Many of the sites on this trail will immerse you in the wilderness of the Hebrides. This means that there may be wild seas or exposed clifftops, and the ground may be uneven or slippery. The weather on Scotland’s west coast is perhaps best described as ‘changeable’ so always be prepared. Please take care and ensure you have suitable footwear and clothing for the conditions. Please note that in bad weather the sites can be very exposed, particularly around the cliff tops. Try and plan your visit for good weather days, and please take care. Make sure children are accompanied and dogs are kept under close control.
Best Practice for Watching Marine Wildlife
Whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks are just some of the wondrous creatures that can be spotted from our shores. Grab a good pair of binoculars and get yourself to a Hebridean Whale Trail site so you can take in the amazing views, and hopefully spot some of our amazing Scottish species.
When wildlife watching or taking part in other leisure activities on the coast there are some basic best practice guidelines to follow. Here are some of our top tips:
Local advice is very important. There may be routes marked at wildlife watching sites, which means there is less disturbance to the wildlife and less physical damage to the environment.
Let the animals decide how close they want to be to you rather than approaching them and alarming them. Allow the wildlife to be in charge of your encounter.
Avoid surrounding animals, they will feel trapped, and become agitated.
Do not feed or touch animals.
Be extra careful at certain times of the year. For example, seals breeding or birds nesting.
Keep dogs under control as they can scare animals and create a lot of disruption to the animal’s daily lives.
Do not litter, take any rubbish home with you, including any you may find while you are out and about.
If you are worried about an animal do not approach it. There are contacts for the relevant agencies which can help in the link below.
Most importantly have fun! We are incredibly lucky to be able to see such beautiful wildlife right on our doorstep.
For more information please visit: A Guide to Best Practice for Watching Marine Wildlife.
Accessing the Outdoors – Getting to the Best Marine Wildlife Watching Spots
Getting to the best marine wildlife watching spots can mean getting out of the car and walking, cycling, or even rollerblading through the Scottish outdoors. This can mean immersing yourself in the wilderness of Scotland, traversing through farmland or visiting a bustling sea front. These places must be treated with respect.
Here are a couple guidelines we would advise you take note of:
In Scotland you have the right to roam. However, it is sensible to follow paths when near houses, farms, crops, and in vulnerable environments. Sticking to paths minimise damage to fragile Hebridean environments.
Access rights extend to areas with farm animals, and many of the sites along the Hebridean Whale Trail are in areas of common grazing for cattle and sheep. Keep as safe distance, keep quiet and avoid disturbing the animals. Never walk between young animals and their parents and keep dogs away from areas where young animals are present.
Avoid disturbing wildlife. Some birds nest on cliffs or on the ground at Hebridean Whale Trail sites, and some species will dive-bomb people that are too close to their nests. Always keep a safe distance, stick to paths and give a wide berth to young birds or adults that appear distressed.
Use gates where provided and leave them closed afterwards.
Do not climb over fences/hedges unless there is no other way.
If you have to climb a fence, do it next to the post and a gate should be climbed next to the hinge, to create the minimum amount of damage.
Respect the interests of other people, be aware that other people are also using these areas.
Leave no trace of you being there.
Local guidelines can be incredibly helpful and make you aware of any vulnerable environments or access restrictions. Doing some research beforehand can make a less disruptive trip.
If you plan on camping and lighting campfires please refer to this leaflet: Camping in Scotland.
Keep dogs under control as they can create a lot of damage.
Littering is not tolerated, always take away your own litter. This includes food scraps; those pesky banana skins stick around for a long time in our cold Scottish weather. If you want to help keep our coasts clean, why not take away any other litter you encounter on your travels along the Hebridean Whale Trail and dispose of them correctly where they can’t end up mistaken for whale food.
For more information please visit: The Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
How to Drive on Scotland’s Country Roads
Roads in the Scottish Highlands and Islands are often single track and can be intimidating the first time you drive on them. A single track road is a road which is only wide enough for one vehicle to fit along and has well signposted passing places. For more information please visit this article: How to Drive on Single Track Roads.
Many of the best marine wildlife watching sites will need to be accessed by a single track road, so knowing how to drive on these will help you to get there safely. These are our top tips:
Keep left. Only pull into a passing place on the left hand side of the road. If the passing place is on the right hand side of the road, stop on the road and allow the oncoming vehicle to move into the passing place.
If you are driving slowly and taking in the view, you may be holding up traffic behind you. Pulling into passing places can allow vehicles to pass you, and allow you to enjoy your drive. This is also the only safe way to overtake.
Do not pass or park on a verge if possible, this can cause damage.
Give way to vehicles coming uphill if possible.
If there are multiple vehicles coming towards you then you should find a place to stop.
If both you and the oncoming vehicle stop in different passing places, flash your lights to let them know to keep coming and pass you.
You must be able to safely reverse your vehicle if you are going to use a single lane road, as you must reverse if you are the closest to a passing place.
Pay attention to road signs, some single lane roads have weight limits. This can mean if you are driving a campervan, the road may not be safe.
When parking your car, you should not block an entrance to a field or house, or make it difficult for others to pass your vehicle.
You must never park in a passing place! Use a car park if one is nearby.
Outer Hebrides Tourism has made this great guide for campervans and driving in the Outer Hebrides.