Trip report - north and west Scotland

27th June 2017
Dates: 19th to 26th June 2017

Destination: north and west Scotland

Purpose of trip:

The purpose of my trip was my regular annual visit to the region to see bird and mammal species that are not found on a regular basis in Essex or East Anglia.

Primary target areas:

The primary target areas for wildlife watching and/or landscape photography were:

Perthshire: Loch Leven RSPB reserve, Glen Quaich, Loch of the Lowes SWT reserve

Speyside: Insh Marshes RSPB reserve, Loch Insh, Loch Garten/Loch Mallachie RSPB reserve, Abernethy Forest (Forest Lodge), Dulnain Bridge

Inverness area (south): Findhorn valley, Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve

Sutherland: Loch Fleet, Loch Laxford, Kyle of Durness, Balnakeil Bay, Tarbet, Scourie Bay, Assynt coastal route (Lochinver to Kylesku via Drumbeg)

Wester Ross: Inverpolly area, Coigach peninsula, Gruinard Bay area, Loch Maree area

Ardnamurchan peninsula: various sites

Mull and Iona: various sites

Getting there and getting around:

I travelled up to Glasgow by Virgin trains on 19th June 2017 and returned on 26th June 2017. Taking advantage of the Virgin Trains “birthday sale”, I obtained an advance first class return ticket for £70 which included a single seat and lots more space than second class plus free wi-fi, free meals and free coffee/tea, soft drinks, beer and wine .... excellent!

In Glasgow, I hired a car from lunchtime on 19th June 2016 to lunchtime on 26th June 2017 from Thrifty Car Rental for £120.95, reduced by Quidco cashback to £110.06. I was provided with a free upgrade to a brand new Ford Focus (only 27 miles recorded) which returned a very economical 62 mpg .... excellent!

I used the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services to get to and return from Mull: Kilchoan to Tobermory (£11.05 car and passenger fare) Craignure to Oban (£16.45 car and passenger fare).

During my trip, I had overnight stays at the following:

19th June 2017: Travelodge Perth Broxden Junction just outside Perth. Costing £25 for the night, this provided excellent value for money and a convenient stopover in readiness for birding at Perthshire sites from early the next morning. I had my evening meal at the Everest Inn in Perth, a highly rated Nepalese and Indian restaurant.

20th June 2017: Beinn Sealladh bed and breakfast in Nethy Bridge. This was my third successive annual stay at this highly recommended bed and breakfast which cost only £26 for the night including a wonderful home cooked breakfast. Thank you again Barbara and Stuart! I had my evening meal at the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore, a historical inn offering a limited but interesting menu.

21st and 22nd June 2017: Park House bed and breakfast in Lochinver. This was my second stay at this small guest house. Costing £30 per night including breakfast, it provided budget accommodation in a good location for trips around the north west Highlands. During my 2 night stay in Lochinver, I had evening meals at Peet’s Restaurant and Lochinver Larder. Eating options are limited in Lochinver and both of these are highly recommended. However, they are very popular and booking in advance is essential.

23rd June 2016: Travelodge Inverness Fairways in Inverness. Again, Travelodge provided excellent value for money at £30 for the night. I had my evening meal at the Snow Goose just outside Inverness. This was not my first choice (my preferred choices in Inverness were all fully booked) but it provided standard “gastropub” food and an interesting discussion with the Slovakian waitress regarding my recent visit to her country.

24th and 25th June 2017: Tigh-an-Achadh bed and breakfast in Salen on Mull. Costing £63 for my 2 night stay (reduced by a deposit from a cancelled visit in 2015 due to a ferry strike), this bed and breakfast provided an ideal central location to travel around Mull. During my 2 night stay in Salen, I had evening meals at the Mediterranea Restaurant just a very short walk from Tigh-an-Achadh) and Spice of Mull in Tobermory. The former is a highly recommended Italian restaurant whilst the latter offered an extensive menu of Bangladeshi, Indian, Chinese and Thai dishes.

This is a summary of my itinerary and route:

19th June 2017: Glasgow – Loch Leven RSPB reserve – Perth

20th June 2017: Perth – Dunkeld – Glen Quaich – Dunkeld – Loch of the Lowes SWT reserve – Dalwhinnie – Kingussie – Insh Marshes RSPB reserve – Loch Insh – Boat of Garten – Abernethy Forest (Forest Lodge) – Dulnain Bridge – Loch Garten/Loch Mallachie RSPB reserve – Nethy Bridge

21st June 2017: Nethy Bridge – Dulnain Bridge – Carrbridge area – Findhorn valley – Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve – Loch Fleet – Ledmore junction – Loch Assynt – Lochinver – Assynt coastal road – Lochinver

22nd June 2017: Lochinver – Assynt coastal road – Clachtoll – Stoer lighthouse – Clashnessie – Drumbeg – Kylesku – Scourie – Tarbet – Loch Laxford – Kyle of Durness – Balnakeil Bay – Durness – Lochinver – Loch Kirkaig – Lochinver

23rd June 2017: Lochinver – Loch Kirkaig – Inverpolly – Coigach peninsula – Ullapool – Dundonnell – Laide – Mellon Udrigle – Laide – Loch Maree – Glen Docherty – Achnasheen – Inverness

24th June 2017: Inverness – Dores – Fort Augustus – Fort William – Kinlocheil – Ardgour – Sallachan – Strontian – Garbh Eilean wildlife hide – Salen – Ben Hiant viewpoint – Kilchoan – Kilchoan to Tobermory ferry – Loch na Keal – Salen

25th June 2017: Salen – Craignure – Grasspoint – Glen More – Pennyghael – Bunessan – Fionnphort – Fidden – Iona – Loch Scridain – Loch na Keal – Dervaig – Salen

26th June 2017: Salen – Craignure – Craignure to Oban ferry – Oban – Tyndrum – Crianlarich – Loch Lomond - Glasgow


The 19th and 20th June were sunny and warm with day maxima of 22°C. The 21st, 22nd and 23rd June were similarly warm with day maxima of 18°C to 20°C but with a mix of sun and cloud and some heavy rain showers. The 24th and 25th June were much cooler with day maxima of 12°C to 13°C, again with a mix of sun and cloud and some heavy rain showers and additionally a strong wind.


During my trip, I was able to record 112 bird species, 13 mammal species and 1 amphibian species.

Trip list - north and west Scotland

With regard to the birds, I was able to add 8 species to my 2017 list.

The main disappointment of my trip was not seeing White-tailed Eagle on Mull, especially after extensive searching throughout the island and at specific sites where I have seen this species before. What a difference from the 12 White-tailed Eagles that I saw during my one day trip to Mull in September 2015!

Mammals included Pine Marten (1 in full daylight at Street of Kincardine between Aviemore and Nethy Bridge), Otter (1 at Lochinver, 2 at Loch Scridain, Mull and 1 at Loch na Keal, Mull), Red Squirrel (2 at Forest Lodge and 1 at Dulnain Bridge), Stoat (5 together in Glen Quaich) and Harbour Porpoise (2 from the Craignure to Oban ferry) plus Red Deer, Fallow Deer, Roe Deer, Atlantic Grey Seal, Common Seal, Bank Vole, Brown Hare and Rabbit.

Photo: Otter - Loch Scridain, Mull

Photo: Stoat - Glen Quaich, Perthshire

It was good to see a large population of Rabbits in Glen Quaich given the large decrease in the population in my home region of East Anglia due to haemorrhagic disease.

The single amphibian species that I recorded was Common Toad.

The following summarises the notable wildlife species seen on my trip:

Loch Leven RSPB reserve: Greylag Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Mallard, Heron, Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Common Snipe (heard only), Swallow, Sedge Warbler, Common Buzzard, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Rabbit

Glen Quaich: Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Red-throated Diver, Greylag Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Cuckoo (heard only), Willow Warbler (heard only), Common Whitethroat (heard only), Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Whinchat, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Lesser Redpoll, Stoat, Brown Hare, Rabbit

Loch of the Lowes SWT reserve: Osprey, Common Buzzard, Goosander, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Goose, Heron, Willow Warbler (heard only), Swallow, Sand Martin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Yellowhammer

Insh Marshes RSPB reserve: Curlew, Heron, Lapwing, Common Redshank, Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Swallow, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Roe Deer

Loch Insh : Osprey, Goldeneye, Common Sandpiper (heard only), Cuckoo (heard only), Willow Warbler

Boat of Garten: Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Swallow, Sand Martin, Treecreeper, Goldcrest (heard only), Roe Deer

Invereshie/Inshriach: Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler (heard only), Goldcrest (heard only)

Forest Lodge: Crested Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler (heard only), Siskin, Goldcrest (heard only), Coal Tit, Swallow, Swift, Red Squirrel

Dulnain Bridge: Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Goldeneye, Oystercatcher, Common Buzzard, Red Squirrel

Loch Garten RSPB reserve: Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Common Sandpiper

Findhorn valley: Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Wheatear, Willow Warbler (heard only), Blackcap (heard only), Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Red Deer, Mountain Goat (feral)

Farr road moors: Red Grouse, Wheatear, Willow Warbler (heard only), Goldcrest (heard only), Swallow

Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve: Slavonian Grebe, Willow Warbler (heard only), Sand Martin, Stonechat, Reed Bunting

Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve to Inverness: Cuckoo

Loch Fleet: Osprey, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Teal, Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Common Tern, Heron, Cormorant, Hooded Crow, Rock Dove, Common Seal

Rogart to Lairg: Red Kite

Lairg: Black-throated Diver

Loch Assynt: Black-throated Diver, Red Deer

Assynt coastal road (Lochinver to Kylesku via Drumbeg): Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Shag, Common Tern, Wheatear, Swallow, House Martin, Heron, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Hooded Crow, Rock Pipit, Red Deer, Bank Vole

Assynt coastal road – Achmelvich: Rock Dove, Cuckoo, Wheatear, Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow

Assynt coastal road – Clachtoll: Red-throated Diver, Eider, Guillemot, Wheatear

Assynt coastal road – Stoer peninsula and Stoer lighthouse: Great Skua, Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag, Raven, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Rock Dove, Wheatear, Rock Pipit

Assynt coastal road – Clashnessie: Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Shag, Wheatear

Kylesku: Shag, Oystercatcher, Common Seal

Scourie: Great Skua, Razorbill, Eider, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper

Tarbet: Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Gannet, Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Arctic Tern, Eider, Wheatear, Raven, Rock Pipit, Stonechat

Kyle of Durness: Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Oystercatcher

Balnakeil Bay: Gannet, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Shag, Sandwich Tern, Red-breasted Merganser, Rock Dove, Rock Pipit

Durness: Gannet, Razorbill, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Shag, Fulmar, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Rock Pipit, Atlantic Grey Seal

Loch Kirkaig and River Kirkaig: Dipper, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Cormorant

Lochinver: Otter, Heron, Red-breasted Merganser

Coigach peninsula: Great Northern Diver, Gannet, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Shag, Red-breasted Merganser, Curlew, Common Redshank, Oystercatcher, Raven, Hooded Crow, Rock Dove, Wheatear, Stonechat

Dundonnell: Common Buzzard

Mellon Udrigle: Wheatear

Loch Maree: Common Sandpiper, Willow Warbler, Siskin

Glen Docherty: Golden Eagle

Dores to Fort Augustus: Roe Deer, Red Deer

Kinlocheil to Ardgour: Black Guillemot, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Heron, Shag, Curlew

Ardnamurchan – Sallachan: Eider, Arctic Tern, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Seal

Ardnamurchan – Strontian to Lochaline: Common Sandpiper, Heron, Oystercatcher, Shag, Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Stonechat, Red Deer

Ardnamurchan – Garbh Eilean wildlife hide: Eider, Heron, Oystercatcher, Red-breasted Merganser, Rock Pipit, Willow Warbler (heard only), Common Seal

Ardnamurchan – Ben Hiant viewpoint: Gannet, Stonechat

Ardnamurchan – Kilchoan: Manx Shearwater, Gannet

Ferry to Mull (Kilchoan to Tobermory): Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Guillemot

Mull – Loch na Keal: Gannet, Black Guillemot, Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Heron, Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Willow Warbler (heard only), Common Whitethroat, Wheatear, Stonechat, Rock Dove, Common Buzzard, Twite, Rock Pipit, Otter, Atlantic Grey Seal, Red Deer, Fallow Deer

Mull – Salen to Craignure: Common Sandpiper, Red Deer

Mull – Grasspoint: Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Gannet, Black Guillemot, Heron, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler (heard only), Hooded Crow

Mull – Glen More: Short-eared Owl, Kestrel, Hooded Crow, Red Deer

Mull – Pennyghael: Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Heron, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Crow

Mull – Pennyghael to Bunessan: Heron, Oystercatcher, Common Buzzard, Common Whitethroat (heard only), Common Seal

Mull – Fidden and Knockvalagan: Gannet, Heron, Common Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Sedge Warbler, Wheatear, Stonechat, Rock Pipit, Swallow

Ferry to Iona: Gannet, Shag

Iona: Corncrake (heard only), Oystercatcher, Swallow, Sand Martin, Wheatear, Rock Dove

Mull – Loch Scridain: Heron, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Otter

Mull – Dervaig: Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Snipe (heard only), Common Buzzard, Wheatear

Salen: Red Deer

Mull – Fishnish to Craignure: Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Common/Arctic Tern, Common Seal

Mull – Craignure: Rock Dove

Ferry to Oban: Gannet, Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Curlew, Harbour Porpoise

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