June - July

Farne Island puffins
Farne Island puffins*

Discover the natural side of Britain on this Nature Discoveries trip. You'll see stunning coastlines, walk in historic landscapes, explore nature reserves, and visit offshore islands that are home to colonies of seabirds. Our trip leaders are native Brits who will share their affection for their homeland's natural splendors. They will show you what makes the environment of Northern England and Scotland so very special — whether it is colonies of seabirds, unique high-latitude flora, oak forests, or geological wonders. Of course, Britain's natural diversity resides in a rich history, and you will also have a chance to see towns, castles, Roman ruins, churches and historic sites that tell of Britain's colorful past.

Gannet on Bass Rock
Gannet on Bass Rock*

This trip begins in historic Edinburgh, capital of Scotland for over 500 years. Here we'll visit Edinburgh Castle, enjoy the views from Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano, and explore its world-class botanical garden.

We depart for Scotland's southeastern coast, where we've planned several interesting outings — over dunes and meadows, beside sea cliffs, and on an offshore island. We've arranged a boat trip to Bass Rock, the island that gave the gannet, Sula bassana, its scientific name. You will marvel at the gannets' incredible plunges deep beneath the surface of the sea, seeking fish for their hungry chicks. An unforgettable sight are the thousands of gannets and other seabirds, many nesting beside our path. One past participant called Bass Rock "a northern Galapagos." We'll also visit the nature reserve at St. Abbs Head, known for its cliff-nesting seabirds, wildflowers, and expansive views.

We'll continue our exploration of this fascinating coastline from the charming seaside village of Bamburgh, home to an historic castle. The environment is delightful — the stone walls are covered with ferns, some of which are exceedingly rare in North America. Nearby dunes are home to unusual orchids and other wildflowers. We'll visit the Farne Islands, site of one of the most important grey seal colonies in Europe. You will be able to take close-up photographs of puffins, razorbills, and shag, many with young in their nests. If the tides allow, we'll visit Lindisfarne Island, with its nature reserve, castle, and shorebird-filled mudflats.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle*

Hadrian's Wall is a World Heritage Site, located in Northumberland National Park. Built in 122 AD to delineate the northern boundary of Roman Britain, it is living history. We'll walk along one of its most scenic sections, and discover wildflowers, birds, and butterflies while enjoying the pastoral scenes.

Nearby is Upper Teesdale, one of Europe's unique wild places, and home to some of Britain's rarest plants, including several orchids that will be in flower at the time of our visit. We'll feel the spray at High Force, England's highest waterfall. A short drive brings us into James Herriott country; in the moorlands we'll listen for the haunting cry of the curlew. Not to be missed is a visit to a pub in the charming village of Langthwaite, a site in the filming of All Creatures Great and Small.

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall*

We'll stop in the scenic Lake District for a walk to Aira Force, a beautiful waterfall. Then we return to Scotland where our homebase is Aberfoyle, well situated for our next discoveries. These Scottish highlands were made famous by Sir Walter Scott in The Lady of the Lake and Rob Roy. We'll visit a scenic nature reserve on an island in Loch Lomond, Britain's largest freshwater lake. Our trip culminates with a trip to Ben Lawers, one of the Britain highest spots, known for its magnificent views and alpine flora.

Throughout this trip we'll stay at small inns and friendly hotels. You'll have the chance to sample local foods such as haggis, kippers, fish and chips, Ploughman's lunch, Eccles' cakes, and traditional Scottish shortcake.

Shag with chick
Shag with chick, Farne Islands*

Your tour leaders are Carol and David Southby, who bring a unique combination of enthusiasm and expertise to this vacation-learning adventure. Both are natives of Britain, currently living in Rochester, New York. Carol is a teacher of horticulture and natural history. She has traveled the backroads of Britain looking for flowers and birds, and brings an insider's knowledge of local dialect and customs. Dave is a research chemist at Eastman Kodak, with special interests in geology, wildflowers, birds, and photography. This will be the sixth Nature Discoveries tour they have led in Britain.

* All photographs are courtesy of  David Southby.

Our Participants speak about
Northern England and Scotland

"A great trip as usual...the Southby's were great leaders — very attentive to details, always considerate of needs of participants."

"Carol and Dave had incredible breadth and depth of knowledge and presented it so everyone could understand and enjoy."

[Highlights were] "seeing the cliffs and nesting birds, especially the puffins."

[Highlights were] "the moors, the coast, lakes and lochs."