Your professional zoologist guide will meet you between 11:00am and 13:00pm at either Aberdeen Dyce airport or Aberdeen railway station. Once we have collected everyone on the tour we will grab a quick lunch in Aberdeen before heading out in our private vehicle to Ythan estuary (40 mins). This is Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to huge amounts of bird life. We will spend a couple of hours here hoping to see the feeding eider ducks, scaup, long-tailed ducks, red-breasted merganser and velvet scoters. From here we leave to go to our accommodation for the next three nights in Banff (1 hour). Banff is a small fishing village nestled on the banks of the Moray Firth. We will eat our evening meal here and prepare for a couple of exciting days. Our accommodation will be one of the following, level – B&B / 3* (Carmelite House Hotel / Fife Lodge) depending on availability.
We will rise early and weather permitting embark on our first full day whale watching. We will charter our own boat complete with our own skipper; and head out into the Moray Firth. Our focus animals are the cetaceans around here such as common bottle- nose dolphins, harbour porpoise and best of all minkie whales. However there are grey and harbour seals and many bird species like Atlantic puffins, guillemots, cormorants, northern fulmars and kittiwakes. In addition to these regularly seen animals we have a chance to find basking sharks, oceanic sunfish, black guillemots, great shearwaters, Rissos dolphin and very occasionally orca. We will come ashore at one of the numerous beautiful fishing harbours for a toilet break and some lunch. Once we have come back to our accommodation, level – B&B / 3* (Carmelite House Hotel / Fife Lodge) we will have our well deserved evening meal and relax ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Once again after our breakfast, weather permitting, we will head out on our chartered boat to search the Moray Firth for all the animals we either saw or didnt see yesterday. In addition (if we didnt visit there yesterday) we will spend some time at Troup Head which is the UKs largest mainland colony of northern gannets. These huge white birds are incredibly fun to watch as they dive bomb the sea to catch fish several meters below the surface. Once again we will come ashore for lunch and a toilet break and then continue looking for whales, sharks and dolphins. Our evening meal will be back at our accommodation again, level – B&B / 3* (Carmelite House Hotel / Fife Lodge).
Cairngorms National Park
Today we travel from Banff inland to Aviemore (1 hour 40 mins) after breakfast. Here we will check into our accommodation, level – 3* / Lodge – (Garth Hotel / High Range Lodge Hotel); and then head to Loch Garten for a couple of hours in hope of spotting one of the few breeding pairs of osprey in Britain, we will return to our accommodation for lunch before visiting Glenlivet. Glenlivet is a privately owned section of the Cairngorms NP and a place which offers us a jeep safari around the park to try and spot some of the resident birds and mammals such as oystercatchers, teal, red grouse, dippers, roe deer and mountain hare. After our jeep safari we will go back to the accommodation, level – 3* / Lodge – (Garth Hotel / High Range Lodge Hotel) for our evening meal. Depending on the weather and other local conditions we will visit a purpose made hide for mammal watching where badgers and the rare pine marten are very often seen alongside other nocturnal species.
Cairngorms National Park
We will rise early today and after a Highland breakfast travel to Insh Marshes. Insh Marshes is a brilliant place to come and see butterflies, orchids and dragonflies; along with plenty of birds such as goldeneye ducks, whooper swans, lapwings, redshanks and snipe. After a morning spent birding here we will go back to Aviemore for lunch before going back to Glenlivet for a guided walk around some of the grounds of Cairngorms NP. The walk will focus on the smaller species found here such as butterflies and wild flowers although by keeping your eyes peeled you may see golden eagles, buzzards and other raptor species. Our evening meal will be back at our accommodation again, level – 3* / Lodge – (Garth Hotel / High Range Lodge Hotel). Again depending on the weather and other local conditions we will visit a purpose made hide for mammal watching where badgers and the rare pine marten are very often seen alongside other nocturnal species..
This morning we can rise a little later and have a leisurely breakfast. Today we have a choice; either we will spend to the day walking around Cairngorms NP, Loch Garten or Insh Marshes or we can visit the Highland Wildlife Park. Birding around Cairngorms, Loch Garten and Insh Marshes has all the highlights explained in the previous days and if we have not seen any ospreys i recommend this option; however the Highland Wildlife Park is a great day out and a place which has very cleverly blended the current rolling glens and woods of the modern highlands with animals which became extinct in Scotland a long time ago unfortunately. Many of the species on show where resident British mammals until humans hunted them to extinction and some have been lost since the last Ice Age and some are just animals which do very well in Scotlands temperate climate. What ever the reason for them being on display its great to see grey wolves, brown and polar bears, reindeer, northern lynx, European bison, Amur tigers, Bactrian camels and many more animals in large, specially designed enclosures. Once we have finished either birding or at the Highland Wildlife Park we will travel to Inverness (the most northerly city in Britain) (1.5 hours) and have our evening meal at our new accommodation, level – 4* / 3* (Thistle Inverness / Waterside Inverness).
Today we will have a leisurely breakfast before travelling south around Loch Ness on the way we will visit Loch Ruthven; which along with Loch Garten and Insh Marshes is another RSPB Reserve and home to the very rare Slavonian grebe! Which will be our star species here as well as ospreys, black-throated and red-throated divers and Eurasian cuckoos. Later we will complete the circuit of Loch Ness, stopping for lunch along the way somewhere like Fort Augustus. Around the loch we will take in some of the sites as well as try and find the three species of deer here; red, sika and roe. Our evening meal will be back at the accommodation, level – 4* / 3* (Thistle Inverness / Waterside Inverness).
After breakfast there will be the option for a drop off at either the airport or train station before 10:00am; as the tour ends here and our guide will have a flight to catch in the afternoon.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.