A spectacular new trail for 2019 launched by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust showcases Scotland’s west coast as a world-class destination for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises from land, and champion conservation of the Hebrides’ globally important marine wildlife and environment.
The Hebridean Whale Trail, the first of its kind in the UK, is a unique initiative connecting more than 30 top places offering opportunities for land-based sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises, or showcasing important whale heritage sites that reveal the history of people’s relationships with whales in these communities.
Basking sharks, seals and other wildlife may also be seen from the trail, which features 33 sites across the Hebridean archipelago and along Scotland’s stunning west coast, from the Clyde to Cape Wrath, and as far west as St Kilda.
These include lighthouses at the Butt of Lewis on the Isle of Lewis, Eilean Glas on the Isle of Scalpay, and the UK mainland’s most westerly point at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse.
Beaches include Clachtoll in the Highlands, and Huisinis on the Isle of Harris. Bustling harbours include Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, and Ullapool.
The trail ranges from easily accessible attractions such as the Hebridean Whale Trail Centre in Tobermory, to remote and wild destinations such as the Oa on Islay.
Karl Stevens, manager for the Hebridean Whale Trail, said: “Scotland’s west coast is one of Europe’s best places to catch sight of whales, dolphins and porpoises from land – and you may see bottlenose and common dolphins, harbour porpoise, minke whales and killer whales. We want people from all walks of life to visit the Hebridean Whale Trail to enjoy exploring the region’s unique nature, culture and history, and to be inspired to support marine conservation.”
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has spent a year developing the trail, identifying sites with communities, site owners, conservation organisations, schools, and businesses.
The trail’s website www.whaletrail.org includes routes, transport options and site details. On-site interpretation at key locations will explain which species of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – might be seen.
Across the trail there will be many opportunities for visitors and residents to get involved in marine conservation activities – including joining volunteers to watch, identify and record marine wildlife from land or the ferries which connect the sites, as well as discovering more about Scotland’s seas from experts at a range of visitor centres.
While sightings of cetaceans can never be guaranteed, the Hebridean seas are exceptionally rich in wildlife. More than a quarter of the world’s whale and dolphin species have been recorded in the region – including many national and international conservation priority species.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust is based on the Isle of Mull and has been taking action for the conservation of cetaceans off western Scotland for over two decades.
The Hebridean Whale Trail has been made possible by a grant of almost £200,000 from the UK Government-funded Coastal Communities Fund, which is delivered by The National Lottery Community Fund.