Unique Trail to Promote Scotland as Top Whale-Watching Destination
Individuals, communities and businesses are being asked to contribute ideas for top sites for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises from land on Scotland’s west coast, to help create a Hebridean Whale Trail that will be the first of its kind in the UK.
The high-profile trail will be a network of around 25 world-class whale-watching and whale heritage sites. Its development is being led by charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
The project will promote Scotland as one of Europe’s best destinations for spotting whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – and champion conservation of the Hebrides’ unique, globally important marine wildlife and environment.
Due for a summer 2019 launch, the ambitious initiative will connect and support existing wildlife tourism businesses and heritage sites of national cultural significance that showcase the history of people’s relationships with whales in the Hebrides. Many of these will be small, community-run visitor centres at spectacular sites.
Scotland’s west coast offers excellent opportunities for accessible, land-based whale watching, with a remarkable range of species to be spotted.
The region’s seas are home to around a quarter of the world’s whale and dolphin species – including bottlenose, Risso’s and common dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales and Orca.
David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said:
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust will be planning and developing the project over the next year, identifying potential sites for inclusion on the trail in close collaboration with individuals, communities, site owners, conservation organisations, schools, local businesses, visitor centres and tour operators.
The Trust hopes to identify sites from the Clyde in the south to Cape Wrath in the far north, and as far west as St Kilda. There will be a variety of locations from remote and dramatic headlands and sea lochs, white sandy beaches, and bustling harbours.
The trail will have a dedicated website with suggested routes, transport options and site details, with visitors able to share experiences by uploading photos.
There will be on-site interpretation at suitable locations, explaining which species are likely to be seen and describing the heritage of particular sites.
Activities will support local economic growth and job creation, promoting land-based whale-watching as a sustainable and accessible activity. The project aims to help communities – particularly in remote areas where visitor numbers or facilities can’t support boat-based whale-watching businesses – to generate an income from their local natural heritage.
Events, workshops and school field trips will raise awareness about cetaceans, while volunteers will be able to be trained how to responsibly watch, identify and record marine wildlife. Wildlife tour businesses and community groups setting up trips that incorporate nearby whale trail locations will be offered expert advice, training and information materials.
The Hebridean Whale Trail project has been possible by a grant of £175,000 from the UK Government-funded Coastal Communities Fund, which is delivered by The Big Lottery Fund. The Coastal Communities Fund encourages the economic development of UK coastal communities by giving funding to create sustainable economic growth and jobs.
Individuals, community groups and businesses wanting to get involved with the Hebridean Whale Trail or suggest sites for inclusion can visit the Hebridean Whale Trail page where you can also submit ideas, photos and anecdotes about Scotland’s cetacean heritage.