How to get hands on with wildlife

Killer whale

For the chance to see spectacular whales, dolphins, sharks and seabirds, head out to some of the UK's top locations for a close encounter.

Whales and dolphins

Scotland is the most likely place to see whales.

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Glimpse grey seal pups in Cardigan Bay”

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For whale watching opportunities in England and Wales the Seawatch Foundation report sightings in Cornwall, west Wales and Northumberland.

The most iconic of the UK's dolphin population are the bottlenose pods in the Moray Firth, visible from Chanonry Point.

A dolphin in the River Clyde Dolphins love to swim in the River Clyde

You may also see bottlenoses at Cardigan Bay in Wales throughout the summer and around the Land's End Peninsula in Cornwall between January and April.

For white beaked dolphins try the east coast of Shetland from July to September.

Risso's dolphin may be seen off the west mainland of Orkney from April to November and keep an eye out for striped dolphins on ferry crossings to the Hebrides.

Orca, or killer whales, are not whales at all but the largest species of dolphin.

You can see these powerful predators around Pentland Firth and the Scapa Flow, Orkney between June and October.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has lots more information on watching dolphins in Scotland.

Harbour porpoises can be seen in a number of places around the UK including the coast of Northumberland around the Farnes and Holy Island, St Brides Bay, Pembrokeshire and at Copeland Island in Northern Ireland.

Seals and sharks

Glimpse grey seal pups in Cardigan Bay.

Grey seal pup Autumn is grey seal pup season

The east coast of England is a great place to try to spot grey seals.

Again, try the Farne Islands, Northumberland, Seal Sands, Teesside, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire, or Blakeney Point, Norfolk which hosts common seals too.

In Scotland you can see more common seals at the Isle of May and the uninhabited Monach Isles.

In Wales, travel to Cardigan Bay, Ceredigion or Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli), Gwynedd in Autumn to glimpse grey seal pups.

Northern Ireland's Murlough National Nature Reserve in County Down is home to both species.

You can also see seals at several National Trust locations. If you are watching for pups in the autumn please be considerate, keep a safe distance and refer to the RSPCA's advice if you find a stranded seal pup.

Basking sharks, the world's second largest fish, are seen all around the UK and Irish coasts.

But the best places to see them are along the west coast of Britain, especially the Isle of Man, Cardigan Bay and between Strangford Lough and the Copeland Islands in Northern Ireland.

If you are going to watch basking sharks remember to follow the Basking Shark Project's code of conduct to minimise disturbance to the animals.

Sea birds

St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides is home to almost a million seabirds but is also the most remote part of the British Isles.

A more accessible alternative is the Farne Islands just two miles off the coast of Northumberland where you can see puffins, terns, razorbills, guillemots, oystercatchers and shags amongst others.

Here are some of our top picks for other seabird colonies:

The Wildlife Safe (WiSe) scheme works with tour operators around the UK coast to minimise the disturbance to our marvellous marine animals.

Check their website for a list of approved operators and remember to always give wildlife enough space.

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