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