There are many wild and wonderful places in the world to see whales and dolphins – some in nooks and crannies of far away and undisturbed places such as the west coast of Greenland, where you can watch fin whales take big dives for their food in the rich waters around the coastline, and others that are better known and more frequently visited by tourists from all over the world like in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the popular breeding ground of humpbacks. There are also those, I believe, that we sometimes disregard, as they are often right on our doorstep and we can go there ‘anytime’… right?

Scotland’s North East Coast is one of these places. So close to home (for us here at Off the Map Travel at least!) and so easily accessed by road, rail or flight and in such a short space of time it is so simple to fall into the trap of thinking ‘we’ll go another time’ simply because it is not a huge distance to travel. However having recently visited the area of Speyside and all along the Moray Firth, we can assure you it deserves it’s place high up in the must-do destinations for whale and dolphin lovers as one of the best land-based hot spots in the world and if you like your whisky, you will certainly feel right at home!

Off the Map Travel is partnered with WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) and we are the only UK-based tour operator to fully adhere to their guidelines on responsible whale watching. We help to support them in many ways such as donations from every whale watching holiday we sell to help continue their amazing work to keep all whales and dolphins safe and free and we also have our own adoptive Orca! With our partnership being of huge importance to us, a trip to the Moray Firth would not have been complete without a visit to the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre to meet some of our lovely partners and have the chance to experience the incredible coastline of Spey Bay for ourselves!

When we arrived we met Ali, the Centre Manager, who was able to tell us a little more about the centre and what work they do with the local community and further afield. We also enjoyed a short tour of the UK’s biggest Icehouse and within it the collection of whale bones which they use for education purposes. We also experienced a ‘dry dive’ where you can see some footage from both above and below the waters of the bay itself.

In and around the area not only can you spot otters, ospreys and seals but you can also spot the world’s largest bottlenose dolphins and minke whales. The beauty of this area is you don’t even have to get your sea legs ready to be able to get a really good show from our marine friends – there are over 32 land-based sites that the WDC recommend around the Northern tip of Scotland and you can access at least 9 of these from around the Moray Firth. Just before we left the centre we were treated to some of the beautiful bottlenose dolphins jumping around in the water just off-shore! It is so great to see them from the shore.

Once we left Ali at the centre we drove to Findhorn Marina to enjoy a boat trip with North 58 Sea Adventures. We didn’t see any dolphins or whales on our trip but we were treated to an abundance of seals, ospreys and other sea birds too. The guides on the boat were excellent and could tell you all about the coastline which was absolutely beautiful.

On return to land we set off to some of the major distilleries in the area – Glenlivet and Glendfiddich. Both of these distilleries are fascinating to tour and learn all about the process involved in creating the perfect whisky! Of course, we had to try a couple to make sure all they were telling us was true!

Another pull of the area is the various other activities you can take part in for example you could go on a wildlife tour of the beautiful Glenlivet Estate and in the evenings there are plenty of ‘dark spots’ to do some star gazing. Who knows, you may even catch the Aurora!

This beautiful area of Scotland is soon to be joining our other whale watching packages on our website so please keep an eye out for this if you are interested in a visit here! Why not add this as part of a bigger trip to Europe if you are coming from further afield or simply make the best of a long weekend from the UK – we guarantee you will not be disappointed!