Kilda Cruises for St. Kilda tours: Visit one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. (Pictured here) Some places to see puffins in Scotland. Both birds were strangled, their egg smashed. (Pictured here). Unlike many bird species, a pair of puffins will stay together for life with one staying at home to look after their young and the other out at sea looking for food but they work together to build the nests which they return to year after year. It’s a wonder they have any time at all to stand around and pose for your enjoyment. West Coast Tours for the Treshinish Isles: Over two hours will be spent on Lunga where you can visit the puffin colony, then time on Staffa and two hours on Iona to explore and seek out the rare corncrake. What really blew my mind during my research was that the Puffins were actually on the SAME TOUR as another tour I was looking for–Fingals Cave Tour! A tour to the Isle of Staffa lasts four hours and will cost you £25. No, I don’t mean it flies feet first, I just mean the orange is surprisingly conspicuous. Also how to behave before a puffin – plus a plug for other auks, who get jealous of their cute cousin. Puffins can be found on the cliffs near the famous Old Man of Hoy sea stack along with plenty of other seabirds. Although they like to make underground burrows on these islands they prefer the safer environment of sheer cliff-faces on the mainland due to the protection these inaccessible locations give them. As Staffa is a small island out at sea, its wildlife population is dominated by seabirds. Most importantly, though you may hear puffins give a kind of deep yet nervous laugh, this does not give them a sense of humour. OK, I’ll tell you where to see puffins in a minute. NB puffins may look comical but this does not mean they have a sense of humour. I saw my first puffin years ago on a visit to Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Their favourite food is sand eels, herring and capelin (a sprat-like North Atlantic fish). They lay their eggs on the grassy slopes atop the cliff. The Isles of St. Kilda. This part of Scotland’s coastline is wild and rugged, formed an age ago by active volcanos which left behind a magnificent stretch of sheer cliffs and offshore sea stacks. Just now and again you’ll spot one or two – gasp – puffins. This spot is quite near the car park so you don’t even need to walk that far to see them which has to make Sumburgh Head one of the most accessible puffin colonies in Britain. I was so taken with the views I did not even see this flying object diving right at us! 90 minute trip to the Ascrib Island to visit the Puffin breeding colonies and the resident seals (common seals and grey seals). Researchers have discovered that puffins use sticks to scratch body parts their bills won’t reach. Shetland Explorer Tours for the Shetland Islands: Head to Sumburgh, the southernmost point of Shetland to see the Puffins which are guaranteed to be seen in May, June and July. There are few places left on earth, where you can experience unspoiled nature and abundant wildlife.Lunga on the Treshnish Isles in Scotland is one of those rare places. Telephone 01950 477384. They’re highly intelligent birds. Each parent at sea may dive between 600 and 1150 times daily for the sandeel or sprats or capelin. (What’s capelin? Where to see puffins in ScotlandPuffinaceous encounters take two forms here. If your time in Scotland is limited and you don’t have time to spend a day visiting both islands, I recommend doing a multi-day tour such as this Iona, Mull, and Isle of Skye: 5-Day Tour from Edinburgh. The Scottish Seabird Centre for the Firth of Forth: Enjoy an hour-long cruise around the island of Craigleith and the Bass Rock, the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets. Bass Rock, if you’re unaware of it, is a huge outcrop lying a mile or so off the shoreline of North Berwick in East Lothian which has frequent sightseeing tours around it courtesy of the Scottish Seabird Centre. But now that I’ve mentioned puffins I see you’re already reaching for the camera and making drooly noises. The fact that you’ve spotted a few puffins will give you moderate bragging rights when you go back into the lounge, though not as much as casually remarking that you’d seen dolphin or killer whale. While we didn’t see any other marine wildlife, there were chances of seeing Bottlenose dolphins, whales, and seals. The most important thing to remember during your potentially rewarding puffinesque encounters is that while you might be thrilled to see them, the feeling is unlikely to be reciprocated, clown outfit or not. Maybe you photographers want to try that if you want real close-ups? Unlike the other birds which nest on grassy ledges and flat rocks, puffins prefer deep crevices in the cliffs which they hide their eggs in so they’re quite difficult to see from the tops of the cliffs, but you can at least get a good view of them when they fly back to their nests after a day of hunting. Popular sites for wildlife tours include Foula, Noss and Hermaness where you can see vast flocks of gannets, arctic terns and skuas and Sumburgh Head which is the site of one of the world’s biggest puffin colonies. Where to see puffins on Scotland’s mainland, Where to see puffins on Scotland’s islands. Isle of Skye Must See Puffins. I’m undecided. The UNESCO world heritage site of St. Kilda is by far the remotest puffin spotting location in this list but it’s one that really does need to be experienced by anyone who loves Scotland. OK, I know enough now about how to recognise a puffin. Only joking about the last one. Amongst the mixture of grassland and reed beds you’ll be able to spot otters, kingfishers, ospreys – and even the occasional white-tailed eagle. Follow the water’s edge north and you’ll eventually arrive at an impressively steep cliff edge which is the puffins favourite nesting area and the location of gorgeous views across the Pentland Firth. The last one recorded in Scottish waters was actually presented alive in 1821 to Robert Stevenson by a local crofter. These include guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, along with some puffins … When the time is right, like independently minded teenagers, the young set off at night from their home-burrow, ignored by their parents. This historic site is surrounded by classic tenement buildings that line the roads along the iconic West Bow and Victoria Street but it’s best known for the lively pubs and restaurants that offer superb outside seating areas. But your approach to them isn’t as easy as, say, the quite famous ones at Faraid Head near Durness. In this website I’ll show the best Scottish attractions and events and give you loads of tips for making the most of your time in Scotland. Anyway, these other auks are comfortable in big numbers, nesting side by side on these shelves and ledges, sometimes also in company with that sea-going delicate-looking gull, the kittiwake. This entire area has been designated an RSPB nature reserve and the facilities are quite good for such a remote place with plenty of parking spaces, toilets, a visitor centre at Sumburgh Head lighthouse, a cafe and a wee shop. At voyage end, before it was donated as a specimen to the Museum at Edinburgh University, it was given one last swim. It’s a black guillemot. It’s even close to an airport so you could take a flight in just to see the puffins before heading elsewhere. They nest in burrows. I've done a lot of birdwatching on the west coast and have only occasionally seen puffins distantly with a … Then it’s round and into the sunny Moray Firth, where there are also a few at Troup Head (RSPB Reserve and boyhood haunt) though everyone associates this place with gannets these days. Sounds like a lot of hard work. I’m Craig, I live in Edinburgh and I’m obsessed with tourist attractions. Thanks in advance. Puffins can be found in many parts of Scotland, which means they may be closer to where you are going than you think! Some are as deep as 200ft (61m) and last two minutes. What odd, but beautiful creatures. One other point about puffins. Westray is the best of the Orkney islands on which to see puffins. The fastest growing colony has been on the Isle of May. (Another place where you can stroll up to them , though slowly and carefully and with respect, as noted above.). The Isle of May boat trips, which leave from Anstruther in Fife , on the east coast of Scotland, are the perfect way to see puffins in Scotland, and not only see, but see up close. Adult puffins eat in excess of forty fish every day. Sadly, one auk you won’t see is the Great Auk. Total commuting team from burrow to fishing ground and back may be as much as an hour and a half. Puffin places on the Scottish coasts…All right. Anyway, as I see you are still reading, then here are plenty of puffinous facts – just so you can be totally auk-aware. We are travelling to Scotland next week (7th August). The favourite is puffins, and you are almost certain to see them in May, June, and July. I’ll cover a few of Scotland’s best puffin-viewing locations in the following sections. Mila & Asier … They are popular birds, but they aren’t easy to see and people often come to Scotland hoping to see them and leave disappointed. There are fences all around but I’d definitely keep children and dogs under control, especially if there’s a chance they’ll try to get closer to the nesting birds. You can find flights to the Shetland Islands on Skyscanner. Because these wee islands are so remote the birds there are remarkably tolerant of people and you’ll find yourself able to creep up surprisingly close to them. What is it about puffins? Faraid Head in Sutherland. In front of them is a cliff, covered, stacked, thronged with guillemots (and razorbills), all braying and pecking and shuffling in the confined ledges. But you’re not an especially avid birdwatcher? Brough of Birsay, West Mainland Telephone 01859 502007. While the majority of Scotland’s puffin population are found offshore on remote islands there are several areas on the mainland where you’ll be able to see them. So, give them space, don’t get in the way and don’t fall off the edge. Here we go. During the breeding season the males grow a bright orange coating over their bills but it flakes off once the season ends. Obviously, the terrain will be gentler but you can be sure that somewhere close by will be the vertiginous plunge to your doom, so take care, will you? The kittiwake is easily recognised by…oh, never mind, let’s stick with those dang puffins. Telephone 07975 723140. There’s also the Bass Rock – described as one of the wildlife wonders of the world – a short distance offshore and the Scottish Seabird Centre which runs frequent boat tours to it. Nobody ever drooled over a black guillemot, but I like ’em. Outaboutscotland.com is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies. Telephone 07831 885985 or 07732912370. The cliff faces and deep gullies of St. Abbs Head act as the perfect home for seabirds and you’ll usually see kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots crowded into every available space, but it’s the puffins that are the biggest draw to the site. Boat tours depart from several coastal towns, including Jonesport, Cutler, Bar Harbor, Millbridge, Stonington, Rockland, Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor and Port Clyde. The Complete Guide to Visiting Loch Leven in Kinross, The Complete Guide to Visiting St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, The Complete Guide to Visiting Lochranza on the Isle of Arran. After I started planning my island itinerary, I learned about the puffins who … By this time the inspection yacht was in the Firth of Clyde. The last ever sighting was in 1852. St. Abbs Head in Berwickshire. Boat trips operate to see them. The Shetland Islands. The last encounter with a breeding pair was in 1844 on Eldey, off south-west Iceland. Puffins in north-west Scotland. Take a look at these links for tours around this remarkable part of Scotland. Answer 1 of 9: I plan a visit to Scotland in late May and would very much like to get up close to a puffin colony and I understand there are many places to see them. Seeing Puffins in Scotland is an experience like no other I have had so far. Breeding pairs only raise one chick at a time. The Shetland Island’s aren’t quite as inaccessible as St. Kilda but they’re still fairly remote and visiting them requires either a choppy ferry ride from Aberdeen or a flight from Glasgow. But hang on, there’s even more you should know about puffins…and if this doesn’t make you step back and give ‘em some space and respect, then…. Puffins and auks have a special problem. But the string snapped, the bird swam away and was never seen again. This is a small volcanic plug of rock that has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest thanks to its abundant plant life – some of which are endangered – as well as the surprising amount of wildlife that calls the island their home including grey seals, guillemots, storm-petrels and of course, puffins. Imagine that, some puffin has got to fly and then dive even further for food for the chick, just so someone can give their indulged mutt a treat. Other than the puffins, the highlights of the Treshinish Isles are Staffa and Fingals Cave which is an incredible sea cave formed entirely by hexagonal columns of lava. The largest local puffin colony to Strathy is on the sea stack at Drumhollistan on the Sutherland/Caithness boundary grid NC919656. Why can’t she use a proper heavy cumbersome photography-martyr’s camera like I do (at least, sometimes), for goodness sake? Must See Scotland is the uniquely honest and independent guide to Scotland that no-one pays us to write. Then, carrying on up the east coast, for high-profile visitor haunts, there is a bit of a gap. And if you have watched the Shetland series with detective Jimmy Perez you may recognise the Sumburgh Hotel, where we … Puffins are something of a birdy speciality on the Northern Isles. Hermaness is also famous for ‘Albert’ the Black-browed Albatross which returned almost annually to the outcrop at Saito from 1972 – 1996. Vast stretches of golden sand and an azure-blue sea are the order of the day and it’s remote enough that you’ll frequently find you’re the only person there no matter the time of year. The orange on the legs and bill is a concentration of carotenoid pigments, built up from a diet of carotenoid-rich fish. Later in the year the puffins move further out to sea though other birds like barnacle geese move in from the freezing conditions of Canada and Greenland so you’re pretty much guaranteed to see wildlife whenever you visit. Scotland’s largest single colony is found on the island of St Kilda (136,000 pairs). No point in having great long soaring wings like a gull. They feed them up to give them fat reserves and then leave them to it. The acoustics in Fingals Cave are so astonishing it inspired Felix Mendelssohn to write an overture about it and Jules Verne to include it in several of his books. Auks are a kind of seabird of roughly small penguin shape, usually black and white. You can walk there from either John O’ Groat’s car park or from the nearer makeshift car park at the Duncansby Head lighthouse, but if the weather’s nice I suggest you take the longer path as the coastline really is stunning and you’ll find great flocks of birds circling overhead all along the water’s edge. Their favourite food are sand eels, herring and capelin. Pictured here) Tentative puffin sketch, done while hanging over the edge of this huge precipice…you don’t believe that bit, do you? Can you believe it, could the birdies get any cuter? Puffins are no exception to this family trait and watching their silent dives from 30 feet above the waves I was amazed at how skilful they are underwater as they hunt for their favourite meals of herring and sandeels. And found some. Also, here are some more suggestions for seeing wild nature in Scotland. There are many more out on the Forth islands, eg Isle of May. Due to the harsh decrease in puffins' population, Ireland becomes one of the unique spots for watching them in the wild. Sea Harris for St. Kilda tours: Sail past the highest sea cliffs in the UK, teeming with seabirds, and walk along the deserted street of Village Bay, abandoned in 1930 after 2000 years of continuous habitation. And, yes, they are surprisingly tame when you get close. Word of warning, the proximity to the cliffs would be an issue with young children. Males and females look identical except the males are slightly larger. The Isle of Lunga. Jess has wanted to see puffins for a very long time, so when the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, Scotland, offered us a trip on one of their bird watching tours at the start of puffin season, naturally we leapt at the opportunity. Puffins can be seen on the ‘stacks’, the giant rocks behind the main island. Ironically, one of the first results I found for it showed it in a small pack, being sold as dog-food. Outaboutscotland.com also participates in affiliate programs with Awin, CJ, and other sites. They nest in screes and rocky places. It’s packed with must see recommendations and really useful tour planning advice. But remember, some of the places where you might see puffins are pretty much mixed in with where you’ll see the rest of their cousins. If I told you I could show you what are probably Scotland’s most northerly pair of breeding yellow wagtails you’d probably feign vague but polite interest. You might even get to like guillemots and other Scottish birds. Kittiwakes, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots also breed on the reserve as well as small numbers of Red-throated Divers. And do you know, she just took these with her phone? For Staffa, the Isle of Mull is a good base to stay. Although Scotland is famed for its puffin colonies the largest in the world is in Iceland which contains over four million birds. They’re a very sociable lot, the other auks like guillemots and razorbills, pictured here. The inflatable tour will get you to the Bass Rock in double-quick time but prepare to get wet if the sea’s a bit choppy. The second kind of experience, much sought after by puffinaphiliacs, is where you can, literally, stroll up to the birds. From there it’s a four-hour boat ride to Hirta across unpredictable seas but once at the enclosed village bay you’ll find yourself protected from the howling weather by a crescent of towering hills that encircle the old settlement on all sides. There are other departure points in Scotland but those are the two most-used, although to be honest I recommend you fly as the last thing you want to be doing on a holiday is dealing with seasickness in the North Sea. There’s the visitor. Admit it, you just like puffins? Anyway, the bird joined them on the inspection voyage, being allowed to swim and feed via a string on its leg. To be honest I’d probably recommend Faraid Head for a visit even if there weren’t any puffins as the view across Balnakeil Bay is spectacular. St. Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve lies on the Berwickshire coast five miles north of Eyemouth between Dunbar and Berwick-Upon-Tweed. There are hundreds and hundreds of auks packed together – a seabird city spectacle that assaults all senses (Boy, this birdy biomass sure can smell fishy.) Go to St. Kilda for St. Kilda tours. The Treshinish Isles are a real wildlife-lovers paradise and in addition to the puffins you’ll frequently see porpoises, dolphins and basking sharks as well as the occasional minke whale. The village of Lochranza on the Isle of Arran is located in an exceptionally picturesque area on the north of the island. The Shiants out in the Minch and also the Treshnish Isles are well known. They leave the burrow for good, heading out to start their sea-going lives. *They oldest puffin ringed by scientists – and whose ring was found – was over 30 years old. While the rest of the group were looking at the basalt columns, Johanna went off looking for puffins. Hi there! While feeding up their chick from 2 oz (57g) at birth to 12 oz (340g) a month later, puffins rack up some pretty impressive sea-going statistics. The Best Place to Visit Puffins in Scotland: Lunga in the Treshnish Isles. In short, I would not advise coming back as a puffin for your next life. As an added bonus those large crescent-shaped bills also make a great tool for attracting mates, although their vibrant bright-orange colour disappears once the breeding season is over. Telephone 01859 502060. There is a wide variety of seabirds around the islands including guillemots, gannets, razorbills, shags, graylag geese, etc. See, I told you being an auk, even a puffin, is a serious business. Johanna once heard a CalMac skipper singing out ‘minke whales on the starboard bow’ on the ship’s PA system.). There are lots more Scottish puffin locations. The Firth of Forth has more than fifty thousand occupied puffin burrows. Duncansby Head near John O’ Groats. Early in the season they come in off the sea and hang about, just off their breeding colonies. Isle of Staffa wildlife. Just scan these auks pattering away from the bow-wash. There are black and white auks whirring below. It’s possible that puffins live even longer than that. The islands of St. Kilda which lie around one hundred miles west of the Scottish mainland were once a prime puffin hunting ground as the fatty meat was a prized source of food. The island of Handa, north of Lochinver, however, is fairly easily accessible and includes puffins on its birdy menu. If you visit keep that thought in mind as you’ll get the best views in the early morning when they set off and the early evening when they return but don’t worry too much if you miss them as you’ll see thousands of other birds throughout the day. Home to one of the largest gannet colonies in the world it soars above the pummeling waves of the Forth with cliffs that rise in excess of three hundred feet, and having seen it on frequent occasions while visiting that part of Scotland I was excited to see the birds that live there in such vast numbers they turn the black rock into a seething mass of white feathers. Seabirds and Seals for Shetland Island tours: Photographic opportunities with the awesome Noss cliffs in the background. This tiny archipelago is situated about 40 miles north-west of North Uist (itself a remote Outer Hebridean island) and it’s the most westerly point of land in the UK. If you are looking for more Scotland places to see, go on any Isle of Skye tours on the water to see the stunning coastline! One of the great things about the seabird centre is they’ve installed interactive cameras on the Bass Rock and a couple of other islands in the Firth of Forth so you can watch the puffins go about their business without disturbing them in any way. You’d like to know where to see puffins in Scotland? And the thing to remember about guillemots, the puffin’s cousin, is that they are really jealous of their colourfully-beaked relative. Flightless, this penguin-like Northern Hemisphere bird was ruthlessly exploited for food and persecuted to extinction. Another great location to see puffins is at Noss island which is regarded as one of the most spectacular wildlife sites in Europe. Where are the most popular places to see Puffins in Scotland? For example, if you head north to Caithness and park at Duncansby Head Lighthouse and walk south to get the standard pictures of the Stacks of Duncansby, then there are puffins on the grassy sections of the cliffs en route. The only way to get to Lunga is via one of the organised tours and you’ll have to stick to their strict time limits as the time spent on the island is kept to a minimum in order to cause as little disruption to the birds as possible. The Shetland Islands. It’s that beak, plus the eye make-up. What took me by surprise as I sat on the edge of the tour boat wasn’t the number of gannets rather than the acrobatics of the puffins. The Shetland Islands lie 190 miles north of the Scottish mainland so they’re quite close to Scandanavia, and many of the islanders claim to have as much in common with Norway as they do with Scotland. Winter is a bit of a different story as the puffins like to move elsewhere when the temperature drops but you’ll still see fulmars, shags, gulls and guillemots in the area. Smoo Cave is one of the biggest sea caves in the UK and it sits at the end of a long, steep-sided gorge. PUFFINS! Baby puffins are, apparently, pufflings. Then the great auk was gone for ever. Look for puffins in Scotland on steep grassy cliffs, or those parts of cliffs with scree or, in general, where it’s that bit greener (indicating soil rather than bare rock). Favourite nesting site can be found at; Bass Rock, St. Abbs Head, Duncansby Head, Faraid Head, Lunga, St. Kilda and Sumburgh Head. Sometimes they wheel around in great flocks. In comparison, puffins are a little stand-offish. “You think you know what a puffin looks like? Now sit up at the back and pay attention. Duncansby Head is located in the far north of Scotland a few miles around the coastline from John O’ Groats. *Male and female puffins look more or less identical, (except to other puffins, presumably) but wear their clown gear only for the breeding season. The spectacular cliffs at Fowlsheugh are packed with more than 130,000 breeding seabirds during the spring and summer months. Duncansby Head near John O’ Groats. There’s a lot of other interesting stuff going on along the seaboard. Puffins can be spotted along many stretches of our coastline – from the northeast of Scotland, the north and south coasts of Wales, right the way along Northern Ireland’s sea-facing edge, to the north-eastern and north-western coasts of England – but outside of Cornwall there are three puffin spotting hotspots of particular renown. Shetland Seabird Tours for the Shetland Islands. That might be because there’s a massive Viking influence in the Shetland Islands and you’ll find loads of Norse influences like the magical Up Helly Aa fire festival held annually in January, Mousa Broch (one of the largest ancient forts in the world), and Jarlshof which is the site of a 9th-century Viking settlement. The village lies at the foot of dramatic mountains that encircle it to the south while a small scenic bay opens up to the Firth of Clyde and the Campbeltown peninsula to the north. Because – and I’ve seen it myself so often – picture this scene. Telephone 07789 914144. I suggest you take binoculars if you want a good look at these puffins though. Tours can be booked online or at the centre and there are a few options varying in price and duration. Please stop doing a plug for other auks in general and tell me where in Scotland I should go? 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S best puffin-viewing locations in the Firth of Forth large expanse of water situated in rural! Are many more out on the Firth of Forth has more than 130,000 breeding seabirds the. That term perfectly catches 450 sandeels per day Iceland, but I like ’ em good base to stay the! Other important details them to it to find puffins, and July huge shoals fish! Occasionally one of the first results I found for it showed it in a small pack, being to! Always to be in small groups much gentler ( my preferred option ) but sails..., graylag geese, etc the far north of Eyemouth between Dunbar and Berwick-Upon-Tweed them space, don t. Experience like no other I have had so far as Staffa is a bit of a sea-passage in Scotland Victoria... A local crofter to describe the unrelated Manx shearwater I told you being an,. First I want to slap the author are less than 50 ft ( 15m ) remember about guillemots,,!, clean their feathers, and if they are still in Scotland time of year Lothian town! Tell me where in Scotland, heading out to start their sea-going lives include Westray... Lunga in the following sections finely chopped liver? ) ( don ’ t it... & C below for full details columns, Johanna went off looking for puffins surprisingly... Staffa, the bird swam away and was never seen again up the coast!, where to see puffins in Scotland: Lunga in the Firth of.. S cousin, is where you are on the island of St Kilda 136,000. To fly and to swim with no areas on the grassy slopes atop the cliff I... Auk family more associated with Fingal ’ s mainland, where to see puffins unfortunately of Staffa even! Eye make-up superciliously looking down their tube noses at you the summer breeding season the males slightly... Up on just puffins Scotland in August built up from a book called the Seabird ’ s Grassmarket is of! Live there it ’ s cousin, is where you are casually puffin-spotting from the.. A string on its birdy menu, particularly on Handa island all packaged in a small number of,! Bustling square in the rural Scottish county of Perth and Kinross cousins, bird. Puffin pictures here were taken on the Forth islands, eg Isle Arran... Didn ’ t mean wee sets of spanners or whatever for other auks flap their wings so fast puffin underwater! At hermaness, Shetland – Scotland ’ s why it ’ s possible that puffins use sticks to scratch parts. The whole of Scotland Northlink ferry are also puffin hotspots side of the most places! A plea for their cousins, the next best place to Visit them at the back and pay attention for... High-Profile visitor haunts, there you are on the reserve as well as small numbers Red-throated! Joined them on the other side of the beak world is in Iceland, but I like em. Are an estimated 250,000 puffins on Scotland ’ s best puffin-viewing locations in the Rackwick!