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Dates: 8th - 14th July 2017
Orkney is rich in natural and cultural history and although the tour concentrates on the diverse wildlife to be found in the islands we will also visit a number of archaeological sites such as Skara Brae and Maeshowe. There are so many signs of recent and ancient history scattered around the islands that you can hardly go anywhere without bumping into it.
Wildlife wise we'll be visiting a number of relatively easily accessible seabird sites on Mainland Orkney that are thronged with breeding birds at this time of year including Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and Black Guillemots. Kittiwakes and Fulmars are common and the menacing shapes of both Great and Arctic Skuas are a frequent site patrolling the cliffs. The Mainland also offers a host of other breeding birds such as Red-throated Diver, Shoveler, Pintail, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Short-eared Owl, Merlin and Hen Harrier which we should connect with during the week. Besides the rich birdlife we'll also explore some of Orkney's flora which includes two very specialist flowering plants - Oysterplant (becoming increasingly rare in the UK) and the endemic Scottish Primrose.
We'll also make day trips to Hoy and Westray. At Hoy we'll make the roughly three hour / nearly six miles round trip to visit the Old Man of Hoy which takes us across the RSPB reserve where we should see a good selection of seabirds as well as some of the most stunning scenery in the UK. Hoy should also provide us the opportunity to catch up with Red-throated Diver, Hen Harrier and possibly White-tailed Eagle that have very recently attempted to nest. We'll also visit the "Dwarfie Stane" which is a megalithic chambered tomb carved out of a huge block of Old Red Sandstone; the construction of which using the most basic of tools is quite staggering. Westray lies to the north of Mainland and rises at its north end to form the dramatic seabird cliffs at Noup Head. These busy cliffs hold large colonies of seabirds including nesting Gannets, kittiwakes, Fulmars, Puffins, Razorbills and vast numbers of Guillemots. By contrast the lower lying areas support Corncrakes whilst the freshwater lochs provide a home for a variety of nesting wildfowl and waders.
There's also a chance to spot cetaceans such as Minke Whale or even Orcas on the crossing from the Scottish mainland as well as the many headlands and coastal habitats we'll be visiting whilst in the islands. Although this is not a photographic holiday there will be many opportunities to capture images as the pace is slow, the wildlife often close and the scenery stunning.
Short list of species: Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Red-throated, Black Guillemot, Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar. Arctic Tern, Wheatear, Twite, Grey and Harbour Seals. Oysterplant, Scottish Primrose, Grass of Parnassus, plus many more.
Dates: 8th - 14th July 2017
Cost: £1,200 per person
Price includes 6 nights accommodation, all meals, entrance to archaeological sites, cost of ferries and road transport throughout the tour.
Accommodation: We'll be staying at the Standing Stones Hotel which is situated in an ideal spot for wildlife and archaeology overlooking Loch Stenness and just over a mile from the Stenness Standing Stones.
Group size: 8 (maximum)
Booking: Please email: email@example.com
Where to meet: The tour begins and ends in Inverness with a pick up around 8 am on the first morning for our connecting ferry from Gill's Bay to St. Margaret's Hope, Orkney in the early afternoon. We can pick you up from the airport or central bus / train station on the first morning.
Getting here: There are many trains to Inverness: the trainline.com and regular bus from around the UK. Inverness airport lies just 8 miles from the city centre and is easily reached by a regular bis service.