The Tourist Guide to Glendale, Isle of Skye

Cetaceans at Neist

Neist Point in Glendale is undisputedly the finest place on the Isle of Skye for watching whales, dolphins, porpoise and basking shark, with pods being resident from May through to September. The peak months are June and July, when sightings of Minke Whales become almost a daily event.

The Minke Whales often approach within 5 to 10 metres of the shore, giving spectacular views and the amazing opportunity to hear them 'blow' as they surface.

To get the best views, choose a day when the sea is flat calm and pick your way carefully to the water's edge between the end of the point and the lighthouse. Find a comfortable rock, with a good view either side, sit and wait... patiently!

Minke Whales

Minke Whale & Razorbill by the shore at Neist.

The length of an adult Minke Whale is 7-10m (23-33ft) and the dorsal fin is located two thirds of the way along its body, i.e. at the tail end. In the above photograph, the length of the whale's body above the surface is around 3 metres.
A razorbill measures 0.4 metres from beak to tail.

Minke Whales often carry distinguishing marks, such as the one in the photograph (top right) that has a red, diagonal scar (\) on its left flank below the dorsal fin. Their commonest colouration is jet black but some individuals, believed to be juveniles, appear blueish with pale flanks.

For the closest views, Neist Point is the best place on Skye. They are also regularly seen off Lower Milovaig and have come inside Loch Pooltiel.

Common Dolphins

Common Dolphins are regularly seen in the Minch off Lower Milovaig and also off Neist Point during the summer months. They are also seen occasionally in Loch Dunvegan as far up as the Three Chimneys at Colbost.

Basic Identification Tips

These are the basic features that distinguish Glendale's commonest cetaceans:

  • Minke Whale - Long, shallow, black profile on the surface, making a slow, wide roll, with small, hooked, dorsal fin appearing last.
  • Harbour Porpoise - Very small, with a small, centrally-located equilateral-triangle fin. Fairly fast, tight turn at the surface, with little more than the fin shown.
  • Dolphins - Very fast moving. When submerged, they cause the surface of the water to boil violently. Breech often and never stop moving. Large, hooked fin, centrally-located on the body.
  • Basking Shark - Very slow moving, just floating on the surface with their nose, large (triangular-to-round) dorsal fin and tail fin protruding out of the water. Very large, open mouth that is white inside. They do occasionally sink below the surface for long periods.
  • Grey Seal - Often float with just their heads out of the water and nose pointing skywards, called 'bottling'. Inexperienced observers, who have seen 'Flipper' movies, or watched captive dolphin displays, often mistake these for dolphins. Wild dolphins never stop moving.

The characteristic profile of a surfacing Minke Whale.

Minke Whale at Neist Point.

Recent Cetacean Sightings

5th Dec 2021

There were distant 6-8 Risso's dolphins, 20 common dolphins and 7 harbour porpoises off Neist Point between 11am and 3pm.

22nd Nov 2021

There was a pod of c. 12 common dolphins in Loch Dunvegan off Colbost at 11am.

5th Nov 2021

Orcas, 'John Coe' and 'Aquarius, were photographed off Neist Point at 4pm (Marcus McAdam, Sarah Sia, et al).

More recent wildlife sightings

Killer Whales (Orcas)

Killer whales are occasionally seen off the Neist Point and Milovaig. They have a distinctive large, upright dorsal fin.

This camcorder footage of a pod of killer whales was taken at Neist Point on July 23rd, 2008 by Matt Swain.


Porpoises at Neist Point.

Harbour Porpoises are most often seen in the mouth of Loch Pooltiel, off Meanish Pier, with pods of up to 12 being present throughout the Summer. Another fairly good place for them is Moonen Bay, very close inshore, at the point where Loch Mor flows into the sea.

Basking Sharks

Basking sharks are Britain's largest fish and are totally unrelated to true sharks. They float around with their white, dustbin-like mouths wide open hoovering up plankton.

They are very common in the sheltered coves around Neist, Oisgill and Milovaig during the Summer months.