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Trip created by Rachael Gavan
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There’s nothing quite like the mystique of winter in Scotland. Join us for a journey deep into the heart of the Highlands, exploring some of Scotland’s richest winter habitats including the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest and hills of the Cairngorms National Park which are home to some of the UK’s most elusive wildlife.
From snow-capped mountains to enchanting forests, frozen lochs and dark night skies, you’ll set out each day on foot to explore a variety of different habitats and learn more about the Highland wildlife and their ability to endure during the harsh winter conditions. Exploring with your expert guide, they will help you spot tracks, identify different species and interpret fascinating wildlife behaviours.
Discover how these vast areas of wilderness are managed and learn about the extensive re-wilding programmes that are in place intending to restore a greater natural balance to the ecosystems. Return to your handpicked accommodation each evening, where you’ll receive a warm welcome and a hearty meal.
Meet your guide in the town of Kingussie this morning and kick off your adventure by exploring the Insh Marshes Nature Reserve. One of the largest wetlands in the UK, this diverse ecosystem provides a home to many species of birdlife throughout the seasons, including the arrival of winter migrants such as whooper swans and greylag geese, as well as wintering ducks like wigeon and tufted ducks. As you explore on foot, your knowledgeable guide will point out various species and distinguish between their fascinating calls. Later this afternoon, you’ll settle into your cosy accommodation, your home in the Highlands for the duration of your trip. (L, D)
Stretching from the River Nethy to the top of Ben Macdui, high on the Cairngorm plateau, the Abernethy National Nature Reserve is one of the largest natural habitats in Scotland. It encompasses the largest remnants of Caledonian pine forest as well as sweeping moors, wetlands and of course the iconic Cairngorm mountains range with its arctic-like plateau. The reserve is home to a host of specialist pinewood as well as many native upland plants and animals. We’ll venture deep into the Caledonian Pine Forest where we will look for red squirrels, birds of prey and forest birds. Keep an eye out for signs for the pine marten and the rare capercaillie. Red deer are also common here so tread lightly as an encounter with one of these majestic animals is truly unforgettable. As you walk with your guide, you’ll learn about the ongoing land management and rewilding projects in the Cairngorms National Park and across Scotland. (B, L)
Stepping away from the Cairngorms National Park today, we head north to Findhorn Bay – a large tidal lagoon that provides shelter for a variety of wildlife throughout the seasons. As we explore the sweeping sands that skirt the coastline, you’ll see waders like oystercatchers and curlew and golden plovers dart across the wet sand through the shallows. Other species here include wildfowl such as pintail, teal and goldeneye. Keep your eyes on the water as well as you may spot a bobbing head of a seal. The area is also home to wintering pink-footed geese – catching the sounds and sight of their flights in and out of the bay is a special experience on a cool winter day. This evening, we’ll enjoy an earlier dinner before wrapping up warm and heading out for a short evening walk. We’ll admire the countless stars this area of dark sky affords us, while looking out for owls and other nocturnal creatures. If you’re lucky enough, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive northern lights. (B, L)
High in the hills of the Cairngorms National Park, you’ll find some of the UK’s most resilient wildlife including the mountain hare and snow bunting, and species of ground-nesting birds like the ptarmigan which are unique to this area. We’re able to drive to 600m elevation, so are high in the mountains from the start of our walk. We’ll keep an eye out for snow bunting nesting in the northern corries, and listen for the distinct call of the ptarmigan travelling through the crisp mountain air. You may also spot red deer as well as the free-roaming reindeer – this area is home to the UK’s only herd. Returning to your accommodation, we’ll enjoy our final evening meal together and reflect on the many different plants and animals we’ve seen so far. (B, L, D)
After a hearty Scottish breakfast this morning, you’ll step out to explore one final wintery habitat. Enjoy a local walk along the bank of the River Spey not too far from its source. You’ll look out for signs of the winter inhabitants, such as the otter, whose dense fur allows it to stay warm in the cold winter months. We may spy a grey heron fishing in the currents. As we walk, you’ll learn the river’s importance for salmon and other fish – and, of course, its crucial role in producing some of Scotland’s finest whiskies. After the walk, we transfer to your guide the railway station again where we’ll say goodbye and you start your journey home, leaving the wintery Highlands behind you. (B)
Throughout this trip, we will be based in a small guest house located in the Cairngorms National Park which offers double and twin rooms with en-suite facilities and a relaxing lounge area. Each evening, a variety of local produce will be served up in hearty meals and of course, any special dietary requirements are happily catered for, just let us know at the time of booking.
For solo travellers: Accommodation is based on sharing a twin room with another solo traveller of the same gender. A limited number of rooms for single occupancy are available on a first come first served basis, subject to a single supplement. Please enquire for availability.
Meals included on this trip are breakfast and lunch each guided day with evening meals included on day 1 and day 4.
On this trip, we generally eat dinner as a group, however, if you would like to make alternative arrangements you are free to do so. Your guide will have an evening off during this trip where they do not eat with the group.
This trip includes the following:
All transport and travel are included in your trip from your meeting point at Kingussie Train Station at 11am on day 1 to your final day when you are dropped back to the station for 12.30pm.
If you would like to use your own vehicle on the trip please get in touch with our team to discuss.
Rachael is a true gem and we regularly receive feedback thanking her for designing inspiring itineraries and for being such a pleasure to chat to. In many cases the people Rachael designs tailor-made trips for, actually become friends with and she’s had more than one invite to far off lands as a result. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that winter is Rachael’s favourite time of the year. She has poured all of her passion for Scottish winter into this trip.Ask Rachael a Question
Green Graded Wildlife Holidays 1-3
All of our wildlife trips are graded Green and involve straightforward hiking with no major ascents, as well as other activities which are pitched at novice level. You can expect to be active for around 5 hours each day so you will need a reasonable level of fitness. Please note that there may be some early starts and late nights as we seek to maximise our chances of finding wildlife, although you can always opt out of activities if you prefer an early night or long lie in the morning!
So to help you decide if you are fit enough for this kind of trip, ask yourself: