For the chance to see breaching whales and leaping dolphins against the backdrop of stunning coastal landscape, you need to follow the Hebridean Whale Trail in Argyll. And in Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Water, there’s no better time to do it! The trail links up the best places on the Scottish west coast to view whales, seals, dolphins and porpoises from the shore. The trail isn’t just about spotting these magnificent marine mammals, you can discover more about the area’s incredible marine environment, travel to beautiful locations and discover a rich Highland heritage too. Here are seven things to see and do when you follow the Hebridean Whale Trail in Argyll.
Duart Castle must have one of the most spectacular positions on Scotland’s west coast. This magnificent fortress guards the sea cliffs of the Isle of Mull. It’s the ancient home of Clan Maclean and for over 700 years has dominated the view to the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe. It’s a fascinating place to visit. You can find out more about the turbulent past of the clan, explore the dungeons and see the magnificent banqueting hall. Head up to the battlements for incredible views out to sea. You never know – you might be lucky and spot a whale from here!
A must-visit attraction in Tobermory on Mull is the Mull Aquarium at the harbour. With a huge salt water tank, touch pools, quizzes, interactive games and the cinema room, kids will love it and it’s a great way to learn more about the local marine environment. The Hebridean Whale Trail visitor centre is just up the road, and it’s well worth popping in there too. Keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins playing amongst the boats in the harbour.
Iona Abbey, on the beautiful island of Iona just off Mull, is one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites. The abbey was founded by St Columba and his Irish followers in AD 563 and became the heart of the early Scottish church. The Abbey is just a short walk from the ferry and a truly memorable place to visit. The short ferry trip across the sound from Mull to Iona is a great opportunity to spot seals and dolphins.
The Oa RSPB Reserve
The wonderful Oa RSPB Reserve on Islay stands at the very edge of the Hebrides, looking out towards Northern Ireland and the vast expanse of the Atlantic. It’s home to choughs and sea eagles. Enjoy a walk along sea cliffs. Looking down from these cliffs look out for seals and bottlenose dolphins that might be travelling close to the shore.
Ardminish Bay, Gigha
Step off the ferry at Ardminish on Gigha and it’s a short walk around to Ardminish Bay, a lovely, sheltered sandy bay with clear turquoise water. In the summer it’s a great spot to paddle and picnic. The Boathouse Café Bar at Ardminish Bay is a fantastic place to sample local produce, including amazing seafood, right on the beach. You can keep an eye out for sea creatures as you enjoy your feast. On the ferry crossing to Gigha you may spot bottlenose dolphins that sometimes swim with the boat.
Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum
The harbour and hamlet of Hynish, on the Hebridean island of Tiree, was built in the 19th century to house workers and supplies for the construction of Skerryvore Lighthouse – Scotland’s tallest lighthouse. The Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum tells the story of the engineers and keepers who built and maintained the lighthouse on a treacherous low-lying reef 10 miles south-west of Tiree. Take a walk around the headland at Hynish and look out for basking sharks in the summer months.
You can walk to the tiny island of Oronsay from Colonsay at low tide, but you will need to check the tides carefully before you head off. The island is managed by the RSPB as a nature reserve, and is a great place to see a range of birds, from choughs to barnacle geese. Once there, check out the magnificent ruins of the Augustinian priory on Oronsay. There are lots of lovely beaches on Colonsay and Oronsay to explore, with opportunities to spot harbour porpoises.
Find out more about the Hebridean Whale Trail.