The waters around the UK are not the first places people think of when whale watching is mentioned, but many visitors to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales miss out on the wonderful wildlife experiences that are available in and around the British Isles. There are actually some wonderful places to see dolphins, whales, seals, and spectacular basking sharks. Blue Whales have even been spotted in the Irish Sea.
Wales is home to green hills, craggy mountains, and a spectacular coastline. The Pembrokeshire coast was one of the first places in Britain to be recognised and protected as a National Park, and it’s worth it. The seabirds flock in incredible numbers and dolphins can often be seen just off St David’s Head. Walk the Pembrokeshire Coast path in summer and you might even see fin whales. A little further in Cardigan Bay, you’ll find some of the best surfing in Britain and a resident population of more than 120 inquisitive, playful bottlenose dolphins.
Dorset and Cornwall are in the south-west, a few hours from London, Bristol, and the big cities of southern England. They have the what may be the bluest seas anywhere around the UK, some of the most spectacular sea-cliffs, and offer what must be one of the best chances of seeing large marine animals in Western Europe. Common dolphins can often be seen from the shore, and so can basking sharks (not at all dangerous, but up to 40ft long), minke whales, pilot whales, and even killer whales.
You can either wander the cliff-top paths and the beaches or take a special whale and dolphin spotting boat cruise. They is no shortage of tours so you won’t have trouble finding a boat to take you out, and the locals will know just where the animals are likely to be. Alternatively, you can take the ferry out to the Isles of Scilly or Bilbao in Spain. Travellers often get to see whales and dolphins on these routes.
Scotland holds the wildest and most untouched places in Britain. The Shetland Islands and the Isle of Mull are particularly good for whale watching. Minke whales and killer whales are the most common, and the Isles are certainly the place to go if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. For solitude, sea, and wildlife they are unrivalled.
Whether you live in the UK or just visit from time to time, it’s worth taking a few days and getting to know marine life that lives around the country. Most first time whale and dolphin spotters are shocked to find such well-kept secrets dotted around our coast.
Jess Spate lives in Cardiff on the southern coast of Wales. She works as a travel writer and for Timeshare Attorney, a group of lawyers and paralegal professionals who specialise in timeshare sales.