The spectacular new Hebridean Whale Trail has just been launched by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. It showcases Scotland’s west coast as a world-class destination for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises from land. Basking sharks, seals and other wildlife may also be seen from the trail, which features 33 different sites.
It’s no surprise that 11 of these spectacular sites are within Argyll & The Isles. With fertile seas and shallow sounds, the islands and coastline in Argyll makes for a wildlife watching paradise. It’s a diverse area too, so you could find yourself whale spotting from a castle battlement or from a secluded sandy bay. Of course there’s no guarantee that you’ll spot a whale or dolphin, but you’ll definitely visit some beautiful places and see some stunning scenery.
Here are the eleven sites along the Hebridean Whale Trail that are located in Argyll.
The lovely fishing village of Tobermory on the island of Mull is a fabulous place to visit, with shops, cafés, galleries and plenty of local seafood. It’s also home to The Hebridean Whale Trail visitor centre. Pop in to find out more about the creatures you might encounter along the trail. The centre showcases Scottish whales, dolphins and porpoises alongside the work of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. In terms of spotting whales and dolphins here, occasionally bottlenose dolphins are seen playing amongst the boats, and you might spot a harbour porpoise or seal further out.
The magnificent Duart Castle on the island of Mull stands high, overlooking waters teeming with sealife. This is the ancient home of the Clan Maclean and for over 700 years Duart Castle has dominated the view to the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe. You might spot harbour porpoises close to the keep. And for whale watching in style, head up to the battlements and keep your eyes peeled.
The gateway to the Isles, Oban is is a busy, bustling port. There are ferry connections to the Inner and Outer Hebrides from the port, and these ferry journeys are excellent for whale and dolphin watching. It’s rare to see whales or dolphins right in Oban Bay, but look out for seals and otters.
This gem of an island is a magical place to visit. Iona is well known as a place for spiritual pilgrimage. The journey to Iona takes you across the Sound; look out for bottlenose dolphins in the turquoise waters. You might also spot seals along the shore, or bobbing in the sea.
Tiree is famed for its beaches and watersports. The island, skies and surrounding seas are also a wildlife paradise. Hynish sits at the southern tip of the island, a wonderful spot that brings together local history and natural heritage. A short walk around the headland provides lots of opportunities to spot wildlife. You’re looking out over fertile waters, so look out for basking sharks in the summer months, and harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins all year round.
The ferry port at Arinagour has breathtaking views towards the Isle of Mull and the Treshnish Isles. The island is a nature lover’s paradise throughout the year with rare and elusive creatures to be found here, like basking sharks and corncrakes. Look out for harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins from the shore, and keep an eye out on the ferry too - in the summer it passes through waters rich with minke whales and common dolphins.
Glengorm is on the north coast of Mull, and has spectacular views over the Sea of the Hebrides where many wondrous creatures are found. Bottlenose dolphins hug the coast here, sometimes swimming very close by. Further out in the deeper water, look for the long dark backs of minke whales as they surface.
Colonsay and Oronsay are a small island pair, but bursting with wildlife. Scalasaig is the main village and where you arrive on the ferry. Spend some time here taking in the view; it has a lovely outlook and even from the shelter of the ferry waiting room you can gaze out across the sea. Bottlenose dolphins are occasional visitors, and harbour porpoises can be spotted fleeting through the waves. A short walk round the bay will give you different view points, and more chances to spot wildlife.
Port Askaig, Islay
The Sound of Islay is a narrow stretch of water separating the islands of Islay and Jura. Ar Port Askaig on Islay you can catch a ferry across the sound to Jura. The Sound is a great place to spot a swift and sleek porpoise, or slow and gliding basking shark, as the tide washes by.
Step off the ferry at Ardminish on Gigha and you’re in an incredible location for wildlife watching. The island itself is breathtaking – silver beaches, beautiful bays, and clear green seas. On the ferry crossing you may be lucky enough to spot the playful bottlenose dolphins that sometimes come to swim with the boat. Keep an eye out for porpoises as these speedy creatures hunt off Gigha’s coast.
The Oa, Islay
The Oa stands at the very edge of the Hebrides, looking out towards Northern Ireland and the vast expanse of the Atlantic. The cliffs are jagged and imposing, with commanding views out to sea where you might just glimpse a creature or two. Looking down from these cliffs look out for seals and bottlenose dolphins that might be travelling close along the shore. You might catch you a glimpse of bigger species of whale, like the magnificent humpback.
The trail’s website www.whaletrail.org includes routes, transport options and site details. On-site interpretation at key locations will explain which species of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – might be seen.