Holidays: where and when?

If you are a botanist, or into butterflies, birds, or dragonflies, where would you go, and at what time of year, so as to get good weather and see lots of local specialities?

East Norfolk: its warm and sunny here at the moment, and if you go to the right sites, you can expect to see Norfolk Hawker, Swallowtail, Common Crane, Marsh Harrier, and a host of wetland plants such as marsh pea, milk parsley, marsh lousewort, cowbane, greater water-parsnip, lesser tussock-sedge, royal fern, crested buckler fern etc etc. Late June is better for the orchids, including fen orchid.

I quite fancy a holiday in Orkney. Whenever I go to Scotland it rains, and if it isn’t raining, I find the midges near unbearable even with a midge-hood. Is there a good time to visit? Someone suggested late October as a usually dry time to visit, but would that mean missing out on the plant and animal interest?

Orkney fancy

I’m not certain what to recommend. Tourists are ruining the place, cluttering my fave walks and quiet places, driving like maniacs on our narrow roads, filling up the swimming pools, parking their Campervans everywhere, increasing the demand for ice cream parlours, appearing in all my habitat photos. Tourist liners displace a huge amount of sea water, one or two disgorge 3500 passengers at a time into the Fish and Chip shops, most of whom seem interested only in finding Free Wi-Fi.
You’ll be disappointed anyway as there are no betting shops and you might have to go to the public Library to download your mails.The sand on beaches is an issue, it so fine it WILL get into your car if you open the door for a few seconds. And oh, I am actually producing habitat for midge population increase, I rarely go inland, as there are no roads there.
I’d come towards the end of Winter say late March. A good botanist does not need sunny, warm months or very long days and anyway seaweeds are coming to their best then. It MUST be better than Norfolk, how often do hear of Norwich being the UKs best place to live?.
An awfully grey day last week - you’d hate it.

Botanists do quite like to see plants though…isnt the snow a bit deep then? I’d be fine in peak season. Don’t need to check my emails provided I can communicate with the outside world through a relentless steam of Instragram selfies - oh - and a nail bar might be handy…

One other issue with those Scottish Islands, as our floodplains group has found to its cost this year, is that the transport is often not running (propeller fell off ferry or (currently) strikes on the planes) or the accommodation is fully booked even when you plan months ahead. So indeed the ‘off’ season is the time to go unless you want to actually record the plants and install groundwater monitoring systems as our botanists wanted to.

On the other hand all of British Isles seems to be getting overcrowded with tourists during the summer so seems more difficult to get to see the wildlife except in your local area.

I used to try to get to various bits of UK in June as the plants were out but before holiday people, however that stopped many years ago as the floodplain meadows have to be setout and recorded in May and June so now always busy doing something at that time of year.

Holidays: when and where? Anytime and anywhere!
A few years ago, I went to Orkey at the end of June and had a super time. We rented a cottage on the outskirts of Stromness which was a good base for travelling to other parts of the island and islands. We took the ferry to Hoy and a mini bus to see the Old Man - the driver muttered ‘traffic jam’ when we met one car at a junction! The scenery was breathtaking, the weather excellent and we didn’t encounter any midges. Go!
I spent a week in Sutherland 1-8 June. Mainly dry and sunny. No midges. We saw single-flowered wintergreens in Balblair Wood, Loch Fleet.
The Cairngorms National Park is a hotspot for plants including rarities. The NPMS runs workshops and their programme gives an insight into what can be found, when and where. I’m sure that the course contacts would assist you to plan a trip. Link, here:
I attended the Caledonia Pinewoods and Juniper scrub workshop on 5/7/19. We were outdoors all day, didn’t get wet and found lots and lots including Twin-flowered bellflowers, intermediate and common wintergreens and Orchids galore. Coincidently, Insh Marshes RSPB, Kingussie (Invertromie Meadow trail) is also excellent for plants and the wardens are contactable via the website. We found them extremely helpful and welcoming. Website:
Have a super time!

Yes but have you tried staying in the area of Cairngorms recently. I was looking at prices there last week and they appeared to be about 3x what they were just a few years ago so I did not go.

Cairngorm was also on my list…

Short of Orkney - it is a long way and quite expensive with ferries. I would think NE Scotland in Mid to late May.
The whole of the Easter-ross, Caithness area is FULL of natural delights and slightly unsubscribed tourist wise. It is a hop to the very sparse North-central highland forests and flows, and a short leap to the North West highlands. The welcome will be almost as good as Orkney
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The Black Isle
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Yes, I’ve stayed there three times in the past 10 months. I find it’s more cost effective to stay for a week and usually book a discounted ‘last minute’ self catering cottage. Accommodation is always more expensive during school holiday periods.

This is a beautiful country. Avoid July and August and last week of June if you can - school holidays here are six weeks from more or less start of July. Masses of French and German tourists among others come via plane/hired camper or car or via Newcastle. Passing place etiquette on single track roads is not always as it should be! Don’t let the midges get to you!! My mantra to self is about the lack of actual harm they do. You may look like you have measles and may itch a bit, but really it’s a lot better than ticks, or cleggs (horseflies etc) come to that… I’d go for first/second week in June for plants (we are normally a bit behind) and weather?

The nature reserves of NE are a good shout from Derek - eg Muir of Dinnett SSSI (H16, H16a), Parkin’s Moss (M18, M19, M4) are both within Cairngorms NP, on the Aberdeen/Banchory/Braemar side. Ditto the wonderful Corrie Fee NNR. NE is definitely drier. Accommodation -avoid high prices and pressure of Spey valley? But places like Kincraig and Insh are great as they’re off the main road, nice rentals though booking pressure is definitely there (and def need car).

Mike is of course correct, as is Derek - tourist numbers are on the up in all sorts of places. I work part time for the other NP (not Cairngorm) so I am out and about most of the summer. Yet there are places even in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs area where you can find some peace and hopefully some plants, but you do need your own transport and to walk in a bit. An example: Glen Finglas, part off the Great Trossachs Forest NNR. Plantlife Scotland have fact sheets on IPAs and but you’ll know that. They don’t list the nail bars… The west has fabulous oak rainforests eg Glasdrum Wood, dripping with lichens but then the weather explains that vegetation…

Scottish protected sites, why they were designated and most recent condition monitoring etc etc can be seen via SNH’s site or on Scotland’s Environment Web eg,60340,1333758,1722563 where land cover and SSSIs were both selected (don’t know if link will work!).

Anyway, good luck with the plans or thoughts and keep the questions coming! Mags

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Just another thought - the NC 50 - make that NC500 (yes can edit) is amazingly popular and is putting great pressure on accommodation and roads along the way - that includes NW, N coast and far NE N of Inverness. Anywhere that was in Outlander or Game of Thrones is also silly with crowds ticking off the spots eg Devil’s Pulpit which is my commute and is sometimes barely passable! M

NC 500 - can’t edit posts?

You can, look for the pencil, near the chain (share), left of Reply. Only available for about a month

Mucho thanko, have to type more to meet character criterion

Your surely not just trying to put us off visiting by any chance, are you?

I was beginning to think the same… you’d think they’d have been pleased and proud to showcase their little patch of heaven… Anyone wanting to come to Norfolk is very welcome: we have good pubs, great seafood, amazing plants, birds and smaller beasties, dry and genarally sunny-ish weather, and a year-round programme of botanical excursions

Didn’t dejay used to have a footer that said ‘11 good reasons to visit Orkney’? Mind you, his current footer, “Are you using your changes tracker”, is good advice too.

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