• We meet at our hotel in Glasgow and dine together before setting off for Islay next morning.
    • Accommodation: Hotel in Glasgow, 1-night on bed & breakfast basis
    • From Glasgow we head to Kennacraig ferry terminal near Tarbert, where we take the early afternoon Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Port Askaig on Islay (pronounced Isla). 
    • On disembarking at Port Askaig, we explore a few locations en route to our accommodation where we stay for the duration of our visit to the island. 
    • We stop at Loch Finlaggan, which is the administrative centre of the Lordship of the Isles, but also home to an abundance of wildlife. The visitor centre is not open in winter, which means the site is quiet and perfect for bird watching.
    • Accommodation: Hotel on Islay, 5-nights on half board basis.
    • Today we explore the south of Islay – mainly the peninsula known as the Oa. This RSPB reserve is a beautiful spot consisting of moorland, farmland and cliffs. After a short but steep walk to the top of the cliffs, we hope to see red-billed choughs  dancing around. Other species may include peregrine and both golden and white-tailed eagles, while reed bunting and other farmland birds can be seen flocking together to feed and roost. 
    • We continue past Port Ellen to the 8th century Kildalton Cross, one of Scotland’s finest early Christian, carved stone crosses, stopping along the way to scan for wildlife - especially otters.
    • On the drive back to the hotel, we keep our eyes peeled for short-eared owl and hen harrier as we pass through the peatlands that supply the whisky industry for which Islay is so well-known.
    • Today we head north to Loch Gruinart and Gruinart Flats for the day. Managed by the RSPB, this area is alive with wildlife and flora. At this time of year we can see tens of thousands of migrant geese, wintering thrushes and waterfowl, with eagles and other birds of prey taking full advantage. 
    • If lucky, we may hear the end of the red deer rut, as the stags compete for the attentions of does. We may also see more red-billed choughs and hundreds of waders that gather on the estuary.
    • We also pay a short visit to Islay Woollen Mill, which has produced high-quality woven fabrics since 1983 (the mill was founded one hundred years earlier), including some for Hollywood films such as Braveheart, Rob Roy and The BFG. 
    • As the evening draws in, we make our way back to the warmth of our hotel, watching for short-eared owl and hen harrier along the way.
    • Today we take a morning ferry from Port Askaig across to Feolin on neighbouring Jura, which is dominated by ‘The Paps’ – three steep-sided mountains – and a large population of red deer. 
    • We spend the day driving up Islay’s east coast, whose rocky coastline creates perfect conditions for numerous otters that live along the shore, while inland is the blanket bog and mountains where we look for eagles, harriers and many red deer that inhabit the island. 
    • Some short walks allow us to take in the breathtaking views, explore various archaeological sites, and scan for cetaceans and seabirds. As the light starts to fade, we cross back to Islay.
    • Our final day takes us to the area known as The Rhinns on the west of the island. We circumnavigate this peninsula, taking in places such as Saligo and Machir Bay for waders, choughs and some specialist sand dune flora, then continue to Portnahaven, scanning for eagles as we go. 
    • After a coastal walk at Port Wemyss, we continue along Loch Indaal to scan for divers, waterfowl and seals. 
    • There may even be an opportunity to stop at a distillery that has now diversified and produces gin as well as single malt whisky.
    • Today we catch the afternoon ferry from Port Ellen back to the mainland, which gives us a final few hours to enjoy the wildlife before we head off. 
    • From Kennacraig we drive back to Glasgow to be dropped off at either Glasgow Airport or Central Station. 

All prices are per person and include:

  • Services of the naturalist leader
  • Transfers between Glasgow & Islay
  • Transport on Islay
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast & dinner
  • Guided activities

Accommodation

The hotel used on Islay is family owned and run, and has a very good reputation for its food, which features a lot of typical local produce. All rooms have an en suite bathroom.

Meals

Breakfasts and dinners are included and taken at the hotel. Lunches are at an additional cost; we suggest allowing £5-£10 per day for these.

Birds

An autumn visit to Scotland’s west coast reveals a surprisingly rich variety of birdlife. 

  • Golden eagle
  • White-tailed eagle
  • Hen harrier
  • Barnacle goose

Mammals

The birdlife will capture our attention, but we nevertheless stay alert for mammal and cetacean sightings.

  • European otter
  • Scottish red deer
  • Red squirrel
  • Harbour seal

Flora

Although much of the west coast might appear barren and rocky at first sight, the diverse vegetation includes various orchids, as the warming effect of the Gulf Stream means that temperatures never fall too low, although the prevailing westerlies frequently bring rain. 

Scenery

The west coast of Scotland is justifiably renowned for its peerless scenery of mountains and islands – which is commonly acknowledged as the best in the country, if not in the entire United Kingdom.

Boat trips

We reach Islay and return to the mainland by regular Caledonian McBrayne ferry from Kennacraig – the trip takes just over two hours. Weather permitting, on one day we take a short ferry trip across to the neighbouring island of Jura to explore and search for birdlife.

Photography

This trip presents many excellent opportunities for photography due to the highly scenic qualities of the west coast, as well as the varied wildlife.

Walking

Some trails can be steep in parts or rough underfoot, however we don’t walk any great distance (the longest distance is no more than a few kilometres), and we take it slowly. 

Other excursions

We pay a visit to Islay’s famous woollen mill, and may have an opportunity to visit a malt whisky distillery.

Archaeology

We stop to see the Celtic carved stone cross at Kildalton – one of the finest examples of its kind, dating from the eighth century AD. 

Ground transport

Small minibus driven by the tour leader. 

The tour leader will meet you at the hotel in Glasgow, and then accompany you on the ferry to our accommodation on the island of Islay.

Ferry

We take the regular Caledonian MacBrayne ferry service from Kennacraig ferry terminal to Port Askaig on the island of Islay, and return from Port Ellen to Kennacraig. During our stay on Islay, a trip by ferry to the neighbouring island of Jura is included.

Baggage restrictions

Space in the vehicle is limited, so we recommend you travel light.

Altitude

On this tour we will reach no more than 500 metres above sea level, so altitude is not an issue.

Climate

Autumn in Scotland can be unpredictable – it may not be as warm as in summer, but the weather is quite often settled at this time of year. Temperatures could still be in the mid teens Celsius, but equally it could be cold and wet – so be prepared for everything!

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In particular, please note: It is a condition of joining our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks. We strongly recommend having insurance in place from the point of booking confirmation, with adequate cancellation protection to cover your deposit.

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