Winter Getaways

There is much to offer during the winter months at Highfield House.  Cheaper rates with lots of activities to enjoy...

NC500 Route


This route around the top of northern Scotland covers a total distance of 516 miles, and can be breathtaking in the winter months. From the house guests can choose to do the western half of it, visiting towns like Ullapool, Lochinver, Clachtoll, Durness and Tongue. These destinations are without doubt the most scenically beautiful parts of the route (see below), and can be covered in a day trip. There is also the opportunity to chase the Northern Lights from various points on The NC500...

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Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh Railway Line


Train journeys in the winter are often a nice way to enjoy The Highlands. Muir of Ord train station is half a mile from the house. From here you can embark to enjoy the scenic route to Kyle of Localsh. You'll be able to see the Torridon Peaks and Ben Wyvis. This is an isolated mountain that you can see between Muir of Ord and Dingwall. Plockton (see below) is a popular stopping point as are Attadale Gardens. More can be found at www.scenicrailbritain.com/lines/inverness-kyle-lochalsh.


The Isle of Skye (see below) is a wonderful place to visit. By car its 1.5 hours from the house to the bridge. Some of the attactions include The Fairy Pools, Old Man of Storr, The Quiraing and The Cuillin Mountains. Furtherafield, there are ferry routes to The Outer Hebridies and other islands from Ullapool and Uig. The photos below show a recent visit to The Isle of Skye, Lewis & Harris...

Hiking and Cycling


There are some great walking routes on The Black Isle. The choice is endless with coastal, woodland, scenic villages or walks exploring archaelogical remains.. The Black Isle is also a  paradise for keen cyclists. There are numerous quiet roads and tracks that meander across the peninsula. The Beauly Firth loop is a very popular route and there are places to hire bikes from during the summer season. Below are photos from Fairy Glen at Rosemarkie, and Ben Wyvis near Strathpeffer. More information can be found at www.black-isle.info.


Some cycling ideas for The Highlands can be found here

https://www.visitscotland.com/blog/cycling/highland-cycling-holiday-ideas


Some walking ideas can be found here

www.walkhighlands.co.uk



Bird Watching on The Black Isle - this piece written by Bob Swann of Highland Birds (www.highlandbirds.scot, 2023) provides some excellent information. As he notes, the winter months provide some excellent opportunities.


Easter Ross (covering The Black Isle)


The Highlands offers superb scenery. Heading north from Inverness up the A9 you cross the Kessock Bridge upto the Tore Roundabout, keeping a look out for soaring Buzzards or Red Kites, and then strike east along the A832 and you will eventually arrive at a large car park at the head of Munlochy Bay. It’s another good spot to watch Kites. In late autumn the fields around here can have good flocks of Greylag Geese. Continue along the main road and you will eventually reach Fortrose. From the centre of town turn right down to Chanonry Ness. In winter you can get excellent views of Long-tailed Ducks, divers and auks. Waders such as Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone often feed around the point. In summer it is an excellent site to watch Bottle-nosed Dolphins.

Moving on

Moving on from Fortrose you reach Fairy Glen (see above) just past Rosemarkie. There is a small woodland RSPB reserve with a path leading up it from a car park. It has a wide range of the usual woodland passerines, including Spotted Flycatcher and Dippers also breed along the burn. The A832 continues north to Cromarty, passing through plantations and then large open fields, which can hold large numbers of geese. Although these flocks mainly comprise Greylag and Pink-footed Geese they are always worth checking for scarcer species. Once at Cromarty, park at the harbour and walk east along the beach. In winter you can get excellent views of Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders, divers and Red-breasted Mergansers offshore.


Waders and ducks

From Cromarty you can head back down the B9163 along the south side of the Cromarty Firth. The RSPB hide at Udale at high tide, you will witness large flocks of Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit all assembling to roost on the saltmarsh, as well as large numbers of feeding Wigeon. It’s also an excellent spot to see geese in late autumn and spring. Carry along the road to to Newhall Point. This gives you good views of the north side of the bay. The hawthorn hedges are very good for winter thrushes, finches and buntings and, as you pass Newhall Point, it’s worth scanning the firth for Goldeneye and other ducks.


Seawatching

Head for Portmahomack and Tarbat Ness just north of The Black Isle. This is a good place for seawatching, especially in late summer and autumn after north-easterly gales. Huge numbers of Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks, with smaller numbers of shearwaters and skuas, can be seen. It’s a particularly good spot for Little Auks after strong northerly winds. It is also the best autumn migration site in the area. Warblers, Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers are regular with the occasional rarity like a Black Redstart, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Wryneck or Richard’s Pipit.

Ducks and whisky

As you pass Glenmorangie distillery at Tain (always worth a visit!) the road comes close to the south side of the Dornoch Firth. From late September to December this is an excellent area for ducks with several thousand Wigeon and hundreds of Teal and smaller numbers of Pintail feeding just off shore.

Summary

Easter Ross is a superb birding area at any time of year. In a fairly small area there are a wide variety of habitats supporting a large number of species. Even on farmland many species, like Grey Partridge, Skylark, Linnet, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow, which are in decline elsewhere, still remain abundant. Bird watching at any time of year will not disappoint and you may well find that, at many of these sites, you are the sole birder.




Golf during the winter months


With most courses in the region being sand based, they are often in great condition and on main greens during the winter. Winter green fee rates are greatly reduced as well, giving visitors superb value on some of the best golf courses in the UK. Guests can check weather forcasts and book the house at short notice to guarantee some golf. Royal Dornoch, Tain, Golspie, Brora, Nairn, Fortrose, Muir of Ord and many more courses are within easy reach of the house.

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Skiing in The Highlands


Opportunities to go skiing in the winter months can be found in The Cairngorms. The Cairngorm Mountain and The Lecht resorts are both an within reach from the house. Ski rental and mountain sports instruction classes are available for all levels. Aviemore offers year round activities and there are numerous places to eat and drink in the town. Below is some information on the two resorts. Lecht is great for beginners and kids to learn how to ski. For more info see the links below.


cairngormmountain.co.uk

lecht.co.uk

ski-glenshee.co.uk