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. Gradings


    Welcome aboard the MV Stardust for an unforgettable experience with our 1-2 hour trips. See Skye from the sea, fabulous views and unbelievable wildlife.

  2. Gradings

    • 4 Wildlife Experience
    4 Wildlife Experience


    Unique to Gairloch 'Sealife' Glass Bottom Boat, the only cruise to combine looking below the waves while enjoying the magnificent wildlife and birdlife of Gairloch Bay.

  3. Gradings

    • 5 Tour
    5 Tour


    Guided wildlife excursions, in small, friendly groups with an experienced local nature watcher, in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

  4. Loch Ness Cruises


    Boat Tour


    • 4 Tour
    4 Tour


    LUXURY CRUISING ON LOCH NESS Hourly cruises on our luxury 12 passenger cruiser, Nessie Hunter IV.

  5. Hebridean Whale Cruises


    Boat Tour



    Welcome to Hebridean Whale Cruises. Operating whale watching and wildlife cruises from Gairloch, on Scotland's spectacular north west coast. We also offer Chandlery goods, fishing tackle and permits to fish in local rivers and lochs.

  6. Arisaig Marine Ltd


    Boat Tour



    Arisaig Marine offers daily, off the beaten-track cruises all summer to the islands of Rum, Eigg and Muck.

  7. Gradings


    Boating Holidays on Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal.

  8. European Waterways Ltd


    Sailing Charter Companies


    The Highlands

    This is an eight passenger luxury hotel and sightseeing barge which sails along the Caledonian Canal.

  9. John O’Groats Ferries


    Boat Tour


    John o' Groats

    John O' Groats Ferries offer Orkney Island Day Tours from John O' Groats and Inverness every summer morning. Wildlife Cruises daily from John O'Groats departing 2.30pm. 90 mins duration.

  10. SkyeNorthWest


    Tour Operators



    SkyeNorthWest Half Day and Full Day Small Group Tours on The Isle of Skye


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