Boat charters and wildlife cruises in the Highlands

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  • Dolphins on the Moray Firth
    Dolphins on the Moray Firth

The wild and unpolluted waters surrounding the dramatic Highland coastline are more than just a blue fringe to fine scenery. They are well worth exploring in their own right so take a wildlife cruise around the inner Moray Firth or from the western seaboard and experience the resident aquatic wildlife such as whales, dolphins and seals.

East coast

The bottlenose dolphins of the Moray Firth are perhaps the most famous cetacean species in the northern waters. Here, the cool rich feeding grounds allow them to grow bigger than bottlenose dolphins anywhere else in the world.

Around the inner Moray Firth, many different operators offer wildlife-watching cruises and most operate between March and October.

To ensure maximum enjoyment, and the welfare of the dolphins, choose a member of the Dolphin Space Programme (DSP) for your excursion. DSP accredited operators are committed to providing high quality wildlife watching trips which do not cause disturbance to marine wildlife and are trained on how to approach a wide range of marine life including seals, seabirds and basking sharks, as well as cetaceans such as the minke and killer whales which can also sometimes be seen here.

Alternatively, if you'd rather stick to dry land, the mouth of Cromarty Firth, Chanonry Point near Fortrose, North or South Kessock beside Inverness and Fort George are all good shore watching places.

West coast

The western seaboard also offers excellent cetacean watching. Boat companies cover large stetches of the Highland west such as Lochaber, Ardnamurchan and Wester Ross sailing out of Mallaig, Armadale, Kyle of Lochalsh and Gairloch.

Various dolphin species can be seen of the west coast, as well as minke and killer whales. Harbour porpoises,the smallest of the species, are also spotted regularly.

If you stop off at Handa, near Tarbet, north of Scourie, you'll also see one of Britain's largest guillemot colony, plus puffins, razorbills, great and Arctic skuas.

The experienced and knowledgeable skippers leading these cruises give you your best chance of seeing these amazing creatures in their natural element. And while sightings can't be absolutely guaranteed, there's also the thrill of encountering something really special such as Atlantic white-sided dolphins, pilot whales or even sperm whales which have all been see in Highland waters.

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  1. Skye Island Tours

    Type

    Tour Guides

    Gradings

    Kyleakin

    SKYE ISLAND TOURS – Small-group tours to the Isle of Skye from Scottish cities and Day tours starting from South Skye.

  2. Summer Queen Cruises

    Type

    Boat Tour

    Gradings

    Ullapool

    Summer Queen is the only boat from Ullapool that cruises through all the summer Isles and lands on the main island Tanera Mhor.

  3. Spindrift Boat Trips

    Type

    Boat Tour

    Gradings

    Skye & Lochalsh

    Come aboard Spindrift for a wildlife watching and island visit. Visit the beautiful Isle of Rona or the Isle of Raasay from Portree pier.

  4. Seascape Expeditions

    Type

    Boat Tour

    Gradings

    Ullapool

    Seascape offers an exciting experience with trips out of Ullapool to the Summer Isles and surrounding area, aboard a RIB (rigid hull inflatable boat).

  5. Ecoventures

    Type

    Boat Tour

    Gradings

    • 4 Wildlife Experience
    4 Wildlife Experience

    Cromarty

    Experience the thrill aboard high speed, offshore RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) and share firsthand the unique scenery, wildlife and history of the Moray Firth.

  6. Wilderness Guides Canoeing

    Type

    Tour Guides

    Gradings

    The Highlands

    Wilderness Guides offers guided canoe trips on the beautiful lochs and rivers around Fort William. Canoeing is a fun and easy activity, perfect for all ages and experience. Day and overnight trips are available, as well as canoe rental.

  7. Aigas Field Centre

    Type

    Wildlife Tour

    Gradings

    Beauly

    Welcome to Aigas Field Centre - awarded 'Best Nature Based Experience' by Visit Scotland. Learning holidays at Aigas are a unique and unforgettable experience for anybody who wants to learn more about Scotland's superb natural history.

  8. Classic Tours Highlands

    Type

    Chauffeur Tour

    Gradings

    Grantown on Spey

    Welcome to Classic Tours Highlands

  9. Eda Frandsen Sailing

    Type

    Sailing Charter Companies

    Gradings

    Mallaig

    Eda Frandsen offers the finest traditional sailing in the Western Isles of Scotland.

  10. Gradings

    Dunvegan

    Take an exhilarating 25 minute boat trip to see the seal colony and observe these playful sea mammals at close quarters.

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