A spectacular new trail launched by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is set to showcase Scotland’s west coast as a world-class destination for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises from land and champion conservation of the Hebrides globally important marine wildlife and environment.
The Hebridean Whale Trail, first of its kind in the UK, is a unique initiative connecting more than 30 top places offering opportunities for land-based sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises, or showcasing important whale heritage sites that reveal the history of people’s relationships with whales in these communities.
Bottlenose dolphin in Tobermory harbour
Basking sharks, seals and other wildlife may also be seen from the trail, which features 33 sites across the Hebridean archipelago and along Scotland’s west coast, from the Clyde to Cape Wrath and St Kilda. These include lighthouses at the Butt of Lewis on the Isle of Lewis, Eilean Glas on the Isle of Scalpay, the UK mainland’s most westerly point at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, beaches at Clachtoll in the Highlands and Huisinis on the Isle of Harris and harbours at Tobermory and Ullapool.
The trail ranges from easily accessible attractions such as the Hebridean Whale Trail Centre in Tobermory to remote and wild destinations such as the Oa on Islay.
“Scotland’s west coast is one of Europe’s best places to catch sight of whales, dolphins and porpoises from land and you may see bottlenose and common dolphins, harbour porpoise, minke whales and killer whales,” said Karl Stevens, Hebridean Whale Trail Manager. “We want people from all walks of life to visit the Hebridean Whale Trail and enjoy exploring the region’s unique nature, culture and history and be inspired to support marine conservation.”
The aims are also to boost the local economy and support communities through sustainable eco-tourism, provide educational opportunities and improve connections between coastal areas.
David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland Regional Director said, “Scotland’s Hebrides offer captivating views, endless beaches, ancient history, the finest fresh food and wonderful wildlife. The Hebridean Whale Trail is a clever initiative which presents visitors with an unrivalled opportunity to explore the best of Scotland’s marine wildlife and seascapes. The launch of this new trail is particularly apt as we prepare for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, a year-long programme of events and activities. It’s particularly pleasing that the trail is a conservation-based tourism product, as a key focus of the themed year will be celebrating and protecting Scotland’s beautiful natural environment.”
The trail’s website includes routes, transport options and site details. On-site interpretation at key locations will explain which species of cetaceans might be seen. Across the trail there will be many opportunities for visitors and residents to get involved in marine conservation activities, including joining volunteers to watch, identify and record marine wildlife from land or the ferries which connect the sites, as well as discovering more about Scotland’s seas from experts at a range of visitor centres.
“The trail encourages accessible, low-impact whale-watching from land, which for many is a completely new way of thinking about viewing marine wildlife. Scotland’s west coast is dotted with stunning places where you can quietly watch whales, dolphins and other wildlife going about their business from a clifftop or harbour,” said Alison Lomax, Director of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. “Ultimately we want people to experience the thrill of watching a fin breaking the surface in the distance and the challenge of identifying which type of whale they’ve seen, sharing that experience with others and learning about the threats these animals face in our seas”
While sightings of cetaceans can never be guaranteed, the Hebridean seas are exceptionally rich in wildlife. More than a quarter of the world’s whale and dolphin species have been recorded in the region including many national and international conservation priority species.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is based on the Isle of Mull and has been taking action for the conservation of cetaceans off western Scotland for over two decades.
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and author of 11 books. My byline appears in national and regional newspapers and magazines. See website gillypickup.co.uk