For the Love of Puffins – Best Place in Scotland to See Them

If you are a nature lover and want to see the puffins there is no better place in Scotland than Lunga. The Isle of Lunga, which is the largest Island in the Treshnish Archipelago, combines a dramatic setting of green cliffs and ocean, with abundant wild life.

The large population of puffins are what draw the tourists (including myself) to Lunga, and they do so for good reason.  Unlike other places in the British Isles, the puffin colonies in Lunga are thriving and extremely approachable.  They have learned that having humans around keep their predators at bay.  This means you get the opportunity to see them up close and personal. You can watch them fly in from the ocean with fish in their beaks to feed their young.  You can see them interact with each other, clean their feathers, and simply be their adorable selves.  It is an experience like no other I have had so far.

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The MV Islander

Practical Information to Know

  • Dress in layers and make sure you have rain gear even on a clear sunny day. Not only does the weather change quickly in Scotland but the boat ride can get a bit rough and if you are sitting outside you may get wet.
  • If you tend to get sea sick make sure you have whatever remedies work for you.  The boats that take you to Lunga are fairly small and even on a bright sunny day the winds can make the ride less than smooth so just be prepared so you do not wind up sick before you even get there.
  • Wear sturdy and if possible waterproof footwear. Access on and off the Island involves walking on small landing platforms, across rocky wet areas, and some steep hills. While it can be a bit tricky to get off the boat and onto the island the staff is helpful. Children over 8 should have no issues getting on or off the boat or climbing through the rocks and up to see the puffins.
  • Eat a good breakfast, bring a packed lunch, and a snack for the long ride back. Also make sure to have your own water. No food or beverages are included in the tour so you want to make sure you have what you need to keep you going throughout the day.
  • Bring your camera.  While you can get close enough to get a good picture with your cell phone you will get the most amazing shots with a camera that has a zoom lens.  I love how the background blurs while keeping the focus on the birds. You will also be able to capture them flying in from a distance or up on the cliffs.  Trust me you will not regret lugging your good camera equipment on this trip.

 

Oban
Oban

How to Get There

Several companies operate tours to the Treshnish Isles. You can join these tours from Oban or even from Mull if you are already there.

We took the full day (12 hrs) tour from Staffa Tours which departed via ferry from Oban.  The tour included time in Tobemory, Fingals Cave, and Lunga.  Staffa Tours has several options that include a visit with the puffins so just look through their website to see which option appeals most to you.

Another reputable company that operates tours to see the puffins is Turus Mara.

Tobermory
Tobermory

**I do not receive any form of compensation from either company and there are other companies that offer these and other wildlife tours.

Puffins on Lunga

 

Exploring Lunga

On our tour we sailed from Mull/Tobemory on the MV Islander which is one of the larger and faster vessels operating trips to the Treshnish Isles.  The boat has a bathroom on board as well as an indoor area with plastic seats, wood bench seating on the lower deck, and standing area on top.

lismore lighthouse

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We were lucky with the weather it was an absolutely glorious and sunny day. Probably one of the best days we experienced during our entire trip to Scotland and we could not be happier.

We decided to take advantage of the sun and headed to the top of the boat for our Journey to Lunga.  We were treated to incredible views of a lighthouse and then some smaller islands. The ride is about 1 hour and even on a clear day the winds make the seas a bit choppy and some of the people seated on the benches on the lower deck got wet.

Rocky area on Lunga

 

As we arrive in Lunga the boat tethers to a floating pontoon and picks up the ramp we will use to disembark. Once off the boat we have to walk over a rocky area which is wet and slippery in order to access the beach; this is followed by a moderate climb to the top of the cliff where the puffins are all waiting.

It is a bit tricky getting through the rocky area but if you watch your step and have no true mobility issues it is easily accomplished and the staff from Staffa Tours is there to assist if needed.

 

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FUN FACT: Puffins spend most of the year at sea but they come to shore during the months of April through July for their breeding period. Therefore, pick a date during these months for your best chance at seeing the puffins.

 

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We are given 2 hours to spend on Lunga before the boat picks us up to head to Staffa (more about that on a later post).  The time is sufficient to explore the Island, enjoy the dramatic views and abundant wildlife.

Here is a short video showing the views and the incredible puffins:

Once we arrive at the top of the cliff the puffins come into view. We simply find a spot, crouch down and lay on our bellies, and marvel at the cuteness of these birds.  They are all around us, sometimes just a few feet away. Hoping around, flying in with fresh fish to eat or feeding their chicks and making the cutest sounds.  It is truly a site to see and an unforgettable experience.

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After spending a good half hour marveling at the puffins we decide to explore the island a bit. A short hike away is a spot called Harp Rock.  As you approach it you can hear a loud commotion. It is as if a piece of rock has come alive. The rock is filled with Guillemots and Razorbills that seem to be fighting for every inch of space. Whatever they are doing they are quite loud while they do it but watching them is fun.

Here is a video of Harp Rock and the Guillemots & Razorbills – can you hear them over the wind?

We pick a nice spot near these boisterous birds and eat our packed lunch.  On retrospect we probably would have been better off eating near the much quieter puffins.

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Our lunch spot
Our lunch spot

But once our tummies are full, we get back to exploring the Island and enjoying the 360 degree views.   During our walks we encountered more than just puffins.  We encountered what I think is a Cormorant (I could be wrong) that was protecting its little family under the rock and even a few bunnies. And the views are just amazing, cliffs, green grass, flowers, and ocean as far as the eye can see. Lunga is a wondrous place indeed.

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But to me the puffins are what makes this place special. So we return to visit with them for a while more before we depart.  And as my time on Lunga comes to an end, I sit and enjoy those last minutes and I cannot help but smile.

This day, and specifically the visit to Lunga to see the puffins, is a day my family and I will treasure and remember for a lifetime.

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Best Place in Scotland to see Puffins

No matter which tour company you pick a visit to Lunga to see the puffins is a must do while in Scotland.

For my full Scotland itinerary check out Epic Scotland Roadtrip Part 1 Epic Scotland Road Trip Part 2

Have you ever seen puffins or had another fantastic wildlife encounter?  I would love to hear about it so leave your comments below. Or lets get social on Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

 

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25 Comments

  1. Your photography is just stunning!! I never got to see (or thought to go look for) puffins on my own trip. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for when we return.

    1. Megan – Remember to keep in mind that they will only be around during mating season so if you want to see them plan accordingly. I appreciate the compliment on the photography and coming from you this is high praise indeed as I admire your work immensely. So when do you plan to go back?

  2. Wow, your pictures are incredible – love the vibrant colors of the puffins! I have never seen puffins in real life, and my only real authentic animal experiences would be with monkeys in the jungle. Lunga sounds like a pretty sweet place to spend the day. Even with the allure of the puffins, it’s beautiful and seems like a place I would enjoy exploring!

    1. You would enjoy it immensely. How cool that you got to see monkeys in the jungle. Do you recall where or what jungle it was? I have been to parts of the Amazon but would still love to see more of it.

    1. If you are able to go to some of the Islands or more out of the way places then do it as it is well worth it. When do you plan on going and how much time will you spend there? If you have questions or need anything let me know and I will be glad to help.

  3. What a great post and what a beautiful pictures!! I would love to go one day to Scotland to see all these puffins! Your tip about their breeding period is very handy. So I guess I maybe can go there next spring maybe =)

    1. I hope you get to go and see these cute birds. The experience is so worth it. Actually all of Scotland is amazing and I am sure that you will have a wonderful time.

  4. As a child I was terrified of puffins for absolutely no reason. I have no idea what sparked that irrational fear, but it sounds as though it was completely unfounded reading this! Were you actually able to get that close?

    1. Fear is never rational and maybe one day you can visit them and overcome the fear. They are adorable and yes you were just steps from them. Simply amazing you could sit there and watch for hours. Happy Roving!!!

  5. I love wildlife so would really enjoy a visit to Lunga. I had no idea there were puffins in Scotland! Your photos are amazing and the birds are so adorable. Thanks for the tips; Scotland just moved up on my travel list!

    1. The wildlife throughout Scotland is marvelous but the Isle of Lunga is simply special because of the Puffins. So many of them so close by you can just sit and watch them for hours. Hope you get to see them soon. Happy Roving!!!

  6. Loved read this, Jo! Our Puffin encounter was one of the absolute highlights of our time in Iceland, and it seems like yours was equally memorable. Did you find them to be much tinier in person than you had expected? Your photos imply that it wasn’t a busy area, or was it an extremely popular site with tons of tourists?

    We’re bookmarking your Scotland Road Trip posts to read in the coming week. After New Zealand and Iceland, we’re looking for another great road trip 🙂

    – Adamo & Joey

    1. There were several boats (small ones) that head out to the Island to see the puffins but it seems they are coordinated pretty well as I did not get the feeling of big crowds even though we were certainly not the only ones there. It is relatively accessible if you do not mind the bus and boat rides. We did this as part of a day long tour. So we also got to see some other Islands like the incredible Isle of Staffa where Fingals Cave is. I will be blogging about that one at a latter date. Scotland is simply incredible and I am sure you will love it. For a road trip you should also look into the Scotland North Coast 500 it is supposed to be spectacular. Happy Roving!!!

  7. Love, love the photos! You’re making me have a puffin obsession too 🙂 This is such a great tour since you got to be really close to them. Our tour in Iceland was seeing thousands of them from a boat. I have always wanted to visit Scotland for its beauty and castles but this just pushed it up the list. Your photos are gorgeous!

    1. Thank you for the lovely compliment on my photos. Maybe I will see you on Instagram. Seeing the puffins so close really was a great highlight and I became a bit obsessed with them myself. I could have payed there on my belly for hours just watching them do their thing. I bet your Iceland trip was fabulous and that even at a distance seeing the puffins was magical. Hope you get to visit Scotland soon. Happy Roving!!!

    1. Thanks Naomi for the compliment I am working on my photography skills. Photography is something I enjoy but there is still so much to learn. It is hard to take a bad picture of these cute Puffins though. Happy Roving!!!

  8. We truly regret to have missed seeing puffins while we were in Scotland.. your images (and videos) are to die for! We definitely need to go back to this wonderful country soon.

    ?

    1. Seeing the Puffins was one of the best experiences I had. You should definitely return and visit. It is actually quite easy to see them if you know when to go. Hope you get to make the dream a reality.

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