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The Cairngorms

Just returned from a weeks birding up to Scotland. Our route from Surrey was northeast to Bempton Cliffs in East Yorkshire, The Farne Islands in Northumberland, then Aviemore in the Highlands of Scotland. We departed Woking at 05:10am on Saturday (2nd June 2012)  morning, so didn't encounter any traffic problems on our journey north. Our return trip, however, didn't go so smoothly. Departing Aviemore at 08:10am Friday morning we made good time and were just outside Liverpool (5 hours) when we hit a bad traffic jam on the M6. After three hours of horrendous crawling traffic we pulled off and headed south on the A49 through Warrington and onto Leominster until we headed east and connected with the M5 then M4. All in all it took just over 15 hours to get home.

Tree Sparrow

We tallied up a species list of 113 birds, 18 of which were British lifers for Lori and 10 for me. The weather remained good for the entire trip with very little rain, though there was plenty on the day we left. I have only added a few photos on this post as there are so many; there are more examples at the bottom of this post- just click on the You Tube link.

Bempton Cliffs

Day 1 - Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve. (450 miles from Woking) Arrived at 09:50am. All the regular breeding seabirds were present including Gannet. See link for information about Bempton Cliffs. We stayed for two hours until heading north through Middlesbrough, Newcastle Upon Tyne and up the A1 to Holy Island on the Northumberland Coast, South of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Two nights at Lindisfarne Inn.

Holy Island

Day 2 - Farne Islands. Our original plan was to spend all day on a tour organised through Billy Shiel's boat The Glad Tidings, however, sea conditions looked a bit shaky so we opted for the shorter cruise around the islands and an hour visit to Inner Farne.

The Glad Tidings at Inner Farne

We had an amazing experience with many close encounters with many of the breeding birds including Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot, Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern, Fulmar, Eider and Shag.

Arctic Tern

Day 3 - Aviemore and Loch Garten. Departed Holy Island at 10:00am and arrived Aviemore around 14:00 and booked in at the Aviemore Youth Hostel for three nights. As we couldn't get into our room until later we checked out the the famous Loch Garten RSPB Reserve. Here we got views Osprey, Common Sandpiper, Wigeon and Crested Tit! We then took a drive up to the start of the Cairngorm Mountain trail as a quick reconnaissance. 

The Cairngorms

Day 4 - Cairngorm. Our original plan was for us all to hike together up to the summit of Cairngorm. Unfortunately our youngest son, Nolan, broke his foot a week before our trip in a bike accident. Luckily after his half-cast was removed, the hospital allowed him to wear a support boot which gave him much more freedom. The short version of this story is that we all made it to the summit (without the help of the railway) and had a fantastic day. Birds seen included Ptarmigan, Dotterel, Snow Bunting, Raven and Hen Harrier.


Day 5 - West Coast trip. Today we headed northeast toward Inverness, stopping at Loch Ruthven RSPB Reserve; probably the best place to see breeding Slavonian Grebe in the UK. Following the B862 we got our first and only Red Grouse just as we approached Loch Ness. From Inverness we followed the A835 through Black Isle (Red Kite) all the way to Braemore, where we took the A832 to Gruinard Bay.

Loch Ruthven
Gruinard Bay

Our hope was to see a White-tailed Eagle, as there was a pair nesting on Gruinard Island. Unfortunately they were not there this year. All was not lost though; the drive was beautiful and a few bonus birds included Great Skua, Red-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Wheatear and Golden Eagle at Bad na Sgalag.


Day 6 - Insh RSPB Reserve and Glen Feshie. The size of Insh Marshes is a little over whelming; luckily there are divided entrance points where you can view the marshes, the meadows and the woodlands. Close to the meadows we found our first and last Dipper of the trip. Further up the road we turned off to Glen Feshie where we watched Buzzard and Golden Eagle soaring above the glen. Stayed the night at the Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel.

Glen Feshie

Click below for a visual journey of our trip:


  1. A very interesting encounter. It has left me entrigued. Keep it up.
    Happy birding

  2. Nice one Rich! Bagged some real Highland goodies there mate. Well chuffed that you saw dotterel!
    Scottish birding is truly unique; reading your report took me back to my own experiences over the border. Cheers!

  3. Hi Rich,
    Interesting post! Do you prefer birding in BC or in Britain?


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