Scotland is one of the best places in Europe to spot dolphins and whales from the safety of dry land.
Bottlenose and common dolphins are the most frequently spotted, but keep your eyes peeled and you might just see Atlantic white-sided dolphins and, the largest variety of the dolphin species, orca.
Watching dolphins requires patience and a bit of luck, but a bit of local knowledge goes a long way and can get you off to a good start.
Check out these top dolphin-spotting locations around the north and north east.
Spey Bay, Moray
You have a good chance of spotting dolphins all around Spey Bay on the Moray Firth coast, particularly right at the mouth of the River Spey where they like to hunt salmon.
But if you’re not sure where to begin, a good place to start is the Scottish Dolphin Centre.
Check out their latest sightings board and learn all about the species as you wait.
This resident dolphin population has approximately 190 individuals with a range that extends from the Moray Firth and south along the Aberdeenshire coast to the Firth of Tay.
These are also some of the biggest dolphins in the world – partly because the feeding grounds are rich and partly because the water is so cold that an extra layer of blubber is needed.
Chanonry Point, Black Isle
Chanonry Point on the Black Isle is one of the best viewpoints in Scotland to watch Bottlenose dolphins from the beach.
Another perk is that the dolphins here are particularly close to shore.
Often you can just be a few metres away from them splashing around.
For the most part, dolphin activity here is influenced by tidal conditions, and the best time to see them is usually on a rising tide.
From around 1 hour after low tide, the tide turns and dolphins start to chase fish in – giving you the best chance of spotting them.
Kinnaird Lighthouse, Fraserburgh
The waters just off the coast of Fraserburgh have been identified as a possible meeting place for orca as they travel through northern waters.
Orca pods travel between Iceland and Scotland throughout the year mostly arriving in Scottish waters for food over the spring and summer months.
The first major sighting this year was seen in early May when a pod of six mammals spent a week near Kinnaird Head before heading west into the Moray Firth.
It’s unusual for the animals to hang around for as long as a week, and it gave the chance for hundreds of keen orca spotters to catch a glimpse of the majestic animals.
Greyhope Bay, Aberdeen
No need for binoculars here as Bottlenose dolphins are spotted at the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour on most days throughout the year.
The best place to look for the dolphins is between the orange breakwater wall and the lighthouse, particularly during the summer months when the dolphins can be seen feeding.
It’s always been a popular spot to see the dolphins with lots of visitors lined up either on foot or in their cars in the carpark.
But now there is even a dedicated dolphin watching centre at the top of the cliff called Greyhope Bay which logs where and when the last sightings were (and you can grab a coffee while you wait for the dolphins to show themselves).
Orca can be spotted all year round from Shetland but the best time to go looking is between May and August.
It has been said that there is no specific “best” place to see orca in Shetland as they often turn up anywhere around the islands.
Luckily however, there is a growing and proactive community sharing sightings and information online to give others the best chance of spotting these wonderful creatures.
If you want to give orca watching a try, head to Shetland’s southern extremity, and RSPB reserve, Sumburgh Head.
It offers a great viewpoint not just for pods of orca, but also for sightings of minke whale, all kinds of dolphins and harbour porpoise.