Sign up for our Free email Newsletter
and get all the latest wildlife news!

Dolphin and whale watching in the Scotland


20 years ago there was virtually no whale watching in Scotland, but as wildlife tourism became more popular at the same time as the Scottish fishing industry declined, possibly coupled with an increased incidence of marine mammals within UK waters, demand increased as did the opportunity for 'retired' fishermen. There are now more than 40 operators offering whale and dolphin watching in Scotland.

Minke whales are most commonly sighted, but Humpback, Fin, Killer, (Orca are increasingly seen off Shetland) Pilot and Sperm whales can all be seen from time to time, and occasionally Northern Bottlenose and Sei whales are spotted too.

Top 5 sites for whale and dolphin watching in the Scotland

  • 1. Shetland Islands. Regular Minke sightings and occasional Orca, Sperm, Humpback and Fin whales, from boats and can be seen from the shore too..
  • 2. Orkney Islands. Minke, Humpback and Orcas, and even a possible Beluga sighting in 2005!
  • 3. Hebrides. Regular Minkes, with Humpbacks and Orcas thrown in occasionally.
  • 4. Moray Firth. A resident population of over 100 Bottlenose dolphins as well as common and grey seals, and it is relatively easy to see them from the shore. Boat trips are available too.
  • 5. Kyle of Lochalsh. Not necessarily for the sightings, though you they are seen, but more for the style of sighting as there is a unique vessel based here that is best described as a floating submarine, or a boat with a glass hull. Either way as the boat cruises you get underwater views of all the local marine life.


 Minke whale. © Sea Watch Foundation.





Minke whale off Scotland. © Sea Watch.

Notable whale, dolphin and marine sightings around the UK and Irish coasts in 2006.

  • August 2006. Humpback seen in the Forth estuary.
  • July 2006. 2 Minke whales seed off the Dorset coast.
  • July 2006. Orca seen much more regularly than normal of Shetlands.
  • July 2006. Minke whales seen in unusual numbers of West Cork, Ireland, as well as sunfish and jelly fish.
  • July 2006. Minke whales seen in unusual numbers off Aberdeen.
  • July 2006. Unusual dolphin sightings off Nth East Scotland, including Rissos, white beaked and common.
  • July 2006. Killer whales seen off Northern Ireland.
  • July 2006. First record of a Fin whale off North Berwick Coast.
  • June/July 2006. Basking sharks seen by the basket load off Cornwall.
  • June 2006. Humpbacks seen off Wales.
  • June 2006. Humpback freed from nets off Isle of Skye.
  • June 2006. Orca seen off Shetland Islands (Filmed for Springwatch with Simon King).
  • June 2006. 12 Bottlenose dolphins seen in several places off Cornwall.
  • June 2006. Minke whale seen of Manacle, Cornwall.
  • June 2006. Possible Piliot whale sighting off Portloe, Cornwall.
  • May 2006. 2 Fin wales seen in the Inner Hebrides.
  • There have been dozens of reports of baskings sharks from Cornwall and the West Coast of Ireland.