IN 1933, a hotel manager driving by Loch Ness reported seeing something strange in the water – a large, black creature “resembling a whale”.
When news of Aldie Mackay’s encounter reached the pages of the Inverness Courier, that whale-like creature had become a monster and a legend was born.
So you can’t blame the west coast for wanting a piece of the action. At least they’re being honest about it.
If you and the family would jump at the chance to see some real sea beasts then the exciting new land-based Hebridean Whale Trail might be for you.
Scotland’s west coast is home to around a quarter of the world’s species of whale, dolphin and porpoise.
A quarter of the world’s species of whale, dolphin and porpoise reside on Scotland’s west coast[/caption]
From bottlenose dolphins to harbour porpoises and minke and killer whales, there are dozens of species for budding watchers to look out for in this stunning part of the world.
The Whale Trail is made up of 30 locations in beautiful tourist destinations, rich in heritage — from the Firth of Clyde in the south to Cape Wrath in the far north, and as far west as St Kilda.
So your whale-watching trip can take in as many of the stops as you can cram in, soaking up the sights (no, not just the distilleries!) and enjoying stunning countryside as you go.
The Whale Trail website suggests routes and transport options, as well as giving essential information about each location.
The colourful town of Tobermory is best known as the home of kids’ TV show Balamory[/caption]
Guaranteed to be popular among those potential whale-watching bases is Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, best known as the home of kids’ TV show Balamory.
From the town’s picture-postcard harbour, Staffa Tours offers boat trips for whale-watching and for visits to nature-rich islands nearby and to the unique Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa itself.
Boat tours also operate from sites such as Gairloch, Ullapool and Tiree. But the beauty of the Whale Trail is you don’t have to be on the water to spot these magnificent beasts.
Karl Stevens, of the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust says: “Scotland’s west coast is one of Europe’s best places to catch sight of whales, dolphins and porpoises from land.
“We want people from all walks of life to visit the Whale Trail to enjoy the region’s unique nature, culture and history, and to be inspired to support marine conservation.”
While spending time on Mull, for example, keep your eyes peeled and you could see dolphins or porpoises from Tobermory’s harbour while visiting Duart Castle, or on a trip to the historic abbey in Iona.
And nature lovers will not be disappointed by the region’s other offerings. Seals and otters are everywhere, basking sharks also stalk the crystal-clear waters and magnificent white-tailed sea and golden eagles breed on Mull and further along the coast.
And don’t miss the chance to get within a few feet of hundreds of puffins on a Staffa Tours boat trip to the Isle of Lunga.
The beautiful beach at Port Langamull on the Isle of Mull[/caption]
These beautiful, quirky birds are perfectly happy to have (quiet, well-behaved) humans near their nesting sites because nasty eagles and skuas — which steal their eggs and chicks — stay away with tourists around.
The quality of seafood in the area is as outstanding as you’d expect — after a day on the ocean try Café Fish in Tobermory’s harbour.
Further inland, Am Birlinn restaurant near Dervaig is worth a visit, just a stone’s throw from the splendidly isolated Druimnacroish B&B — the perfect moorland hideaway for taking in the unsullied night sky above Mull.
Beach fans, meanwhile, will want to book into the Ardachy House Hotel near Uisken to make the most of the tourist-free sands just a few minutes’ walk through the farmer-next-door’s fields.
MOST READ IN TRAVEL
But given that this is a break which relies on you and the family using your eyes and looking up from those phones as much as you can, it’s fitting that Mull’s biggest selling point is its beauty.
Around every turn on the tiny, sheep-strewn single-track roads is another photo opportunity, as rocks, moors, mountains, pristine beaches, sea and sky compete to make that perfect frame.
The danger is, of course, you’ll be too busy looking at the scenery to spot the sea beastie lurking in the waves below.
GO: ISLE OF MULL
GETTING THERE: The ferry from Oban to Craignure, Mull, runs hourly in summer. Best to book. A car plus family of four is from £24.85 one way. See calmac.co.uk
STAYING THERE: Druimnacroish B&B prices from £75 per night per room. See druimnacroish.co.uk; Ardachy House Hotel prices from £170 per room for two nights. Visit ardachy.co.uk
MORE INFO: Go to hwdt.org/the-hebridean-whale-trail
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