Situated within Scotlands famous Flow Country and two minutes walk from the RSPB Forsinard visitor centre, the Forsinard Hotel offers excellent accomodation and hospitality. I should know as I was based there for several weeks during the spring/summer of 2007 undertaking an Ornithological survey.
From a birdwatchers perspective, I would highly recommend at least one overnight stay in May-early July at 'The Forsinard' which would enable any like-minded person ample opportunity to seek out the host of species on offer by birding from the A897, along which the Forsinard Hotel is situated, 24 miles up from Helmsdale and 14 miles down from the junction with the A836 north coast road (otherwise known as the North-West Highland Tourist Route).
The grounds of the Hotel itself can be an excellent place to observe wildlife and I would recommend that any birdwatchers staying keep their binoculars with them at all times, even during meals!
Species I recorded during the course of the summer whilst I dined either at breakfast or in the evening included a range of raptor species; Osprey, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and Sparrowhawk as well as the occasional Golden Eagle.
Summer migrants are often in evidence in the Hotel grounds and a colony of House Martin nest under the eaves. In spring 2007, the density of Cuckoo in Strath Halladale had to be seen to be believed with at least ten sightings per day, some involving up to three birds together, and the Hotel grounds were no exception. The sound of Cuckoos singing at all times of day is one of the fondest memories I take with me from my time in Forsinard.
Other summer migrants which frequent the plantings and more open ground in the area of the Hotel include Spotted Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat and Willow Warbler whilst other breeding passerines include Song & Mistle Thrushes, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Crossbill.
Moving onto Mammals briefly, one of the undoubted highlights of a stay at the Forsinard Hotel is the presence of Red Deer in the Hotel grounds, sometimes just feet away from the windows. Much smaller numbers of Roe Deer are also present in the area. If you are lucky, you may be fortunate to see an Otter on either of the two rivers which run alongside the A897, the Halladale at the northern end and the Helmsdale at the southern end.
Back to the birds....
Sightings of Raven are guaranteed as are 'pure' Hooded Crows, but examples of the latter appear to be mainly concentrated towards the northern end of the A897. Common Buzzards are numerous along the entire stretch of road.
The deciduous wooded stretch at Kildonan offers the opportunity of seeing summer migrant woodland species including Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart and Tree Pipit, with the Helmsdale River hosting Dipper, Grey Wagtails and Common Sandpiper in this area. Always remain vigilant for Osprey! - Raptors may be encountered anywhere along the A897.
Loch an Ruathair, mid-way between Forsinard & Kinbrace can be scoped from the road for Divers, Wildfowl and Osprey.
An array of breeding wader species frequent the area including Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing, Common Snipe, Dunlin, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank and European Golden Plover.
At the northern end of the A897 lies Melvich on the north coast, where a plethora of Seabirds may be encountered if one looks offshore during the summer months.
With the exception of the last sentence, this review is written with the emphasis on birding from the A897 itself. Much of the surrounding terrain is blanket peat bog upon which walking can be a challenge. In any case, leaving the road is largely unnecessary as most/all species mentioned in this review can be seen from the road itself. Note: If visiting at other times of year, please observe warnings signs re the possibilitty of Deer stalking activities and the use of high velocity rifles.
A final word on the Hotel. After a rewarding days birding, the Hotel bar is a great place to unwind and talk to the varied array of interesting guests, mainly Fishermen, from all walks of life, who may also be staying. The food, either from the Bar menu or in the dining room is delicious. There is also a drying room for boots and clothes on those rainy days.
The proprietors, John & Kim Leonard and family should be rightly proud of the fine establishment they own within the spectacular peat-bog 'wilderness' of Sutherland.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.