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. Phoenix Boat Trips

    Type

    Boat Tour

    Gradings

    Inverness City Centre

    Observe the true beauty of the Moray Firth and its wildlife cruising on board "Seacruise". View the many different species of sea birds, seals and possibly a visit from the local bottlenose dolphins.

  2. Misty Isle Boat Trips

    Type

    Boat Tour

    Gradings

    Elgol

    Visit Loch Coruisk in the heart of the Cuillin Mountains with Misty Isle Boat Trips. New for 2013. Trips to Canna to see the puffins and to the Isle of Rum. Also whale/wildlife spotting cruises on board the MV Heather Grace.

  3. Kintail Ranger Service

    Type

    Walking Tour

    Gradings

    Lochalsh area

    The National Trust for Scotland rangers based at Kintail offer guided mountain walks and sea kayaking from their beautiful west coast location in the Highlands.

  4. Gradings

    • 3 Tour
    3 Tour

    Glenfinnan

    Unique Guided Cruises from Glenfinnan & Acharacle on the Stunning Sheltered Inland Waters of Loch Shiel in the West Highlands.

  5. 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.

  6. Free Spirit Boat Hire

    Type

    Boat Tour

    Gradings

    Fort William

    Spend a spectacular day out with the Scottish Canals Neptune Staircase Activities and Free Spirit Boat Hire. We offer attractions for all the family in the Fort William area. Come and experience these Eco-friendly, silent, electric boats.

  7. North West Cruises

    Type

    Wildlife Tour

    Gradings

    Gairloch

    North West Cruises offers boat trips around Gairloch and the beautiful Hebridean waters, with the opportunity to see whales, dolphins, basking sharks, seals and birds.

  8. Glenlivet Wildlife

    Type

    Wildlife Tour

    Gradings

    • 4 Wildlife Experience
    4 Wildlife Experience

    Ballindalloch

    Off road Land Rover safaris in the Cairngorms National Park all year round. Discover iconic wildlife, stunning landscapes and fascinating heritage on a tour of Glenlivet Crown Estate with an expert local guide.

  9. Eda Frandsen Sailing

    Type

    Sailing Charter Companies

    Gradings

    Mallaig

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

  10. 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.

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