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Macleod’s Seals


Loch Dunvegan is home to not only the Clan Macleod’s castle but to important colonies of common seals. 35% of Skye’s total population or 2% of the UK’s population to be more precise. The waters of Loch Dunvegan have hence been designated as a special area of conservation because of the seal population.


The Scottish Canoe Association published in April this year their revised Sea Kayaking Environmental Guidelines and contained in it is paragraph with particular relevance to Loch Dunvegan:

Please be aware that many tour boat owners make a living from taking tourists to look at seal colonies.  The seals usually stay put when these boats approach, but often take to the water when kayaks are in the same area.  Difficulties arise when kayakers cause the seals to leave their rocks and beaches, to be followed by tour boats with tourists who are disappointed at not seeing the seals hauled out on land and this in turn leaves the tour boat owners annoyed.  Try to be aware of the areas where such tour boats operate and take extra care to avoid disturbing the seals.

It’s best to perhaps to consider wisely the impact of getting too close to the seals which haul out on the skerries near to the castle as the seals won’t be best pleased and the boatmen from the castle with their fee paying tourists won’t be either. Remember though everyone has a equal right to enjoying the wildlife of Scotland in a responsible manner.

under the ramparts

It would be fair to say that Richard and I weren’t made to feel particularly welcome by arriving by sea kayak in the bay under the castle. Remember though that so long as you keep below the HW mark you are on Crown Estate property and aren’t obliged to pay any sort of fee.

11 Responses to “Macleod's Seals ”

  1. 1 Alan Jan 13th, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Landed on your blogg site whilst searching about the “bloody” feast on Isay. Read the article on MacLeods Seals. Always amazed at the seals reaction to a kayak. I have passed Dunvegan seals a mere 5/6ft away by motor powered and sail boats, they only looked and went back to rest. A kayak 1/4 mile away will have them alert and agitated. The rythmic splash of paddle could appear, in seal body language, as a challenge to fight? Perhaps the kayaker’s profile appears at first as one mother of an Orca? Disturbance of the breeding haul out site from sea or near by land can effect the number of pups born the following year. The MacLeod is “touchy” about the seals and His shoreline probably several other nerve ends exposed. He (MacLeod) has rights over the foreshore, down to the low water mark! Called Deed of Servitude, Prohibitive Burden, something like that. Given by Robert the Bruce, I think. Another upstanding member of the community is Laird Colin Lindsay MacDougal (Argyll) he has similar deeds but down below low water to the point where the water touches the belly of a 12.4 hand pony! Can you believe it? Both have exercised this right very recently to the detriment of the local communities.
    Enjoyed your posts, thank you.

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I'm currently writing a sea kayaking guidebook for the Northwest Highlands; Cape Wrath to Ardnamurchan Point including Skye & the Small Isles. This blog will keep you updated as to my progress and hopefully the blog and in turn the book will inspire you experience the Northwest Highlands by sea kayak yourself.

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