Lying 30 miles off the northwestern edge of the British Isles, the Outer Hebrides is an idyllic island chain boasting beautiful and diverse nature and geography. From gorgeous white sandy beaches to rugged moors and jagged mountains, the region’s captivating landscape will leave you awestruck!
More than 200 islands make up this astonishing ‘130 mile long’ archipelago in the North Atlantic and as one of Britain’s last remaining wildernesses, this pristine paradise offers an irresistible mix of breathtaking scenery and amazing wildlife, including the sought-after Corncrake. There are about 1000 pairs of this skulking rail on the islands and during late June, the males are often calling vigorously to announce their presence. Other species we hope to see are Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Hen Harrier, Arctic and Great Skuas, Short-eared Owl, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, Red-necked Phalarope, Black Guillemot and European Otter. All this plus beautiful wildflowers and scenery make this a tour not to be missed!
Tour Leader: Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 7
Travelling from Essex with possible pickups on route we head northwards into Scotland, making several stops for birding along the way. In the early evening we arrive at our overnight stop near Glasgow where we will enjoy a meal and a good night’s rest.
Overnight: Near Glasgow
We leave Glasgow after a hearty breakfast and drive towards Mallaig, making several stops to look for Willow Ptarmigan, Black-throated Diver, Western Osprey and Golden Eagle. Departing the port of Mallaig on the ferry in the early evening, we sail through the area known as ‘The Minch’. These waters are rich in wildlife and we hope to see Manx Shearwater, Atlantic Puffin, Northern Gannets and Arctic and Great Skuas. On previous tours we have seen European Storm Petrel, Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale! The ferry crossing takes three and a half hours and on arrival at our accommodation we settle in and have some lovely home-cooked food and a good night’s sleep.
Overnight: South Uist
Days 3 – 7
From our base in South Uist we will travel to the best birding sites on North and South Uist and the island of Benbecula. The famous sea-watching site of Aird an Runair is renowned for its spring skua passage and depending on weather and conditions we could see Pomarine, Arctic, Great and Long-tailed Skua plus the more common Manx Shearwaters.
The beautiful sandy beaches and bays are home to nesting Little, Arctic and Common Terns and our visit is timed to catch up with a wide variety of waders that are heading north to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Sanderling scurry about the beaches along with Common Redshank, Dunlin, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew and we may have the chance of a rarity such as Lesser Yellowlegs or Semipalmated Sandpiper which have occurred in recent years.
The wildflower meadows created by seashell sand, known as the ‘Machair’ are amazing during late spring, with displays of Kidney and Tufted Vetch and both Red and White Clover creating a stunning sight. These in turn are home to large concentrations of breeding waders including Common Ringed Plover, Northern Lapwing, Common Redshank, Common Snipe, Dunlin and Eurasian Oystercatcher amongst others. This unique habitat is home to around 1000 pairs of Corncrake whose rasping calls can be heard throughout the day and night. Getting a view of these secretive birds is a different matter but with patience and a little slice of luck we should see them well!
During the last few years, a Snowy Owl has spent the spring on North Uist and if it reappears, then it will be a ‘must see’ bird. Small numbers of Red-necked Phalarope arrive in late May and although these are hard to see on the islands there are several good places where we might connect. Raptors will be very much in evidence with Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon and White-tailed Eagle in good numbers, plus Short-eared Owls which will be hunting the wild moors in search of food for their young.
Red-throated Divers nest on inland lochs and a check of the sheltered bays should yield small numbers of Great Northern Diver in their beautiful summer plumage. Red-breasted Merganser, Common Eider, European Shag, Black Guillemot and the occasional Long-tailed Duck can be seen from the rocky headlands that are also home to breeding Twite and Rock Dove.
It isn’t just birds that we will be looking for as the Outer Hebrides is a great place to see Otter. They can be found in the sheltered sea lochs where there is plenty of seaweed to hunt in. Cetaceans are also found offshore with Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale commonly seen.
Overnight: South Uist
We take our ferry crossing back to Mallaig and travel southwards to spend the night in the Scottish Borders.
After a good breakfast we head to Upper Teesdale in search of Black Grouse. These fantastic birds may be seen from the roadside during the day. Other species to look for are Ring Ouzel, White-throated Dipper, Spotted Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail, Northern Wheatear and Willow Ptarmigan amongst others.
Early afternoon we head for home after what will have been a memorable tour!
Full board accommodation for 8 nights
Ground transport in Scotland including Ferries
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day 1
Relaxed, two to three miles walking per day except on day 3
Expect between 120 and 140 species
Tour Cost: £1890
Single Supplement: £180