Minke whales are the most common type of whale in Scotland and can be spotted around sandbanks, headlands and small islands. Tens of thousands of minke whales are spotted in and around the North Sea each year.
Their body length averages between 7 - 10 m and can weight over 900 kg. Largely dark in colour with white undersides and pointed heads, they feed on fish and krill and travel individually or in groups of two to four. The best way to spot them is by joining a tour, and they are sighted more often between July and September.
Perhaps the most famous of these great mammals, orcas are known as killer whales and are top predators of the ocean. They are highly social animals and live in groups called pods.
Orcas can grow up to 8 m long, have a high dorsal fin of up to 1.8 m and weigh over 5,000 kg. They are distinctively coloured, black and grey with a white underside and a white spot behind each eye. Although still rare, sightings are becoming increasingly frequent in Scottish waters where they can be seen in pods of around eight, moving quickly, quite far offshore.
At least eight other species of whale are also spotted off Scotland’s shores, including sei, sperm, fin whales, northern bottlenose and long finned pilot whales.
When to see: Chances are highest from April to September, when they come closer to shore.
Where to see: Coastal areas and open water around Scotland, including: