Witness the fantastic seascapes and an astounding diversity of flora, fauna and marine life on this small group wildlife holiday to the Shetland Islands.
Travelling by minibus with an expert naturalist guide you’ll explore from two bases: Sumburgh in the south and Baltasound on Unst – the most northerly populated island of the British Isles. Boat trips and daily wildlife walks reveal the best of RSPB Reserves such as Sumburgh Head and Fetlar, and Hermaness and the Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserves on Unst.
Pick-up at Sumburgh airport; evening boat trip to Mousa
On arrival at Sumburgh airport, you will be met by your guide & transferred by minibus to your hotel. After a welcome dinner and orientation you'll take a boat to the island of Mousa. Mousa Broch dates back to the Iron Age and is the largest example of its kind in Scotland, standing at a staggering 13 metres high. The broch is the summer home to hundreds of European storm petrels, which return ashore to their nests as darkness falls - their bat-like displays as they fly in from the ocean are a truly awesome sight. Depart Mousa just after midnight and return to Sumburgh.
Accommodation: The Sumburgh Hotel, 3-nights
Visit Sumburgh Head
First thing, you'll visit Sumburgh Head to view multitudes of seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and shags. If the seas are calm you’ll also look offshore for minke whales, white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises, plus the off chance of spotting killer, and humpback whales. Next it’s the peninsula of Scatness to see breeding Arctic terns and common, and grey seals, then the Loch of Hillwell and Loch of Spiggie for an excellent assortment of breeding wildfowl and waders. The day ends at Dalsetter, observing typical moorland-breeding species like curlew, whimbrel and Arctic skua.
Visit Tingwall Valley; boat trip around Noss
The morning is spent in the crystalline limestone valley of Tingwall, where hopefully you'll see red-throated divers, red-breasted mergansers and Britain's only breeding whooper swans. Arctic hare is also a Tingwall speciality and you would hope to encounter several individuals in the upper reaches of the valley. After lunch, you'll board a boat for an unforgettable cruise around the island of Noss for spectacular views of the famous seabird colony, often referred to as 'Britain's best bird cliff'. You'll meet 20,000 gannets, 40,000 guillemots and 5,000 kittiwakes! You'll also visit common and grey seal colonies and look for harbour porpoises along the way.
Continue via Yell & Fetlar to Baltasound on Unst
Today you travel north, taking the morning ferry across to Fetlar. The island holds over 90% of the British breeding population of red-necked phalarope, famous for its breeding role reversal, although the birds' stay on the island is brief – generally between the end of May and the end of July. You should also see a wide variety of other breeding birds and we’ll also search the north shore of the island for otters. Fetlar's produces a dazzling display of wild flowers and you should see several species of orchid with ease. You'll cross Bluemull Sound late in the afternoon and arrive on Unst, Britain's most northerly island.
Accommodation: The Baltasound Hotel, Unst, 2-nights
The magnificent glacial inlet at Burrafirth hosts black guillemots, red-throated divers and red-breasted mergansers and there are magnificent displays of wild flowers at the 'hanging gardens.' Saxa Vord’s moorland has impressive gatherings of bonxies and you may see whimbrel, golden plovers and lots of wheatears. You'll also visit Britain's most northerly settlement at Skaw and search the lush flower-rich meadows of Norwick for breeding redshank, snipe and curlew. In the afternoon explore the sheltered bays and wetlands of southern Unst, looking for otters and seals along with handsome brick-red black-tailed godwits. After dinner visit a small marsh to listen for one of Britain's rarest breeders – the spotted crake.
Drive via Yell back to Sumburgh
Spend the morning exploring Hermaness National Nature Reserve. One of Europe's most important wildlife sites, the moorland is home to 800 pairs of great skuas and the cliffs house 50,000 puffins, 40,000 guillemots, 28,000 fulmars and over 20,000 gannets! Amidst the heather, crowberry and bog bilberry we'll search for the carnivorous sundew and butterwort. In the afternoon visit the Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserve. This unique habitat has a diverse eco-system, and has been likened to walking on the moon. Late in the afternoon we will island-hop south.
Accommodation: The Sumburgh Hotel, 2-nights
Explore the beautiful north mainland
Explore the beautiful north mainland – searching for the elusive Arctic Hare along with red grouse and an array of breeding waders. At the picturesque village of Hillswick, you'll make a stop to find the rare and declining oysterplant then lunch at the awe-inspiring Eshaness Cliffs. You'll visit the Grind o' da Navir - an incredible amphitheatre formed by the huge winter seas and on the return, you'll stop to admire the Holes of Scraada - a 120 metre collapsed cave. Keep an eye offshore for plunge-diving gannets and terns, and with luck you may sight whales and dolphins. In the late afternoon, head back south to Sumburgh for our farewell dinner.
Drop-off at Sumburgh airport
After breakfast transfer to Sumburgh airport.
You should note: Transport within the UK to and from Sumburgh is not included.