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AITO Tour Operator of The Year 2016 - Gold AwardThe Telegraph Travel Awards Winner 2017

Whale & Dolphin Watching in West Cork

Search with experts for wonderful wildlife off the south west coast of Ireland.

Chosen as one of the Sunday Times “52 Weekends” for 2013.

Seeing whales in the wild is still one of the greatest thrills in nature, and it is perfectly possible in the waters off the South West of Ireland. Since the government declared the coastal waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary in the early 1990s, the area of West Cork has become established as a renowned destination for both.

Our short break to Ireland includes a half day whale-watching boat trip with an expert resident marine biologist.

With car hire from Cork and three nights in the attractive coastal village of Baltimore, you will also have plenty of time to relax and explore more of the quaint villages, quirky craft shops and friendly bars and restaurants that dot the beautiful coastline of West Cork.   This is where the Irish themselves like to holiday – but they don’t mind sharing the secret!

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Apr - Oct

Why not...

stay longer and explore more of south west Ireland?

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Day One – Journey to Cork

We include car hire from Cork, the nearest airport and now connected by regular flights to many cities in Britain.  Your base for this holiday is the fabulous, traditional Irish village of Baltimore, which sits right on the world-renowned Wild Atlantic Way.

The whale-watch experience in West Cork

Your vessel is a comfortable, well-equipped, twin-engine catamaran, licensed to carry 12 passengers and 2 crew, so this will be an intimate experience. She is fast and stable and has all round excellent visibility, ideal for whale and dolphin watching tours.  With a toilet on board, facilities for making hot drinks and a spacious wheelhouse with seating, passenger comfort is assured.  You should dress warmly and bring any food or drink you may require.

The whale-watching trips depart from Baltimore harbour, a short walk from the hotel. Your guide is a very experienced skipper and marine wildlife expert who has also drawn up a code of conduct for whale watching to encourage best practice in conservation and education in the whale watching business.

Your Hotel

On the outskirts of Baltimore, but within easy walk of the harbour and centre, this traditional inn features a bar area crammed with memorabilia of years gone by leading into a bright and airy restaurant.  Eat sumptuously-fresh seafood as you gaze out to the boats bobbing on the water, or chat over a Murphy’s with the locals.  Rooms are extremely spacious and neatly decorated with splashes of cheery colours.   A feeling of being beside the seaside pervades the place and the welcome is every bit as warm as you’d expect.

What you might see

Coastal waters off the South West of Ireland are a summer feeding ground for a number of whale species – commonly seen off the South coast are both Fin Whales and Minke Whales, whilst Humpback Whales make a slightly later, yet spectacular entrance.   All in all, whale watching in Ireland is some of the best in Europe; in recent years, over 12 cetacean species have been seen in the clear, unpolluted waters here.  The area also plays host to resident populations of Common Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises.  In addition, there are frequent sightings of other dolphin species at different times throughout the year including Bottlenose Dolphins and Risso’s Dolphins. There are some opportunistic sightings of Killer Whales (Orca), Long-finned Pilot Whales, White Beaked Dolphins and Atlantic White Sided Dolphins. Other marine mammals regularly sighted on our wildlife boat tours include both the Atlantic Grey Seal and the Common Seal.

Day Four – Return journey

We highly recommend using your journey back to Cork airport to take in some more of the incredible sights of West Cork.  Only 20 minutes from Baltimore is the seaside town of Bantry – looking out over the bay from which it takes it name.  Now start heading back inland, past the stunningly picturesque lake of Gougane Barra, with its postcard perfect, ornate church.  A great place to get a few more photos before you final leg back to Cork.

Why not extend the break by an extra day – there is so much to see in this special area.

When to go on your whale-watching holiday

While Porpoises and Common Dolphins are resident, Minke Whales arrive off this part of the Irish coast starting in May; Fin Whales traditionally arrive in June or July.  Both species continue through August into the autumn.  The less predictable Humpback Whales traditionally arrive during August or the early autumn months.


Map west cork wildlife

This holiday is based in West Cork. We include car hire from Cork Airport, but can also arrange the break using ferry travel from South Wales to Ireland, or indeed can tailormake a longer holiday around the break.


£450 per person for April & October, £485 per person for May, June & September, £495 per person for July & August.

Prices based on three nights on a bed & breakfast basis, and includes a half day whale-watching boat trip, and four days’ car hire (compact manual) from Cork Airport.

Travel to Ireland

We would be delighted to book your travel to Ireland for this whale-watching holiday. There are direct flight connections to Cork from many UK airports including London airports, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Luton, Southampton and Edinburgh.

The most convenient ferry routes are or the Pembroke or Fishguard to Rosslare day time services. Timings of the ferries may mean that additional overnights stops in the Rosslare area may be needed, and we can assist with these. In this case we can arrange the holiday without flights or car hire being included.

Note for Ireland wildlife trips:

We cannot of course guarantee that you will see any of the wildlife described – these are wild animals and as such cannot be called to order, and no refund will be made if you are unlucky enough not to see any of the animals described, despite the very best efforts of the guides.

Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.

All holidays and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.

The McKinlay Kidd Guarantee

All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.

We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.


Check availability for Whale & Dolphin Watching in West Cork

This holiday is available from April to October.

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