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Islay wildlife cruise

The southernmost of the Inner Hebrides, Islay is renowned for its whisky but is also home to a wide variety of wildlife. This two-hour boat tour from Port Ellen runs along the rugged coastline and offers the chance to see the island from a different perspective. You can observe wildlife, and get an insight into local social history and traditions from one of the islanders. Listening to an engaging commentary and guided by local knowledge, you’re likely to hear some seafaring lore and spot a wide variety of birdlife, visit seal colonies and possibly see dolphins or sharks.

The tour begins at Port Ellen’s marina, where you’ll join a group of a maximum of 16 for your two-hour wildlife tour. When you arrive at the pier, you’re given a waterproof jacket, if required, as well as waterproof trousers, a lifejacket and binoculars. You then set off for the boat and a short safety briefing before setting sail.

Weather conditions will dictate the exact route for your trip, which will run either east or west of Port Ellen along the coastline. Your captain is a knowledgeable and characterful local resident who’ll point out various sites of interest as well as any notable wildlife visible along the way.

The seashore around this part of the island has a rich history, as well as interesting geology and a variety of wildlife. You’ll see hidden beaches, waterfalls, caves, shipwrecks and distilleries, and possibly the South East Islay Skerries, a Special Area of Conservation only visible from the sea. If there’s an appropriate stopping point, you’ll also be treated to a dram of whisky on board.

The region has plentiful birdlife, and en route you’re likely to spot guillemots, shags, fulmars, gulls, cormorants, choughs and possibly golden eagles, along with wild goats, seals, and, if you’re lucky, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks. Although the wildlife can’t be guaranteed, it's highly probable you’ll pass seal colonies at the very least. With expert commentary, you’ll also get a good insight into the wildlife of the area and some of the social history of this Scottish island.

Please bring warm layers as the boat travels quite fast and the sea wind can be cold, even in warm weather.

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Other experiences in Isle of Islay

These activities are designed to give you the most authentic experiences around where you're staying. We work with local guides, who use their knowledge and often a resident's eye to show you the main sights and more out-of-the-way attractions. Our specialists can suggest tours and activities that will introduce you to the local ways of life.

  • Islay's whisky & history
    Laphroaig Distillery

    Islay's whisky & history

    Islay's whisky & history

    Explore the Isle of Islay in southwest Scotland on a full-day tour that looks into its early-Christian settlements, traditional way of life and long history of whisky making with visits to local sights, museums and distilleries.

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