Where else in the world can you stand on a beach and get splashed by dolphins? Chanonry Point can offer an amazing experience of seeing dolphins close up.

Chanonry Point (Scottish Gaelic: Gob na Cananaich) lies at the end of Chanonry Ness, a spit of land extending into the Moray Firth between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle, Scotland which lies to the north west of Inverness. It lies directly across the firth from Fort George and you get a lovely view of the fort in the evening sun.

The reason people travel far and wide to visit Chanonry Point is because it is one of the best spots in the UK (perhaps anywhere in the world) to view the local population of Bottlenose dolphins (also known as Tursiops truncatus) from the land. The dolphins are commonly visible off Chanonry point, especially on the incoming tide when they play and fish in the strong currents. Other wildlife, including porpoises and grey seals, can also regularly be spotted. European otters Lutra lutra are occasional visitors.

Watching dolphins from Chanonry Point

The dolphins can be seen off the point throughout the year, however the likelihood of seeing them increases in correlation with the availability of fish, the peak times being when salmon are returning towards the two main rivers (the Ness and Beauly) which feed into the Moray Firth. The salmon come in with the tide which, once the tide starts to come in, can be extreme. If you are planning a trip, find tide details and pick days with midday low tides with the largest difference between low and high tide which are the spring tides, and not the neap tides. An unofficial "jungle telegraph" system operates round the Rosemarkie campsite and point in June and on into August with details of the latest sightings only a brief conversation away. The University of Aberdeen operates a more formal range of surveys throughout the year from their field station based just along the coast at Cromarty, supported by funds from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. While the point is considered the best place to watch the dolphins, licenced boat trips do run from Cromarty and Avoch. The nearby Dolphin and Seal Centre at North Kessock also offers good dolphin watching opportunities during the summer months.

Photographing dolphins Midsummer offers the best light for photography of bottlenose dolphins at the point, from late afternoon onwards. While early morning light is good, the direction of the point risks looking directly into the sun. The point has been featured in recent years on a wide range of television programmes, including the BBC's Coast series and nature programmes. These have greatly increased visitor numbers to the point. The wildlife requires no special equipment, but those looking for serious photography should pack a fast 200 mm to 300 mm lens.

Fortrose Rosemarkie
Fortrose Rosemarkie
Fortrose Rosemarkie

Chanonry Point Hotels & Accommodation

Fortrose Rosemarkie

Travel Directions to Chanonry Point

 Driving to Chanonry point, while possible, should be avoided on peak days, as parking space is extremely limited and you will simply spend your time driving around in circles trying to park. A path runs along the Rosemarkie side where more space is available. Allow 20 minutes walking time. The path arrives at the point. If you do drive though, you can walk round to the point following the path between two cottages, or along the beach from the small pier at the end of the road. The lighthouse grounds are private and the walls dangerous. There are no toilets at the point. The point is exposed and offers little shelter even in summer.

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Sholto Ramsay
Monday, 14 May 2012