The best places to see dolphins in Scotland

Bottlenose dolphins at the Moray Firth. Picture: Contributed
Bottlenose dolphins at the Moray Firth. Picture: Contributed
Share this article
Have your say

The cool waters surrounding Scotland are the perfect habitat for the sleek marine mammal, with bottlenose, white-beaked and common dolphins all playing near our coastlines

There is something immensely heartening about watching a vast animal protrude from the surface of the water before disappearing back into the blue. Whether you witness the sight of just a fin or a full breach, there are many locations throughout Scotland to see any one of the estimated 300 or so dolphins that call the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean home.

Aberdeen’s harbour entrance not only welcomes the vast ships that endlessly travel between the Granite City and the North Sea’s oil rigs, but plays hosts to bottlenose dolphins particularly in the winter months. The mammals can be seen dodging boats from Torry Battery, an old military fort that still overlooks the harbour entrance. Moving further along the cost to the Bay of Nigg also offers spectacular views of the dolphins as well as a sea unspoilt by the bustle of the harbour.

The Moray Firth is another popular cetacean-spotting location thanks to the residency of nearly 130 of the same bottlenose species. While sightings can readily be made from the shore, local firms are available to take customers out on the water, thus presenting an even better opportunity to see the animals up close without the potential need for binoculars. Broughty Ferry Castle, at the entrance to the Firth of Tay, also gives an elevated perspective for potential observations.

Anstruther, Fife’s coastal community, has experienced a rise in dolphin sightings around the Firth of Forth.

A greater range of species can be encountered by the dolphin-spotter who ventures further north than Dundee or Aberdeen. Ardnamurchan Point, Mull, and Red Point, south of Gairloch often have white-beaked and Risso’s dolphins in their waters. With a square head spotted with patches of white, the Risso is one of the most distinctive dolphins still in existence and also features an usually large dorsal fin.

The predominance of bottlenose dolphins is also a feature of the waters on the west coast, with over 60 members of the species living in the Sound of Barra and the Hebrides. These animals, famous for travelling in large groups known as ‘pods’, tend to be the most well-sighted due to their sociable nature and likelihood of being near the shore to hunt for food.

Where do you think the best locations for dolphin-spotting are? Tell us in the comments section.