to seek out spots away from the main tourist areas, where the scenery is awe-inspiring, and this part of the holiday will be both relaxing and rewarding as we enjoy the beautiful island scenery.

Day 15 – Transfer to Inverness

After breakfast we transfer to Inverness birding along the way along with stops at historic picturesque sites, Eileen Donan Castle, and visit Urquhart Castle on the banks of Lock Ness! Mid-afternoon arrival in Inverness.

Day 16 – Depart from Inverness (INV)

You may depart anytime this morning.

 

• Please note: The itinerary is given as a guide only. Actual content may vary according to the judgement of your guide(s), and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

Cost Details

Cost

$5,400 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Inverness, Scotland (Airport code INV).
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code ).

Single Supplement and other Cost Additions

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $375 will be assessed.

Cost includes

15 nights accommodation; all meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 16; all transportation by comfortable minibus from Inverness; guidance from professional leader(s); all ferry and boat fees

Cost does not include

Internal travel to Inverness meeting point; travel insurance; tip to local leader; drinks and other items of a personal nature

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of participants are registered the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

Accommodations

14 nights at four centers, all ensuite, in comfortable hotels.

In the Highlands we will be based for 6 nights in Nethy Bridge at the Mountview Hotel.

We are in 3 locations for the Inner Hebrides portion of our trip, with 3 night stays at Strontian and on Mull, and 2 nights on Skye.

Our last (15th) night we will near Inverness Airport

Activity Level

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

Walking:
You need a reasonable level of fitness.

Moderate walking at a slow pace, and usually no more than 2-3 miles a day. The terrain is mostly level, though there will be times when we walk distances in soft sand, moist meadows and over stoney ground.

Walking on the Cairngorms Plateau for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is strenuous, requiring a longer walk as we climb about 2000 ft in elevation, from about 2000 ft to 4000 ft.

Additional Information

Recommended Field Guide:
Birds of Europe
(2nd Edition, 2010, Princeton University Press)
by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterstrom

This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.

No Visa is required to visit the United Kingdom.

Weather:
Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Average June temperature 48-60F. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes (we will walk through wet grass and puddles of water) and warm clothing. Strong winds can be a feature on the islands.
The month of June has about 19 hours of daylight.

Walking:
You need a reasonable level of fitness.

Moderate walking at a slow pace, and usually no more than 2-3 miles a day. The terrain is mostly level, though there will be times when we walk distances in soft sand, moist meadows and over stoney ground.

Walking on the Cairngorms Plateau for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is strenuous, requiring a longer walk as we climb about 2000 ft in elevation, from about 2000 ft to 4000 ft.

Ferry and Boat rides:
Several ferry rides are needed to access Mull and Iona. Boat trips are scheduled Eigg and Muck, as well as to Staffa and Lunga.

Transportation:
All transportation will be by comfortable minibus

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

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