The Outer Hebrides in spring offers a superb and varied wildlife experience. We meet in Inverness and drive through the stunning Scottish Highlands to the Isle of Skye and onwards to the port of Uig before boarding a ferry to Lochmaddy on North Uist (a journey of around 2 hours). From our base at the beautifully appointed Hamersay House on North Uist we will explore the three islands of Benbecula, North & South Uist which are linked by road causeways to visit the moorland, lochs and machair. The latter is a unique coastal habitat of short grass sward on sandy soil, a product of croft farming, which has created habitat for a spectacular array of flowers and breeding waders. At this time of year the waders should be pairing up and the air will be filled with their display flights and calls; the islands are also home to the rare and elusive Corncrake. The moorland offers wonderful opportunities for seeing both Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier, and the lochs will be home to breeding Red-throated and Black-throated Divers in their summer finery. We have good chances of seeing Otter, Red Deer, and Common and Grey Seals. With spring migration in full swing there is always the possibility of observing all four skua species (Great, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed) as they pass Aird an Runair, North Uist, whilst rarities such as Red-necked Phalarope or Snowy Owl are also possible!
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
Sat 23rd May - Sat 30th May - 1850€
-Accommodation: Upgraded for 2018 to North Uist's 4-star hotel, the family-run Hamersay House. Based in the outskirts of Lochmaddy with comfortable en-suite rooms and renowned cuisine with lingredients locally sourced
-Food: Breakfast and dinner included. Lunches at own expense.
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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NB. Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Inverness to North Uist
We’ll depart from Inverness this morning aboard our tour minibus for the three-hour journey to the Isle of Skye making a stop or two for comfort breaks and lunch en-route. We will arrive in the early afternoon at the port of Uig where we may have time to scan the bay for divers and Black Guillemot before boarding the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry* bound for Lochmaddy on North Uist. During the two-hour crossing we should encounter our first seabirds including Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet, auks and skuas and even possibly a Whitetailed Eagle.
As we enter the bay at Lochmaddy, we will keep our eyes peeled for skuas, eagles and Red-throated divers which can often be seen here. Having disembarked, we will then drive the short distance to our base for our 7-night stay on the outskirts of Lochmaddy.
After checking-in we should have time for a short excursion to the nearby coast. We will return in good time to freshen-up before dinner.
Days 2 – 7
Benbecula, North Uist & South Uist
We’ll make a thorough exploration of North Uist, South Uist and Benbecula, our exact itinerary depending on the wildlife and weather conditions at the time of our visit. These islands, especially South Uist, have some remarkable ecological features. Like much of north and west Scotland, the underlying rocks are mainly igneous and metamorphic – acid rocks giving rise to poor soils and oligotrophic lochs. However, blown-shell sand has greatly sweetened the lochs on the west side of South Uist and here you find great numbers of waterfowl. The same blown-shell sand creates the ‘machair’, the rich green sward found at the head of many bays on the west side of Scotland.
As a result, the lochs of South Uist are rich in common waterbirds. By contrast, in North Uist the lochs are more sterile, and it is here especially that we hope to see both Blackthroated and Red-throated Divers. We will hear Corncrakes calling in many places and, with diligence and patience, hope to get good views of this elusive bird.
The variety of mammals found on the islands is small but we will search sea-lochs and inlets looking for Otter, and we should see Grey and Common Seals.
We’ll find time to do some sea-watching from various headlands, especially Rubha Ardvule, where various seabirds are possible. If the winds are blowing from the west then there is every chance of witnessing skua passage. The Western Isles are famous for the spring passage of the two rarer British skuas, Pomarine and Long-tailed, en route from wintering to breeding grounds in the Arctic. Mid May is the peak time for passage and views can be exceptional. By minor roads on this side of South Uist we’ll be hoping to see Corn Bunting, a species sadly in extreme decline in much of Britain.
The three main islands of our visit – South Uist, Benbecula, and North Uist – are joined by causeways which also link the minor tidal island of Grimsay. On one day we hope to make a boat trip from Grimsay where we will have a good chance of seeing White-tailed Eagles fishing in the sea loch. Please allow an additional £30 for this 2-hour cruise. We may also visit Eriskay, celebrated for its love songs, and as the location for Compton MacKenzie’s 1947 novel, and subsequent film, ‘Whisky Galore’. Lying about five miles west of North Uist, the Monach Islands are home to the largest group of Grey Seals in the world, plus seabirds including terns and guillemot. An optional trip can be arranged to the islands whose flora, though not offering any notable rarities, is very attractive.
North Uist to Inverness
Our ferry leaves from Lochmaddy in the early morning* and on arrival in Uig we will travel back through Skye and on to Inverness where the tour finishes in the early afternoon.
* Please note that times of ferries are subject to change, and exact timings vary according to weather and sea conditions. Exact times and details of crossings will be sent to you in your Final Joining Instructions nearer the time of departure.