Cetacean Spotting

Breaching humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Breaching humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

When you think of whale and dolphin watching, your thoughts may well take you to the ice-clad coastlines of Iceland, or maybe to the southernmost tip of Africa. However there are 28 species of cetacean known to occur in north-west European waters, with at least 11 of those known to frequent UK waters.

So if you never thought it possible to see a dolphin near Dover or a Minke whale off the coast of Middlesbrough, keep reading; you might be surprised.

What? When? Where?
Minke Whale

(Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

May to September Widely distributed along the Atlantic seaboard in the UK and Ireland. They also occur regularly in the northern and central North Sea down to the Yorkshire coast. Occasionally seen in deep, central regions of the Irish Sea.
Humpback Whale

(Megaptera novaeangliae)

May to September Occasionally spotted off the west coast of Ireland and northern Scotland.
Sperm Whale

(Physeter macrocephalus)

February to April, although rarely seen Occasionally spotted in northern Scotland and west and southern coasts of Ireland in deep waters west of continental shelf.
Fin Whale

(Balaenoptera physalus)

In northern Britain fin whales can be spotted between June and August, and in southern Britain between September and February Most sightings in coastal UK waters are around the Shetland Islands, Outer Hebrides, south-west Ireland and in the Celtic Sea between southern Ireland, West Wales and south-west England.
Killer whale

(Orcinus orca)

Killer whales are recorded in all months of the year, but in western Britain mainly between April and October Around the British Isles most sightings occur along the Atlantic seaboard and in the northern North Sea. The species occasionally enters the Irish Sea, around north east Scotland, and sometimes off the coasts of south west Wales.
Harbour porpoise

(Phocoena phocoena)

Often year-round, but peak numbers March to April and July to November Seasonal concentrations off the coasts of south-west and western Ireland, west Wales, the west coast of Scotland, Northern Isles, and eastern Scotland.
Long-finned pilot whale

(Globicephala melas)

April – September Widely distributed in British and Irish waters, occurring in all areas except the eastern English Channel and the southernmost part of the North Sea. Most common in north-west Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.
Bottlenose dolphin

(Tursiops truncatus)

Jan – April in the West Country, Wales throughout summer Small numbers occur off the south-west coast of Cornwall and during spring and summer along the coast of southern England. May also be spotted off the west coast Ireland and Wales.
Common dolphin

(Delphinus delphis)

July to October Commonly sighted on western coastal regions of the British isles. Occasionally seen elsewhere with the exception of south east England.
Atlantic white-sided dolphin

(Lagenorhynchus acutus)

Summer North and north-western Scotland.
White-beaked dolphin

(Lagenorhynchus albirostris)

July – September Common in British and Irish waters, being the most common species in the central and northern North Sea and across to north-west Scotland. They also occur commonly along the west coast of Ireland.
Risso’s Dolphin

(Grampus griseus)

April – November West coast of Ireland and from the Irish Sea into west and north Scottish waters (especially the Hebrides and Shetland).


For more information about our whale and dolphin species, see the following websites:







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Nicola Bleach


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1 Response

  1. Manera fresca! Algunos muy puntos válidos! Aprecio que escribiendo esto artículo
    plus El resto de la sitio también muy.
    Su Método de explicando todo este artículo es realidad
    bueno, todo poder sencillo ser conscientes de que, gracias.

    El clavo con este disco, De hecho, me creo, esta web más atención.
    Probablemente estaré atrás leer más, gracias por
    la Información

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