Wildlife in Winter

SCOTLAND: Cairngorms National Park

Wildlife in Winter

SCOTLAND: Cairngorms National Park

  • Stunning location in Cairngorms National Park

  • Unique photographic opportunities
  • House-party format in our own mountain lodge

  • Exclusive use of dedicated photography hides

  • Tuition and guidance in the field

  • Evening presentations to inform & inspire

The winter months are undoubtedly the best time of the year for wildlife photography in the Scottish Highlands. From our spectacular lodge in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, we like to think that we offer the very best in photographic opportunities from red squirrels on our doorstep to red deer set in a magnificent Highland forest - all against the backdrop of snow-capped hills, primeval forests and wild moorland.

Our days start with a wholesome breakfast before the group splits between different activities. Locally we have a range of hides for red squirrels and each guest will have the opportunity to photograph this charismatic creature in a variety of settings on different days.

In the UK crested tits are unique to the pine forests of northern Scotland but can be easily photographed from our local hides, along with other woodland birds such as coal tits and great-spotted woodpeckers.

A short drive from our lodge and we find ourselves in a beautiful pine forest where red deer stags gather in winter. It is rare to get so close to wild red deer and such an opportunity allows us to secure a wide range of images. Similarly, mountain hares are normally very wary but we know of a site where with careful stalking, you can get so close you can almost touch the hares – not something we’re suggesting of course!

One of the specialist birds of this area is the ptarmigan, which live high in the mountains. At this time of year, ptarmigan will be sporting an all-white plumage, which allows them to blend in with the snow. Finding and photographing ptarmigan can be physically demanding but extremely rewarding when it all comes together.

This tour is designed for photographers who wish to spend prolonged periods securing high-quality images of some of Scotland’s most celebrated species. Our local knowledge and network of hides puts us in a unique position to help you with this and although the weather and the wildlife can sometimes thwart us, we can nevertheless promise an action-packed photographic experience in a stunning location with lots of tips and techniques thrown in.

House Party

With exclusive occupation of carefully selected lodges, each offering a high degree of comfort and set in stunning locations, we are able to tailor our photographic forays according to the best light and time of day. Meals are cooked fresh by our own live-in chef and can be timed to offer maximum flexibility. Our house parties combine serious photography with serious fun.


Dates: 3-9 Feb 2018

Cost: £1225

Deposit: £300

Single Supplement: £0

Group Size: 9

Guide: Terry Whittaker and James Shooter

Principal Subjects: Red squirrel, red deer, crested tit, mountain hare, ptarmigan, waterfowl, woodland birds.

Cost Includes: Accommodation in single rooms; All meals; Transport during tour; Use of hides; Tuition and presentations; Transfers to/from Kingussie train station

Cost Excludes: Travel to/from the tour; Travel/cancellation insurance; Alcoholic drinks (wine is served with dinner); Personal expenses


James Shooter

James Shooter

James is an established photographer and filmmaker with a passion for conservation communication. He has spent several years at Northshots developing an acute knowledge of Scottish wildlife and has led tours both in Scotland and overseas. A personable and engaging character, James will ensure you get the very best from your time spent with us. 

Terry Whittaker

Terry Whittaker

Terry is a widely-published photographer specialising in wildlife conservation with a particular interest in the relationship between people and wild animals. Past projects include critically endangered primates in Vietnam, the wildlife trade in Asia and hunter-gatherer people in Paraguay. More recently he has been photographing efforts to save the water vole in the UK. It's also fair to say he's a thoroughly decent bloke.



Our accommodation is a lovely converted steading at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains. Ballintean Mountain Lodge is comfortable and full of character - specially designed for photographic house parties. We have a range of single, double and twin rooms, all with private facilities*. Kick off your shoes and make yourself at home!

*Two of our single rooms share a bathroom. Rooms will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.


Cars can be safely parked at our lodge. Directions can be sent, as Satnav is not always reliable. Our postcode is PH21 1NX.

Train travel is generally reliable and we can offer free transfers to/from Kingussie station (7 miles).

Our nearest airport is Inverness (45 miles) and we can offer transfers but we charge £40 per transfer, which can be shared if other members of the group are travelling by air. We collect at 4pm on arrival day and drop off at 10am on departure day.


Meals are informal and will be taken within our accommodation. We offer home-cooked, wholesome food prepared with local ingredients. Breakfast, packed lunch, evening meal and home-baked shortbread provide the fuel to keep you going! We can almost always accommodate specific dietary requirements - just tell us on the booking form and we’ll make sure you get what you want.


Photographic hides are all accessed via a short walk so although sure-footedness is required, only a minimal level of fitness is necessary. You should however, be prepared to spend up to 4 hours sat in a hide remaining relatively still. We may venture in search of mountain hares, which requires a longer, uphill walk and a reasonable level of fitness. Weather permitting, we shall include a “mountain day” looking for ptarmigan, which requires a good level of fitness (this day is optional).


This time of year provides the best opportunity for extended snow cover but the weather here is variable. You should expect some snow or rain and temperatures between +5c and -10c. At this time of year, sunrise is around 07.30 and sunset 17.00


This tour is primarily aimed at providing our guests with great photographic opportunities and to this end, most of our time will be spent in the field securing images. Our guides will however, provide help where it is needed and will offer guidance on fieldcraft, composition, lighting and photographic technique. For those guests looking for image critique and/ or post-processing assistance, this can be arranged subject to time available. For a more structured learning experience, please consider one of our Masterclass workshops.

Giving Back

Northshots is a strong supporter of nature-based tourism contributing to rural economies to demonstrate the value of wild animals and wild places. We believe also that “taking” from the natural world obliges us to “give back” so we adapt our business practices to that end. We also contribute 3% of the revenue from this tour to Scottish charity Trees for Life which is working to restore Scotland’s Caledonian Pine Forest.