Tour At A Glance





Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

Intermediate, expect long days in the field (one midnight finish) and 3-4 miles of walking per day over undulating terrain

Group Size:

Seven plus leader

Atlantic Puffin Great Skua Short-eared Owl Arctic Skua Whimbrel

Shetland - Seabirds and Simmer Dim

Date: 24th May - 1st June 2022 (SPACES)
Leaders: Paul Roberts



The tour meets at Aberdeen ferry terminal at 1700 for check in for the 19.00 sailing to Lerwick on Shetland. We have cabins for the journey [shared] and the ferry is well equipped with restaurants, bars and cinema.

We arrive in Lerwick at 07.30 and after breakfast on board we travel south towards our first base at Sumburgh Head. We’ll head straight out into the field, hoping to catch up with any rarities already present in South Mainland before checking into the Sumburgh Hotel around lunchtime to relive ourselves of the luggage and freshen up. Quendale is a fabulous valley for attracting scarce migrants and the irises and fields here should be checked carefully, while at Scatness close to the hotel, we can also observe breeding Arctic Terns and check the pools and clifftop for waders. A quick check of the garden at the hotel after lunch before heading back out could well turn up some interesting migrants too though! Icterine Warbler, Bluethroat, Marsh Warbler and Red-backed Shrike are regular Shetland spring migrants and could well be present during our stay. In the afternoon we visit Sumburgh Head, a fabulous seabird city, and here we will see our first Atlantic Puffins among a host of other seabirds. We mustn’t forget to scan offshore if the sea is calm – this is one of Shetland’s premier locations for spotting Killer Whale! Minke Whale, Harbour Porpoise and dolphins are more likely though. 

After dinner we take another exhilarating boat trip to the island of Mousa. Under the Simmer Dim, we will visit the Iron Age Broch where these enigmatic little seabirds return to their nests under the safety of nightfall. We’ll hear their strange calls and be just inches away from the birds as they flutter back to their nests among the walls of the broch.

Return to the Sumburgh Hotel around midnight.

Overnight Sumburgh Hotel.


After our efforts the previous day, we’ll take a leisurely start this morning. After a relaxed breakfast, we pack and begin our journey north towards the islands of Yell and Unst. Calling at a couple of beautiful spots in North Mainland, we will observe spectacular cliffs and geos around Esha Ness where more seabirds and cetaceans might be seen, and check the wild moorland of Northmavine for breeding waders, skuas, Arctic Hare and even Red Grouse. The excellent ferry services to Yell and Unst will soon have us heading North again, and we will reach our accommodation at Saxa Vord early evening to check in and freshen up ready for dinner.

Overnight Saxa Vord.



After a pre-breakfast excursion to check the nearby gardens and crops for any interesting migrants (another chance of Bluethroat or Marsh Warbler perhaps?!) we catch a morning ferry to the island of Fetlar. Two breeding species stand out here, with the bulk of the British breeding population of delightful Red-necked Phalarope the undoubted highlight at the RSPB reserve at Loch Funzie. The whole island is fabulous for breeding waders, and in addition to the Phalarope we should also see Common Redshank, Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing, European Golden Plover, Dunlin, Common Snipe, European Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit and of course Whimbrel. Arctic and Great Skuas nest on the moorland, and we should also be able to observe Manx Shearwater offshore.

Overnight Saxa Vord.

The hamlets of Skaw and Norwick, just a stones throw from our accommodation, are the most Northerly in the British Isles and the wildflower meadows, overgrown ditches and sheltered gardens and crops are a potential haven for migrants. We spend the morning birding in these areas, hoping to chance upon a Red-backed Shrike or possibly something rarer! Subalpine Warbler, Golden Oriole, Common Rosefinch, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Rustic Bunting are all regular on Shetland in Spring, along with commoner migrants such as Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart. In the afternoon we visit the renowned RSPB reserve at Hermaness, where we will be dive bombed by Bonxies [Great Skuas] as we cross the moorland to view the seabird cliffs! A fabulous all round experience and a few more thousand seabirds to observe at this northerly outpost. In fact, we will see Muckle Flugga, the group of rocks forming the most Northerly point in the British Isles – bring your camera!
Overnight Saxa Vord

Today we head South again, catching a morning ferry to Yell. We’ll have time to check secluded spots for Otters though, and scan the sea for lingering Great Northern Divers and seaduck. White-winged gulls often linger well into summer too, so we should look out for Iceland Gulls in particular around the harbours. Crossing Yell, we may stop to explore the moorland and coastal grassland of the Lumbister RSPB reserve, where Red-throated Divers breed. Back on North Mainland, migrant hot spots at Vidlin, Voe and Kergord can also be worked on our way south, and there will be time to catch up with any new arrivals in South Mainland before checking into the Sumburgh Hotel once again. 



The island of Noss has one of the biggest seabird colonies in the British Isles and we take a specially arranged boat trip around the tip of the island to witness the spectacle and smell of the 80,000 breeding birds jostling for position on the 200 metre high sandstone cliffs. Expect Black and Common Guillemots, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Black-legged Kittiwake, Arctic and Great Skuas as well as close views of Common and Grey Seals and the chance of cetaceans. Weather permitting, we will sail close into the Orknis Geo and view fish, sea urchins, coral, jellyfish, crabs, starfish and plankton using a special underwater camera. After this morning trip, we will return towards Sumburgh via Loch Tingwall, set in an interesting moorland area that holds Arctic Hare as well as breeding Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser. Lochs Spiggie and Hilwell will add further opportunities to view breeding wildfowl and waders, such as Common Redshank, Eurasian Curlew, Common Snipe and Northern lapwing, while Whooper Swans also nest here at their only regular British outpost. Overnight Sumburgh Hotel.

A relaxed day birding South Mainland today. We may retun to Sumburgh Head to check for migrants, and revisit Quendale. Pool of Virkie is also well worth checking on the rising tide, as this is one of the premier spots in Shetland for rare waders. Perhaps a Short-eared Owl will be lingering in this area and other raptors include Merlin, Peregrine and Hen Harrier. Perhaps we will lunch on the west coast, overlooking the idyllic setting of St Ninian’s Isle where we can check the beaches and bays for waders and fishing terns. Working our way North, further spots to check include the vegetated burn at Geosetter and the sheltered copse at Wester Quarff, which all present further opportunities to find migrants. Finally we reach Lerwick at 17.00 for check in, catching the 19.00 sailing back to Aberdeen.

We arrive back in Aberdeen at 07.30 where the tour will conclude.

***Please note that travel plans may be disrupted at short notice due to adverse weather conditions and we therefore recommend that your travel insurance adequately covers any additional expenses that may be involved.


Additional Information


Seven plus Leader

A fair amount of walking is required to get the most from your holiday. The terrain is varied and therefore a reasonable level of physical fitness is required. Expect some early starts and long days in the field.

Six nights accommodation on Shetland, return overnight ferry crossings from Aberdeen to Shetland including cabins, all inter-island ferries, all meals on Shetland from lunch on day two to lunch on day eight, transport on Shetland and services of tour leader. Also included are boat trips to Noss and Mousa. Free lifts to and from Aberdeen from pre-arranged pick up points en route are also possible, enquire when booking.

Any overnight stay that may be required en route, travel insurance, drinks and any items of a purely personal nature. Meals on board the ferry [dinner and breakfast].

Binoculars, telescope [optional], camera, clothing for all weathers, walking boots, small rucksack, alarm clock, torch and field guides.



Tour Reports




2019 Album