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With its vast seas and rich marine life, Scotland is one of the prime destinations for whale-watching in the world. There’s nothing more humbling than to feel closer to these majestic creatures while they are in their natural habitat.
For the best view of these minke whales, orcas and more, we’ve rounded up the best whale-watching spots in Scotland. Read on to learn more!
Situated on the west coast of Scotland, Loch Gairloch in Wester Ross is near the Atlantic Ocean and offers an overlooking view of the Outer Hebrides.
It’s a common spot where whale-spotting boat tours stop for a chance to see minke whales along with other marine wildlife species like dolphins and porpoises.
Although you’re visiting in the summer, wear the wetsuits provided since it still gets really cold during this time of the year when you’re out in the water. You should also bring two woolly scarves: one for your neck and another to wrap around your head.
Nestled between Ullapool and Stornoway on Lewis and Harris, the Minch aka the Northern Minch is where minke and orca whales are often seen during their annual migration.
You’ll even get a glimpse of bottlenoses, white-beaked dolphins and more during your boat tour.
If you’re planning a tour for a wildlife cruise, we recommend going in August since you’ll not only see different whales but also various seabirds during your excursion.
Isle of Mull
Known as one of the best whale-watching spots in Scotland, the Isle of Mull has various minke whales and sometimes orcas, swimming through its waters. For the best chances of seeing them, go on boat excursions between April and October.
The Gulf of Corryvreckan is the specific spot in the isle where whales are often spotted, especially during mid-June or late September since it’s a rich feeding area.
If you don’t know which guided tour to take, we suggest Sea Life Surveys since it’s a popular choice among tourists. It’s based in Tobermory and they have an experienced skipper and professional wildlife guide on every tour.
Isle of Staffa
Located on the west coast of the Isle of Mull, the Isle of Staffa aka the Pillar Island has iconic pillar structures on the Fingals Cave. Although its wildlife is mainly birds, this wee isle also has a variety of whales and dolphins swimming through its waters.
If you’re planning to go inside the Fingals Cave, do walk carefully since it has a slippery and precarious trail inside.
It’s manageable for anyone with a good fitness level but not suggested for kids under seven years old to avoid accidents.
Isle of Skye
If you’re in the Isle of Skye, the Neist Point in Glendale is the best spot to go whale-watching. The peak months of June and July are when you’ll see minke whales almost daily.
For those who want to watch the whales from the shore, we suggest checking the weather forecast and picking the day when the sea is calm.
Find a spot by the water’s edge or near the lighthouse and wait patiently until you see your desired creature floating around the area.
Isle of Lewis
When you’re on the Isle of Lewis, the Tiumpan Head Lighthouse is one of the best spots to see the whales while you’re on land. But of course, you can get a closer look at them if you go on a boat tour on the Isle.
Seatrek and Stornoway Seafari are two of the best whale-watching tours on the Isle of Lewis where the guides love sharing interesting tales and folklore about the site, including the ocean water spirit, A Seonaidh.
Regardless of when you visit the Orkney Isles, you’ll most likely see a pod of orca whales during your boat excursion, even up to 150 of them. But if you want to increase your chances, it’s best to go around May to September.
If you’re planning to go whale watching on land, the best spots are Cantick Head on Hoy Island, Noup Head on Westray Island and North Hill on Papa Westray Island.
If you go further north in Scotland, you’ll reach Shetland where several killer whales are coming ashore to hunt seals. Usually, they are spotted between May and August.
Since orca watching is a popular pastime in Shetland, there’s a Facebook page dedicated to it where you’ll get updates about the recent sightings of these infamous whales.
If you do see one, don’t forget to report your sighting through the page as well.
Situated in the north of Fraserburgh and Lossiemouth, the Moray Firth is a common spot to watch minke whales in their natural element. Most of them are usually seen between July and late September.
Apart from minke whales, you might get lucky to see pilot, humpback and northern bottlenose whales during your visit here.
To get a better look at the different cetacean species, rent a pair of binoculars. Even if you don’t end up spotting one, you can still use it as a chance to see different birds flying around the area.