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16 In Travels

Dolphins at Moray Firth | A Must Experience while in Scotland

When I was preparing to move to Scotland in 2012, I quickly bought a National Geographic guide to my adoptive country. It had loads to say about the culture and even more suggestions about what to see and visit, from haggis to ceilidh-ing and from castles to dolphins.

My Ultimate Scottish Bucket List is mostly based off of that book and I’ve slowly been making my way through the 100 items on that list.

One of them was the illusive idea that seeing dolphins in Scotland was possible. I always associated dolphins with warmer weather, but I added it to my list unsure about how likely this was going to be.

Then I met the Brit and shared this with him and he quickly reassured me that he had witnessed the dolphins at Moray Firth himself and it was quite a sight.

In early June this year, when we were preparing our road trip around Scotland, I decided to add this to my list. It was ‘summer’ (or whatever you call this semi-warm British atmosphere) and we were passing near Inverness. It was now or never.

This means that on day two of our road trip, after spending most of the morning roaming the streets of Inverness, we drove up and to the Black Isle, to reach the tip of the bay, called Chanonry Point.

dolphins scotland sky dolphins bay photo

dolphins chanonry point 9

dolphins chanonry point 8 dolphins fort george

The Brit being experienced in this kind of stuff, knew that the dolphins usually show up about an hour after low tide so we timed ourselves. We ate a lovely little lunch in the car as the rain was coming to an end and exactly at low tide we headed out just to make sure and to grab a good spot on the beach.

We arrived at 12.30 and gave ourselves until 2.30pm to stay there (we had to leave thereafter to make sure we reached our second accommodation by 7-8pm). The pod of dolphins didn’t show up until 2.20 and we were so relieved.

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I have to say that it’s difficult to explain how beautiful it was. I saw dolphins in movies and on Youtube videos and such, but seeing them, right there by the beach, maybe 5-10 meters away from us, was quite an experience.

I took a bunch of photos and then just stopped and enjoyed the sight. They were graceful and gliding across the bay.

Unfortunately they didn’t feed so there wasn’t any jumping – or any opportunities for some good jumping photos.

Pro tips for watching dolphins at Chanonry Point

  • Dolphins will usually show up an hour after low tide so make sure to check this out and to check the correct location for the low tide.
  • Arrive with plenty of time to spare as the parking lot is pretty small and fills up quickly.
  • Bring some warm, windproof (and waterproof, but that goes without saying in Scotland) clothes as well as a hat and some gloves.
  • Bring a good camera and make sure to use your longest lens. Many people also had a tripod. 
  • Pay attention to people around you. Someone in our group shouted and alerted everyone.
  • Be prepared to fight for a good spot. We had a good spot, but people rushed in front of us the second the dolphins showed up and I had to try to bypass all of them to get my shots.
  • Enjoy!

This has to be one of my favourite ever experiences in Scotland and I highly recommend trying to fit it into your schedule if you’re ever near Inverness.

You’re not guaranteed that there will be dolphins every day of course, but if there is, you won’t be disappointed by the sight.

Have you ever seen dolphins?xx

A guide to dolphin watching Pinterest

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  • I didn’t know you could see dolphins in Scotland, what a sight!! So fun!!

  • Wowweeeeee that’s incredible! I can’t believe you actually got to see them, bet it was so beautiful! Alice xx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

    • It was so wonderful to be there! I took so many photos and then had to stop myself and just enjoy the moment, they were so beautiful and graceful!

  • This looks beautiful! We occasionally see dolphins around the coast of Cornwall but not a whole group like this! So cute šŸ™‚

    http://thecornishlife.co.uk

    • I heard that there are a lot more too and this was a small sighting, but I’m so happy that I got to witness it šŸ™‚

  • I can’t believe you can actually time their arrival – so convenient! I’d love to see dolphins one day!

    • haha well we did wait for a while, but it was good that the Brit knew what he was doing! If it was only me I would have showed up in the morning and waited a long time!

  • I was just at the tourism office today in Aberdeen and saw a pamphlet for dolphin watching… I should have picked it up! So cool… always takes my breath away to see dolphins and whales swimming in their natural habitat. The first time i saw dolphins up close was kayaking with them off the coast of Australia… so amazing. šŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing – i’ll have to add that to my bucket list.

  • So fun! I never would have expected dolphins in Scotland! I’ve seen them before in Peru and Brazil and California. They’re beautiful and so peaceful to watch.

    • I know! I always expected them in warm water, but they come to feed in the bay, which is perfect for the sightseeing!

  • Em

    Aw, what a cool outing! They look so playful on an otherwise greyish day. How could you not be happy watching that? šŸ™‚

  • Wow, Camila! This is beautiful. I also, would never have expected to see dolphins in Scotland, and I can’t believe you got the timing spot on, it was like it was fate šŸ™‚ Such a lovely post!

    • I know! I’ve been meaning to go since I read it in my guidebook when I moved here in 2012, and I’m so happy to finally have made it happen. It was magnificent!