Islay and Jura offer a delightful blend of superb wildlife watching, stunning – and contrasting – scenery, fresh Atlantic air, and some of Scotland’s finest malt whiskies. We head first for Islay, arguably the most important place for wild geese in the British Isles. By late October, Islay is heaving with wildfowl and other waterbirds such as Black Guillemot and Greater Scaup (1,000+ present here!), as well as raptors including Golden and White-tailed Eagles, and Hen Harrier. Next we transfer to Jura, its sculpted scenery a sharp, rugged contrast to the rolling fields and moors of Islay. We’ll enjoy its little-visited lochs, glens and beautiful beaches in search of deer, Grey Seals, Otter cubs, exotic flowers warmed by air from the Gulf Stream and other wildlife.
- Up to 40,000 Barnacle Geese, plus possibility of rarities such as Snow Goose
- About 10,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese, the world’s largest wintering population
- Dusk & dawn vigil at a goose roost site is an unforgettable experience
- Great Northern & Black-throated Divers, Slavonian Grebe & Purple Sandpiper
- Red-billed Chough & small flocks of Snow Bunting, Islay
- Opportunity to taste world-famous single malt whiskies
- Jura has 5,000+ Red Deer & only 250 people!
- There’s a pair of Otter for every 3 miles of coastline on Jura
- Led by an expert naturalist guide
All included, except lunches.
Comfortable hotels with en suite facilities.
Greenland White-fronted Geese (Paul Marshall)
The remote and beautiful Inner Hebridean islands of Islay and Jura jut out like fingers from the west coast of Scotland and, differing so much in landscape and character, both islands in combination offer a perfect getaway destination far from the rush of everyday life. Indeed they offer an intoxicating blend of superb wildlife-watching, stunning scenery and fresh Atlantic air, a truly unspoiled setting for some of the best and most iconic wildlife spectacles in the British Isles.
We will spend three nights on each island, enjoying their contrasting scenery and wildlife, heading first for Islay, described by the late Sir Peter Scott as ‘the most important place in the British Isles for wild geese, and one of the most important in Europe.’ The most southerly of the Inner Hebrides, Islay boasts a very varied landscape of mountains, moorland, woods and farmland, and has been described as the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ — a fertile land teeming with breeding birds during the summer, and geese in the winter. It is during October when the geese start to arrive from their breeding grounds in the Arctic and, by late October, Islay is heaving with wildfowl, among which the most numerous is the handsomely marked Barnacle Goose, which has been known to number up to 40,000 here. The next most numerous is the Greenland White-fronted Goose, and Islay holds the largest wintering population of this species anywhere in the world, with up to 10,000 birds being present! A dawn or dusk vigil at one of the goose roosts on the island is a humbling experience never to be forgotten, and among the vast flocks there is always the chance of finding something rarer, maybe a Snow Goose or ‘genuine’ Canada Goose from North America.
Other wildfowl also occur, and on the main sea lochs up to 1,000 Greater Scaup may be found. But it’s not only the wildfowl which are special here; other waterbirds we are likely to see include Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, Slavonian Grebe, Purple Sandpiper and Black Guillemot. Away from the water we will make a special effort to seek out Red-billed Chough, a small flock of Snow Bunting, and perhaps a roost of over 200 Ravens. Last but not least is the island’s remarkable variety of raptors, perhaps not surprising given the abundance of prey. During suitable flying weather, Golden Eagles are almost guaranteed and views can be nothing short of spectacular. Hen Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine are also regularly seen, while there is an outside chance of a wandering White-tailed Eagle. Indeed, our chance of seeing these birds of prey is equally as good on the Isle of Jura where we’ll spend the second part of the holiday.
Jura offers a sharp and rugged contrast to the rolling fields and moors of northern Islay. Its southern part is dominated by the Paps — three dramatic, rounded hills rising close to the sea to a height of 300 metres. The island’s west coast is sculpted by many cliffs, caves and sweeping stretches of raised beach, formed by the land lifting up after the great weight of the ice sheets retreated. Further classic examples of the effects of glaciation can be seen within the lochs, hills and glens, and Jura also has the third strongest whirlpool in the world — Corryvreckan. Beautiful beaches are quiet and little visited, and exotic plants such as fuschias and palm trees grow here since the climate is warmed by the Gulf Stream. This unspoiled and remote setting is perfect for the enjoyment of natural history.
Even more so than Islay, Jura is a particularly good location for watching mammals. Indeed its name is said to come from Viking times, when it was known as ‘Dy Oer’ meaning Deer Island, and even today there are far more deer than people on Jura — in fact, about 5,000 Red Deer to 250 people! Feral goats can be found along the west coast, as well as Common and Grey Seals, while Otters, we hope, will be among the highlights of this holiday; there are said to be a pair for every three miles of coastline, and views of Otters eating fish, or a mother with well-grown cubs eating crab at close quarters, are unforgettable moments!
The superb single malt whiskies, which some argue are the finest in the world, are an added pleasure offered by these small Hebridean islands. Alongside the superb scenery, truly spectacular wildfowl gatherings and a host of other wildlife, it’s easy to see why Islay and Jura are two of our favourite British destinations, and we’sre sure you’ll share our enjoyment of this winter wildlife feast!