Where to see common dolphins in the UK

Discover four common dolphin hotspots. 

Common Dolphins © Matthew Legg
Common Dolphins © Matthew Legg

Common dolphin champion, Maya Plass: “We’re an island nation, yet the ocean ecosystem that surrounds us is a mystery to most Britons. Common dolphins are a very visible sign of how vibrant and diverse our sea life really is.” Maya is a marine biologist and BBC presenter

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There is no mistaking the creamy yellow hourglass pattern on this sleek-looking dolphin as it leaps from the water. Though you may catch sight of one from land, you’re more likely to see pods of these highly inquisitive cetaceans out at sea, where groups of 10–30 approach boats and ride their bow waves (bottlenose dolphins usually stay inshore).

Breaching dolphins can be spotted from a considerable distance and their location is also given away by flocks of diving gannets, which like them hunt schooling fish such as mackerel and herring. “Recent studies have questioned just how intelligent dolphins are,” says marine biologist Maya Plass. “But it’s their ability to organise themselves socially that we relate to most, and that in itself is a sign of intelligence.”

Best places to see a dolphin

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  • Devon coast
  • Hebrides, Scotland
  • Isla of Man ferry
  • Isles of Scilly ferry