A new whale-watching route is to be launched across Scotland’s west coast as part of efforts to promote the country as a top destination for spotting the animals.
The Hebridean Whale Trail will be a network of around 25 world-class wildlife watching locations and the first of its kind in the UK.
It is also hoped the project will promote Scotland as one of Europe’s best destinations for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises - collectively known as cetaceans.
Karl Stevens, Hebridean Whale Trail manager, said: “People currently visit Scotland for the landscapes, wildlife and culture - but not necessarily to see cetaceans.
“With the Hebrides being one of the best places in Europe to see these spectacular animals, we want to add them to the mix - and our research shows that the potential is huge.
“We’re keen to hear from local people, communities and businesses for their ideas and suggestions - to ensure the Hebridean Whale Trail embodies the spirit of the Hebrides and places Scotland’s land-based whale watching opportunities on the international map.”
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Due for a summer 2019 launch, the ambitious initiative will connect and support existing wildlife tourism businesses and heritage sites of national cultural significance that showcase the history of people’s relationships with whales in the Hebrides.
Many of these will be small, community-run visitor centres at spectacular sites.
The trust hopes to identify sites from the Clyde in the south to Cape Wrath in the far north, and as far west as St Kilda.
There will be a variety of locations including remote headlands and sea lochs, white sandy beaches and bustling harbours.
It will have a website with suggested routes, transport options and site details, with visitors able to share experiences by uploading photos.
David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland regional partnerships director, said: “This new Whale Trail will help cement Scotland’s reputation as one of the best places in the Europe to watch marine life and provides a platform for local communities to come together and promote everything that makes the Hebrides such a unique and special place.
“With figures suggesting nature-based activities are worth nearly 40% of all tourism spending in Scotland, our natural heritage is certainly an important asset when attracting visitors.”