Puffin Therapy in the Scottish Highlands

In June, I traveled with a group of five to Ireland and Scotland for two weeks. I’ve written all about my travels, including tips on what to do, where to stay, and how to get there, in a series of blog posts

Spending the Day with Puffins in Scotland

Puffins are delightful sea birds that live in the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Part of our trip to Scotland included a day-long tour off the western coast to the remote Treshnish Isles. We book the “Puffin Therapy” tour with Turus Mara. Our ferry departed from the seaside town of Oban at 9 a.m. After an hour long ride, we landed on the Isle of Mull. Then when we took a rough van ride across the rural island (all one-lane roads and lots of sheep) to the next part of our journey: a converted fishing boat. Another hour on the sea brought us to the Treshnish Isles: a group of small islands that are part of the Inner Hebrides. Along the way we spotted seals and dolphins.

Oban is a charming seaside town in Scotland.

Puffin tour in Scotland.

Seeing puffins in Scotland

We finally arrived! Stepping off the boat, we scurried across a rocky beach and climbed up the hill to observe the puffins. They visit the Treshnish Isles every spring and summer, their breeding season. They construct burrows for their young along the cliffs. April to August is the best time to see puffins, and they spend their winters at sea.

Seeing puffins in Scotland

Seeing puffins in Scotland

I was amazed at how close we could get to the puffins. Our boat captain suggested we crouch down as to not scare them. Many visitors sat or laid down a few feet away from the puffin burrows. Puffins flew overhead, diving over the cliffs in search of food (mainly sand eels) to bring food to their burrows.

The best time to see puffins in Scotland is April- August.

I sat down to watch the puffins for close to 2 hours. They were absolutely mesmerizing to watch. When they fly, they flap their wings around to 400 times a minute. They aren’t very graceful fliers, and often take nose-dives and land awkwardly on the cliff side.

 

Puffins are known as the “clowns of the sea” due to their bright orange beaks and unique markings. A group of puffins is called either a circus or a puffinery. Baby puffins are called pufflings.

A day with puffins in the Scottish Highlands.

Puffins are so friendly, they even like to bring you flowers!

The best time to see puffins in Scotland is April- August.

The puffins waddled around, going in and out of their burrows. They didn’t seem to mind us. A few times they approached me at a close distance, walking right past me as if I weren’t there. The only time they seemed disturbed was when seagulls flew overhead.

A day with puffins in the Scottish Highlands.

We visited Scotland in late June. Thankfully, the weather on the day of our puffin tour was exceptional for Scotland! This was the last of our sunny days though, the rest of the week was overcast and rainy.

A day with puffins in the Scottish Highlands.

On the way back to Oban, our boat stopped at the Isle of Staffa so that we could explore the basalt caves. The main attraction here is Fingal’s Cave, which is made of hexagonal basalt columns.

Harry Potter Cave in Scotland

Exploring Isle of Staffa in Scotland.

Eilean Musdile or the Lismore Lighthouse was built in 1833. It marks the entrance to Loch Linnhe. We passed by the lighthouse on our ferry ride from Oban to Mull. We arrived back in Oban a little after 7 p.m.

Eilean Musdile or the Lismore Lighthouse was built in 1833. It marks the entrance to Loch Linnhe.

Know before you go:

  • Book your tour with Turus Mara. We chose the “all-in” ticket that included the ferry, van, and boat rides.
  • April through August is the best time to see puffins.
  • Bring snacks and water. Packed lunches are available on the ferry.
  • Don’t forget to bring a camera, binoculars, and rain gear…just in case.
  • Wear sturdy shoes for climbing over rocks and walking on wet surfaces.

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