Ultimate Scotland    
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Ultimate Scotland Tour    

Date May/ Jun

Background Information- Location

  • Leader- Andy Hirst 07947 068125.
  • Focus- Caledonian Forest, Upland areas and trip into mountains, plus lochs, Glacial Valley's, Machair grassland, mostly low lying islands, with some mountainous areas, and steep cliffs.
  • Habitats- Ancient Caledonian woodland, Well managed moorlands, steep sided upland valleys, plus tundra mountain habitats including scree slopes (viewed from the bottom), plus small peaty lochens and larger lochs, with a trip to the coast. Unique Machair grassland, beaches, rugged coastline and sheer cliffs. Because of the topography of the area, mobiles and pagers may not work.
  • Climate/ Weather- Can be very variable from shirt sleeve weather at lower altitudes or later in the day, to snow storms higher up. Invariably cold first thing in the morning, and when the sun sets (can be frost even in May). In-between it can be very warm, clothing appropriate for every eventuality, bring several layers to add/ remove or replace if wet. Frost and snow can be expected in the hills. It can some times be windy. The weather can change quickly so take wet weather gear even if bright and sunny. The west coast should be milder, although can be very windy, especially on the islands, and rain is not uncommon here!
  • Transport- 9 Seater Luxury Mini-bus with a/c, so plenty of room for occupants and birding gear.
  • Accommodation- Based in bed and breakfast places in Aviemore. hotels and country lodges on the Hebrides and Scourie- all with friendly staff and excellent breakfasts. Some modern, some traditional. Tour participants will share a room unless a single room supplement has been previously booked. WIFI is available at some the b&b's and hotels.
  • Food- Return each morning to the accommodation for a hearty Scottish breakfast. We will pick up sandwiches, fruit crisps, biscuits and water to see us through the day. Hot drinks (tea, coffee, chocolate, soup) will be freely available throughout the day. Return each evening to sample one of many eateries in Aviemore from pubs to Indian restaurants. Please try the local Cairngorm Brewery beer- very nice. Haggis is an optional extra. As we move west we will probably eat at the hotels and lodges where we stay and venture into the local towns and sample the local hospitality- but we can be adventurous.
  • Pace- Mostly very easy, from within sight of minibus with short walks on occasionally uneven ground, or to/ from hides. Effort required to scale valley near Cairngorm for Ptarmigan, this is uneven and can be covered in snow- graded as moderate to difficult. Out all day with optional early morning venture (05:00). then post breakfast 09:30 until 18:00ish- or dusk if wanted. We will have time during the tour for souvenirs, and will probably call at the Cairngorm Brewery for ADH to replenish his stock of beer, you are welcome to bring back a sample case of beers. Sea-legs required for the 2 hour ferry crossing from/to Skye, and the short small boat journey to Handa as well as the White-tailed Eagle boat trip.
  • Daily Routine- Optional early morning trip at 05:00, returning for breakfast at 08:30. Following breakfast head off for the day picking up lunch on the way c09:30. Follow the itinerary for the day. Stopping as necessary. We pass through many small villages/ towns so plenty of loo opportunities, except on the wilder parts of the west coasts and North Uist, which are quite remote. We return late afternoon/ early evening to relax with a wash and brush up and out for a meal. Suggest early nights, for early starts, but plenty of bars and pubs for those who wish to indulge.
  • Recommended Reading- 'Best Birdwatching Sites in the Scottish Highlands'- Gordon Hamlett (Buckingham Press), 'Finding Birds in Britain'- Lee Evans (BirdGuides Ltd).' Collins Bird Guide' - Best field guide in Europe.
  • Maps- Ordnance Survey Explorer 403 Cairngorm & Aviemore, 418 Skye (Portree/ Bracadale), Ordnance Survey 418 Lochindorb & Grantown on Spey, 32 South Skye, 23 North Skye, 18 Harris (inc. N. Uist), 22 Benbecula (& S. Uist) and 9 Cape Wrath (Handa).

For previous tour reports- please go to the Tour Reports Page, for reports and species lists. (Aviemore area only- this is a new tour)

Background Information- Travel

  • Weight Allowance- Flight/ Hand Luggage- Not applicable. Plenty of room for bags and tripods etc...
  • Travel Arrangements/ Pick-up- Pick up in Sheffield. Join the A1, then north to Scotch Corner, along the A66 to Carlisle and the M6. Follow this north to the M74, M73 to Glasgow (stopping on the way), M80, M9, then the A9 at Perth to Aviemore. Estimated journey time from Sheffield (inc. stops) 7-8 hours.
  • Currency/ Requirements-Sterling. Just spending money for drinks in the evening required, as everything is included (all meals, entrance fees). We pass several estate shops, which invariably sell things with tartan on them! Plus we can visit the local Cairngorm brewery for a case of fine ale.
  • Passport / Visa Requirements -None (yet!!)
  • Health Requirements- None, just a modest amount of fitness for days in the field. Travel insurance recommended, but not compulsory. Seasick tablets for ferries.
  • Special Equipment- None really. A first aid kit will be available at all times. I will also be taking an Ipod with all the bird songs and calls of Europe installed. Please bring along camera and scopes if you wish, although Gone Birding will have available a top quality 82mm scope for all to use. A small rucksack would be useful for carrying spare jumpers, cameras, drink etc... A sturdy waterproof pair of boots with good ankle support. Wellies not required.
  • Clothing- Plenty of warm waterproof layers, plus a spare fleece, and overtrousers, hats and gloves and thick socks. A change of clothes for going out in the evening.
  • Nuisances- Scotland is famous for it's midges, but they emerge in mid- June, we should be OK, but recommend repellent containing DEET.

Useful Equipment Check List Useful equipment check list