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  • Mull of Oa

  • Oystercatcher, Jura

  • Paps of Jura

  • Portnahaven

Fitness / Practicalities
Tour Director

  • Islay, the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’, will be our base for this rewarding study of the area’s flora and fauna

  • Look out for an astonishing diversity of birdlife, from moorland birds of prey to rare waders and seabirds during our ferry crossings

  • Absorb the islands’ Celtic past, evoked in ancient crosses, inscribed stones and medieval strongholds, and its more recent human history in the fascinating local museums

Islay is internationally famous for its birdlife, especially the rare chough, twite and corncrake. The moorlands hold birds of prey such as the golden eagle, hen harrier, merlin, peregrine and short-eared owl. Both freshwater and sea lochs are the haunts of rare waders, geese, gannet, eider ducks and shag, while the ferry crossings may provide sightings of puffins, guillemots, divers, shearwaters, petrels and a chance of seeing whales or dolphins. Common and Atlantic grey seals can be seen along the coast and we may spot otters.


The vegetation is also varied, with coastal machir grasslands, woodland on the limestone, and peat bog – so important for malt whisky – on the poorer areas. Jura, by contrast, is one of the wildest of the Hebridean islands, with its west coast in particular being trackless and unspoilt. Abruptly changing and dramatic seascapes give way to a boggy interior inhabited by elusive red deer and soaring eagles.


We also look forward to exploring several famous geological sites to enrich our understanding of Islay’s magnificent landscape. As part of the geological tour of the island, we will visit the world-famous Port Askaig tillite - a remnant of a Precambrian glacial deposit formed during the so-called 'Snowball Earth’ ‘cryogenic period’ c 700-600 million years ago.


We will stay at the attractive Port Askaig Hotel on the shores of the Sound of Islay, where the Port Bar dates from the 16th century and carries a wide selection of Islay Malts and beers. This family-run highland inn offers easy access to Jura, Colonsay and the mainland.

This tour will be led by Mark Welch, PhD. Mark was a research scientist in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in London for over 25 years. He has a PhD in geosciences from Edinburgh University, and taught crystallography at Cambridge University for nine years. Mark has led many field trips in the UK as a geologist and naturalist, and is currently involved in surveying bees and flies for a wide range of sites in East Anglia.

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