September 13. 2014 5:37PM

Touring Scotland's Hebrides and Highlands at Holderness' Squam Lakes Natural Sciene Center

Special to the Sunday News

Tiroran House Hotel on Mull will be home base for five nights. It has won "best country house hotel" for the last two years. (IAIN MACLEOD)

HOLDERNESS - Travelers looking to explore the wild side of Scotland's Hebrides and Highlands in style - and support the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center while enjoying excellent cuisine and accommodations - may consider booking a space on a 13-day tour in June 2015.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Executive Director Iain MacLeod, a native Scotsman, will lead a small group tour that explores the natural and cultural history of his homeland. MacLeod, a bird expert and partner in Project OspreyTrack, has led more than a dozen tours to his homeland over the years.

"These are very personal tours," said MacLeod. "I don't use any third parties. I pick the itinerary, select the hotels and take care of all the bookings of flights, ferries, vans and attractions," he said. MacLeod even carries the bags and drives the van.

"I choose high-end country house hotels that offer comfort and style, and excellent food," he said, describing the tour as an easy-paced trip that caters to mature travelers.

The 13-day tour is from June 11 to 24, 2015, and usually fills up quickly. His trips have a maximum of 12 participants.

The tour brings MacLeod and travelers back to the Highlands and the island of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. He said the weather in Scotland in June should be mild and in the 60s most days, cooler in the evening and on the water, but like New England, "every day is different."

The trip starts in Glasgow and ends near Edinburgh - with an opportunity to explore the Scottish capital.

He said this trip highlights the very best of Scottish scenery and hospitality.

"We'll fly from Boston to Glasgow and then go by van to the beautiful Spey Valley nestled next to the Cairngorm Mountains. We'll stay for five nights at the Rowan Tree Hotel near Aviemore. We'll explore lochs and ancient pine forests and the shores of the Moray Firth, including a day trip to the Black Isle and Cromarty. We'll even visit Royal Deeside for a tour of Balmoral Castle. The second part of the trip takes us to Oban and a ferry to the spectacular island of Mull. We'll stay five nights at Tiroran House Hotel (voted best small House Hotel in 2013 and 2014). The spectacular loch-side setting and beautiful gardens make this a memorable location.

"While on Mull, you will get to see some of the most spectacular scenery, visit the island of Iona and tour the famous abbey, go inside Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa and visit the seabird colonies on the Treshnish Isles for what the locals call 'puffin therapy,' said MacLeod.

"On the mainland, we'll visit the Spey Valley, the Black Isle and Moray coast, Balmoral Castle, Perthshire and the Lothian coast," he added.

Day trips include a boat excursion to the Treshnish Isles for lunch among the puffins and a visit to the village of Tobermory.

Wildlife highlights include white-tailed and golden eagles, otters, seals and red deer. "The last leg of the trip takes us to Edinburgh for a free day to explore this wonderful and historic city," he said.

The cost of the trip is $5,750 (double or twin occupancy room, or add $350 for a single room supplement.)

All-inclusive cost includes hotel accommodations and all meals, round-trip airfare from Boston to Glasgow, van transportation in Scotland, ferry and boat trips and admission fees to nature reserves and other destinations listed on the itinerary.

A portion of the proceeds from the trip help "keep the lights on" at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, the only environmental and wildlife educational center in New England accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquarians.

Contact MacLeod at 968-7194, extension 23, or for a full trip itinerary or to book your place on the trip.

He is also conducting a trip to New Mexico later this year. Information for that and other trips is available on his site.