They need wings both to fly and to swim with. In Scotland, these colourful seabirds are called ‘Tammie Norries’. The last ever sighting was in 1852. Lovely to see the Razorbills, and hopefully next time we'll see the puffins. But your approach to them isn’t as easy as, say, the quite famous ones at Faraid Head near Durness. Adult puffins eat in excess of forty fish every day. First I want to make a plea for their cousins, the rest of the auk tribe. These puffinries (yep, a collection of puffin homes is actually called a puffinry!) Where to see puffins on Scotland’s mainland, Where to see puffins on Scotland’s islands. The favourite is puffins, and you are almost certain to see them in May, June, and July. The puffin pictures here were captured by Johanna on Staffa, an island more associated with Fingal’s Cave. Horned puffins dig burrows up to three feet underground. These include guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, along with some puffins … Everybody loves puffins. What’s wrong with finely chopped liver?). Kilda Cruises for St. Kilda tours: Visit one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. When they said tools, obviously they didn’t mean wee sets of spanners or whatever. You might get a disinterested stare or two but they’re generally not scared of people which makes a visit to Lunga one of the highlights of any wildlife expedition in Scotland. As with elsewhere in Sutherland, the puffins come ashore to breed in late April and usually stay till late August so if you’ve come to this part of the country to do a summer tour of the North Coast 500 you might as well take the short detour to Faraid Head to say hello to them. (Don’t get too close to these, will you? Puffins can be found on the cliffs near the famous Old Man of Hoy sea stack along with plenty of other seabirds. You won't find it difficult to observe these birds if you visit their most favourite spots such as Great Saltee, the Cliffs of Moher, and Skellig Michael. 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. Well, of course you do if the little beast wanders up to you and looks cute. The Scottish Seabird Centre for the Firth of Forth. The Isles of St. Kilda. We are travelling to Scotland next week (7th August). The best place to see Puffins in Scotland. This was while Stevenson was inspecting the Eilean Glas lighthouse on Scalpay, which is just off the larger island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. There are a couple of National Trust for Scotland designated paths in the nature reserve which run close to the cliff edge and others which circle a nearby loch, but please note that the NTS make a point of asking you not to explore the rest of the site as you could upset the breeding pairs. I’m undecided. They are considered to be so cute that they have their own cutesy kind of vocabulary. Due to its central location on The Royal Mile, St. Giles has become a popular tourist attraction and is an ideal stop-off point between excursions to the palace and the castle. Puffins live in puffineries. Take a look at these links for tours around this remarkable part of Scotland. Although the Duncansby Stacks are the highlight of a visit (they’re absolutely enormous) if you’ve gone there to look for puffins you might want to have a good look at the deep gorge called the Geo of Sclaites that lies between the stacks and the lighthouse. PUFFINS! You’ll either love this or just want to slap the author. Must See Scotland is the uniquely honest and independent guide to Scotland that no-one pays us to write. They’re a very sociable lot, the other auks like guillemots and razorbills, pictured here. Here are some of our top places where you’re pretty much guaranteed to see them: Handa Island . West Sutherland has a small number of puffins, particularly on Handa Island. Go to St. Kilda for St. Kilda tours: See north-west Europe’s largest seabird colony including the UK’s largest colony of Atlantic puffin, northern fulmar and one of the world’s largest gannetaries. If you’d like to take a tour there click the below advert and search for ‘staffa’ to find the best Treshinish Island tour companies. The steep cliffs of Sumburgh Head provide lots of protective nooks and crannies for a multitude of birds to nest in and each species has their own favourite area but the puffins seem to like burrowing into the soft soil at the very top of the cliffs. The spectacular cliffs and sea stacks are a dream destination for ornithologists with puffin, fulmar, guillemot and one of the world’s largest populations of gannets. St. Giles Cathedral has been a focal point for religious activity in Edinburgh for over 900 years, although the present structure that we see today can trace its roots back to the 14th century. 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. But you’re not an especially avid birdwatcher? 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. The general rule is that if it is an island that is isolated and sometimes hard to get to, then the chances are it’ll have huge numbers of puffins. It’s even close to an airport so you could take a flight in just to see the puffins before heading elsewhere. Faraid Head in Sutherland. 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. Las year, we tried to visit them at the end of August in Iceland, but it was too late. Please stop doing a plug for other auks in general and tell me where in Scotland I should go? 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. Anyway, puffinoidal hotspots in Orkney include, Westray, Papa Westray and Copinsay, plus a few at Marwick Head. See our reserves Covid-19 updates page for which sites are open and other important details. The parents mooch about for a while in the colony, possibly doing the odd high-five. They lay their eggs on the grassy slopes atop the cliff. Although it is mostly visited for the small ferry terminal that connects the island to Claonaig on the mainland, Lochranza is also worth visiting for its tourist attractions. Puffins in north-west Scotland. The Isle of Lunga is one of the Treshnish Isles which lies between the Isle of Tiree and the Isle of Mull on Scotland’s west coast. Seeing Puffins in Scotland is an experience like no other I have had so far. At that point the visitor will say ‘So where are the puffins?’ Small wonder the guillemots get jealous. You can take a three island seabird safari which departs from North Berwick and visits the Lamb, Craigleith and Bass Rock islands, you can take a private charter on a rigid inflatable, or you can book yourself onto a Bass Rock landing experience. Tysties are inconspicuous and tend to be in small groups. Westray is the best of the Orkney islands on which to see puffins. Their favourite food is sand eels, herring and capelin (a sprat-like North Atlantic fish). But now that I’ve mentioned puffins I see you’re already reaching for the camera and making drooly noises. Amongst the mixture of grassland and reed beds you’ll be able to spot otters, kingfishers, ospreys – and even the occasional white-tailed eagle. 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. Favourite nesting site can be found at; Bass Rock, St. Abbs Head, Duncansby Head, Faraid Head, Lunga, St. Kilda and Sumburgh Head. A tour to the Isle of Staffa lasts four hours and will cost you £25. Admit it, you just like puffins? Sadly, one auk you won’t see is the Great Auk. 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. Because – and I’ve seen it myself so often – picture this scene. Several places on the western seaboard are also puffin hotspots. Incidentally, the puffin pics here were taken on the island of Staffa. Where are the most popular places to see Puffins in Scotland? They are also on the island of Noss in some numbers, while you can also patronise a puffin or two at Hermaness right at the very top of Shetland. The name ‘puffin’ is an old-English word originally used to describe the unrelated Manx shearwater. Boat tours depart from several coastal towns, including Jonesport, Cutler, Bar Harbor, Millbridge, Stonington, Rockland, Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor and Port Clyde. It’s got a ton of research data all packaged in a froth of high-flown poetic and indulgent similes. Here we go. Shetland Seabird Tours for the Shetland Islands: The ultimate Shetland wildlife experience and an unrivalled wildlife spectacle offering close seabird & seal encounters with the awesome Noss ‘seabird city’ backdrop. You think you know what a puffin looks like? Puffins are something of a birdy speciality on the Northern Isles. Remember? We were told they use to emigrate about 10th August. Word of warning, the proximity to the cliffs would be an issue with young children. Let’s take a look at some of Scotland’s most popular island puffin-spotting locations. I started searching for how to get there and I was looking for Oban Boat trips, Boat trips from Oban, and Isle of Mull tours. *Researchers say that the ‘divorce rate’ amongst puffins is between 7-13% – so that’s nice for them. Outaboutscotland.com also participates in affiliate programs with Awin, CJ, and other sites. Legal: Outaboutscotland.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk. *Male and female puffins look more or less identical, (except to other puffins, presumably) but wear their clown gear only for the breeding season. View 25,000 gannets, thousands of guillemots and hundreds of puffins, razorbills, black guillemots, gulls, shags and skuas. (Pictured below) This is not a puffin. Copyright: All photos, videos, downloadable files and texts are the property of Craig Smith unless otherwise cited or under a CC0 licence and may not be used or reproduced elsewhere without permission. By this time the inspection yacht was in the Firth of Clyde. You might also be lucky and see Hoy’s sea eagles in the nearby Rackwick valley too. It’s that beak, plus the eye make-up. (Pictured here) Puffins at Hermaness, Shetland. A truly mind boggling place, like something out of an Attenburgh episode. Where to see puffins in ScotlandPuffinaceous encounters take two forms here. Loch Leven is a large expanse of water situated in the rural Scottish county of Perth and Kinross. (Oh, wait. There they are called ‘tammy norries’ – a word, may I say, that I have only ever read in tourist guides and, for all I know, could originally have been invented by a guidebook writer and been repeated ever since. Then they take off their orange makeup, hang up their fancy beaks, lock up the burrow for another year and head seawards too. Although this tour only visits Staffa, you’ll still have a chance to see some puffins between April and July. Scotland’s largest single colony is found on the island of St Kilda (136,000 pairs). The combination of airborne acrobatics and amusing land-based waddling about fits that term perfectly. I think I’ve cropped out the razorbills.) Brough of Birsay, West Mainland 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. Puffins and auks have a special problem. On the other side of the Atlantic from Scotland, they are called murres, a name you never hear here. I was so taken with the views I did not even see this flying object diving right at us! See puffins in their natural habitats on the Firth of Forth. And don’t get too hung up on just puffins. Lunga is verdant for outstanding wildlife experiences. Even so, life must have been terribly difficult as the rough seas made fishing almost impossible and their only other source of protein was the seabirds that nested on the cliffs – most notably puffins which were easily caught with long poles and nets. Staffa Tours for the Treshinish Isles. Anyway, back in puffin world, yes, keep an eye on auks on the water. As Staffa is a small island out at sea, its wildlife population is dominated by seabirds. It’s wee sprat-like North Atlantic fish. Some are as deep as 200ft (61m) and last two minutes. Hopeless under water. Anyway, we call the most common species of auk a guillemot, the name deriving from a diminutive version of the French name Guillaume (William). It’s possible that puffins live even longer than that. If crossing north over the Scottish Border on the east side, then St Abb’s Head is just a few minutes away. I’m Craig, I live in Edinburgh and I’m obsessed with tourist attractions. They’re highly intelligent birds. Puffins! 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. Nobody ever drooled over a black guillemot, but I like ’em. Anyway, as I see you are still reading, then here are plenty of puffinous facts – just so you can be totally auk-aware. 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. 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. 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. Why can’t she use a proper heavy cumbersome photography-martyr’s camera like I do (at least, sometimes), for goodness sake? Puffins are part of the bird genus Fratercula which belong to the auk family. Hermaness is also famous for ‘Albert’ the Black-browed Albatross which returned almost annually to the outcrop at Saito from 1972 – 1996. Kittiwakes, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots also breed on the reserve as well as small numbers of Red-throated Divers. The second kind of experience, much sought after by puffinaphiliacs, is where you can, literally, stroll up to the birds. Only joking about the last one. No, I don’t mean it flies feet first, I just mean the orange is surprisingly conspicuous. 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. The spectacular cliffs at Fowlsheugh are packed with more than 130,000 breeding seabirds during the spring and summer months. 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. In front of them is a cliff, covered, stacked, thronged with guillemots (and razorbills), all braying and pecking and shuffling in the confined ledges. Puffins respond to increasing light levels and put on their breeding dress – they’re much more drab out at sea in the winter. While we didn’t see any other marine wildlife, there were chances of seeing Bottlenose dolphins, whales, and seals. Telephone 01950 477384. That’s fine – a lot of visitors to Scotland are like you. See, I told you being an auk, even a puffin, is a serious business. There are over 23,000 gannets, 24,000 guillemots and 10,000 fulmars on this small outcrop and in the breeding season the chorus of more than 150,000 chicks and adults is unforgettable. are usually found in remote areas of Scotland which are difficult to get close to, so if you’re hoping to see them you might like to think about taking a decent pair of binoculars with you – unless you visit the Scottish Seabird Centre which I’ll cover next. Most importantly, though you may hear puffins give a kind of deep yet nervous laugh, this does not give them a sense of humour. (There can be no other explanation if you’ve gone this far down the page.) Dress in layers and make sure you have rain gear even on a clear sunny day. 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. 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. Where Can I See Highland Cows in Scotland? While the rest of the group were looking at the basalt columns, Johanna went off looking for puffins. 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. Also, here are some more suggestions for seeing wild nature in Scotland. Flightless, this penguin-like Northern Hemisphere bird was ruthlessly exploited for food and persecuted to extinction. 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