Friday, 2 July 2010


If you've never seen dolphins close up, then there's a place in Scotland that allows you to do just that: Chanonry Point, fifteen miles east of Inverness on the northern coast, is a peninsula that juts out into the Moray Firth.

This past week Pauline and I spent three days there, camping in the small campsite at Rosemarkie, a small village that is an extension of Fortrose. We were blessed with good weather for our main "dolphin-watching" day on the Wednesday, and they did not disappoint.

We journeyed by train, as is our favourite mode of transport, from Edinburgh to Inverness in a little over three hours, then cycled the remaining fifteen miles, in glorious sunshine to Fortrose, past fields of barley in different stages of growth, waving in the wind like seaweed beneath a vast ocean.

The Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, WDCS, estimate that there are around 130 dolphins in the firth, resident all year round. The best times to see them at Chanonry Point are between June and September. The Point had been a well kept sercet for many years, until two years ago, when Simon King broadcast from there during the BBC's Springwatch. Now everyone and their brother knows about it! That said, during Simon's visit he hardly saw any at all, so the crowds that gather are not too large, thankfully.

Now, when I say you can see dolphins close up, I really mean, "close" up. At times they were just five metres from the shore! We counted around twenty on our visit, and, try as I might, it was difficult to catch a photograph of them. There were those more succesful than I mind you, their cameras clicking and whirring away at the slightest hint of surface disturbance.

As the waters start to reach high tide, the sea begins to rough up. Right at the Point itself there are shallow waters over sandbanks, and it is here that the incoming sea meets the calmer waters of the firth. The fish are then caught in this stirring up of waters, and are trapped in great concentrations. The dolphins know this better than we and meet at exactly the right time each day to feast on the fresh seafood offering and entertain us into the bargain. Occasionally we would be treated to a dolphin or two actually breaching and leaping high into the air. I have been a number of times to see them, but this was by far the best sightings I have ever witnessed.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun, reading and dog-watching. At one point I took a run into Rosemarkie and discovered to my great delight that a delicatessen had opened last year. Thus, what to have for lunch the next day was solved, with wild boar pate and Gruyere cheese. Fab!

Our final day was somewhat windier, and had been forecast to rain. However, though it was hard cycling into the wind on our return to Inverness, it stayed dry. Thus ended Pauline and I's final trip together for quite some time. Next week she sets of on a circumnavigation of the world, all by bicycle. If, like me, you are super-impressed with this undertaking, you can keep up to date with her travels as she goes on her very own blog. Just follow this link:

Pauline's Bicycle Diaries

There will also be a link on her blog that will take you to her Flickr site so you can see the photographs of the expedition. If the link above doesn't work, type this link into your browser:

In November Pauline will travel by giant container ship from Spain to Argentina. I'm sure at some point there will dolphin-watching when they surf the bow wave of the ship as it crosses the Atlantic.

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