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 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
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.