Trip report: Scotland and Ireland (June 2019)

Guided by Emma Juxon. This was a set departure tour.

If travelling to a place with an eclectic mix of wildlife, landscapes and culture is something you’re interested in, then this is a tour for you. Scotland is the land of the last wilderness in the British Isles, with its rugged mountain ranges, glacial glens and majestic lochs, it’s truly a sight to behold. Myth and legend lay around every corner, from heather strewn hillsides, ancient Caledonian pine forests to the dark depths of the lochs. We explore vast Highland National Parks, visit remote Gaelic-speaking communities on a white sand archipelago and journey through volcanic landscapes carved out during the last ice age. The Emerald Isle extension will show you the true meaning of its namesake as we are submerged in every shade of green imaginable and the beauty of its landscape and people alike will stay with you for a lifetime.

Our tour begins in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city affectionately nicknamed Auld Reekie by its proud residents. I can’t recommend enough taking the time to spend a few days pre-tour to explore the city itself. From here we headed north to the Scottish Highlands and the Cairngorms National Park. We discovered the famous Red Grouse, Scotland’s subspecies of Willow Ptarmigan, Rock Ptarmigan and Ring Ouzel on the mountain tops, Crested Tit and Crossbills in the ancient forests and rare Horned Grebe on the lochs. It wasn’t just the birds we were after though; Red Deer and Eurasian Red Squirrel are also some of Scotland’s most iconic species and we saw plenty. The Outer Hebrides brought us highlights such as rasping Corn Crake, regal Golden Eagle and ghostly Short-eared Owl along with an insight into island life. We were treated to a menagerie of marine life during our ferry crossings, from Common Minke Whale and Short-beaked Common Dolphin to Manx Shearwater and European Storm Petrel, not to mention the breathtaking scenery as we sailed between the islands and the mainland. In the shadow of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, we had an unforgettable encounter with European Pine Marten. The Emerald Isle extension brought us its stunning coastal roads, incredible scenery and a remarkable evening at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Across the border into the Republic of Ireland, we soaked up Dublin craic, found ancient monasteries and toured the Atlantic coast, from thousands of seabirds at the Cliffs of Moher to White-throated Dipper in the centre of Galway.

Our bird of the trip was Short-eared Owl, not just because it’s a beautiful species but also due to the exceptional encounters we had with it. Other highlights included Golden Eagle, White-throated Dipper (right), Hen Harrier and the characterful European Pine Marten.

FULL Scotland and Ireland June 2019 Trip Report (7 MB PDF file)