Which UK cruises provide the best opportunities for bird watching?

11 June 2024

Birdwatching has a magic of its own, the thrill of spotting a rare bird in its natural habitat is incomparable. It is a hobby that requires patience, interest, and a love for nature. The UK, with its rich variety of bird species, offers some fantastic opportunities for birdwatching. What makes it more unique are the opportunities to watch these feathered wonders while sailing the seas. Yes! You heard it right; bird watching and cruising go hand in hand in the beautiful islands of the UK. Let's set sail and explore the best options!

Scotland cruises for bird watching

Scotland, renowned for its scenic landscapes and rugged coastlines, is a paradise for birdwatchers. The region teems with diverse bird species, including the iconic golden eagles, puffins, and gannets. Embarking on a Scottish cruise is the perfect way to immerse yourself in birdwatching while also enjoying the spectacular surrounds.

A notable option is the Scottish Island Birdwatching Cruise. This 7-day voyage explores the Inner and Outer Hebrides, an idyllic location for spotting seabirds. The ship anchors at various islands allowing you to spot birds like the corncrake on Iona, sea eagles on Mull, or the puffins on Lunga.

Another noteworthy cruise is the Scotland's Highlands & Islands birdwatching tour. This 10-day trip provides a comprehensive tour of Scotland's northern waters, including the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Here, birdwatchers have a chance to watch the great skua, red-throated divers, and more.

Watching birds in the Shetland Islands

The Shetland Islands, located on the northernmost tip of the UK, are a haven for birdwatchers. The remoteness of these islands makes them a perfect breeding ground for many bird species. As you sail around the islands, keep your eyes peeled for the sight of diving gannets, soaring skuas, or the charming puffins.

One of the finest cruises for birdwatching in the Shetland Islands is the Shetland Wildlife Tour. This 8-day cruise is a fantastic introduction to the wildlife of the Shetland Islands, with an emphasis on birdwatching. The cruise ensures a visit to the archipelago's top birdwatching spots, including Sumburgh Head, Noss, and Hermaness.

The Mousa Boat Trips are another excellent option. These trips, which take place during the day and at night, provide a unique opportunity to see storm petrels at their breeding colony on Mousa Island.

Cruising around other UK islands for birding

Several other UK islands provide excellent birdwatching opportunities. The Isles of Scilly, located off the Cornish coast, are home to a variety of bird species. The Isles of Scilly Birdwatching Tour allows you to observe these birds up close.

The Isle of May, located in the outer part of the Firth of Forth, hosts a large number of seabirds every year. The May Princess and the Osprey Rib are two boat services that take birdwatchers to the island.

Birdwatching day cruises

For those short on time, day cruises provide an excellent opportunity to combine sea travel with birdwatching. These cruises offer a condensed birdwatching experience, allowing you to spot a variety of bird species in a short span.

In Scotland, the Mull Charters offer day trips to spot white-tailed eagles, while the Staffa Tours provide a chance to see puffins and other seabirds on Treshnish Isles. The Yorkshire Belle and the Bempton Cliffs Cruise are both excellent options for day cruises in England.

Details to consider when choosing a birdwatching cruise

Choosing a birdwatching cruise demands attention to detail and careful consideration. Be aware of the cruise duration, itinerary details, the birds you're most interested in watching, and the time of year. Most cruises provide binoculars and bird guides, but it's advisable to bring your own for a more personalised experience.

Remember, birdwatching is about patience and appreciation of nature. So, make sure to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Your cruise ship will not only take you to the heart of bird territories but also provide a unique perspective on these stunning creatures. Happy birdwatching!

Bird Watching Tours in the Outer Hebrides and Orkney Islands

Dotted with a myriad of islands, the UK offers birding opportunities on the Outer Hebrides and Orkney Islands that are nothing short of spectacular. The raw beauty of these islands, combined with their rich birdlife, make them a must-visit for any birdwatcher.

The Outer Hebrides, an island chain on the western coast of Scotland, is known for its population of corncrakes, redshanks, and lapwings. The Hebridean Birdwatching Cruise is a highly recommended option. Starting from Ullapool, the cruise sails through the Summer Isles, past the Isle of Skye to the Outer Hebrides. The specially trained expedition team on board help spot and identify various bird species, enhancing the overall birding experience.

The Orkney Islands, located off the northeastern tip of Scotland, are home to numerous seabird colonies. Here, puffins, razorbills, and guillemots can be seen nesting on sea cliffs. A recommended cruise here is the Orkney Islands Birdwatching Tour, which not only offers bird watching opportunities but also allows you to delve into the rich history and culture of the islands.

Both these cruises offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner on board, and all necessary bird watching equipment is provided. However, weather conditions play a crucial role in the success of these cruises, so it's always good to check the forecast before you book.

Bird Watching Opportunities in the Isles of Scilly and Fair Isle

The British Isles are a treasure trove of bird species, and the Isles of Scilly and Fair Isle are no exception. These islands provide a unique bird watching experience, thanks to their diverse range of habitats and species.

The Isles of Scilly, situated off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula, are renowned for their variety of seabirds and waders. The Scilly Pelagics Birdwatching Cruise sails around the islands, offering the chance to spot species such as the Manx shearwater and the European storm petrel. What's more, this cruise includes a visit to the Scilly National Nature Reserve, a hotspot for birdwatchers.

On the other hand, Fair Isle, located midway between Orkney and Shetland, is famous for its bird observatory and the wealth of bird species it attracts. The Fair Isle Bird Watching Cruise takes you around the island, providing ample opportunities to spot rare birds like the Fair Isle wren and puffins. Visiting the Fair Isle Bird Observatory is a special offer that shouldn't be missed while on this cruise.

Conclusion: Your Perfect Bird Watching Cruise Awaits!

The diverse array of bird watching cruises in the UK offers something for everyone. Whether you're looking to spot golden eagles in Scotland, puffins in the Shetland Islands, or rare seabirds in the Outer Hebrides and Orkney Islands, there's a cruise for you. Not to forget the exciting day cruises and the splendid birding opportunities in the Isles of Scilly and Fair Isle.

Choosing the right cruise is crucial for a satisfying bird watching experience. Consider factors like the weather conditions, cruise duration, your bird preference, and the time of year. Remember to pack your binoculars and a good bird guide, as they are essential tools for any birdwatcher.

So, are you ready to embark on an unforgettable bird watching adventure? Go ahead and book a bird watching cruise in the British Isles. After all, there's no better feeling than sailing through the azure waters, with the cool sea breeze in your hair, while you admire the world of birds. Let the magic of bird watching and the charm of cruising captivate your heart!

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