A Day Trip to Handa Island: Scotland's Seabird Sanctuary

By Ivan PetrenkoJun 17, 2024 05:30 AMNews
Share:
A bird sitting on a top of a cliff next to the ocean
A bird sitting on a top of a cliff next to the ocean. Source: Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Handa Island off Scotland's far north-west coast becomes a sanctuary for nearly 100,000 seabirds. Guillemots, great skuas, razorbills, and puffins flock here, making it one of the largest breeding colonies in north-western Europe.

Visible from various points along Scotland's coastline, Handa Island sits just 300 meters from the mainland. Visitors can reach it via a 10-minute ferry ride from Tarbet, near the village of Scourie. Upon arrival, the soft white-sand beach and turquoise waters present a serene landscape, yet the island's fame lies in its steep cliffs teeming with seabirds during the breeding season from April to July.

Walking across Handa’s heather-strewn moorland, the world seemed to fade away, accompanied only by the songs of skylarks. On the north coast, at Puffin Bay, the landscape transitions to sheer cliffs of dark Torridonian sandstone. Here, a golden eagle soared overhead, unfazed by the excited onlookers below.

Handa Island’s puffins, though fewer in number, are a significant draw for many visitors. Just west of Puffin Bay lies the Great Stack, a large sandstone tower where many seabirds nest. Despite being early in the season, the ledges were already filled with various birds, and a sighting of a puffin’s orange feet sparked excitement among our group.

"About 80 puffins nest here each year, but their numbers are dwindling," explained ranger Libby Higgins-Washbrook. Predators like guillemots, razorbills, and rats, which swim over from the mainland, threaten their population.

Rangers like Higgins-Washbrook stay on the island from March to September, overseeing volunteers who assist with tasks from monitoring seabird populations to maintaining the island’s infrastructure. Despite the isolation and the need to bring their own food, volunteers find the experience rewarding and life-changing.

The haar (sea mist) rolling in added an eerie quality to the already spectacular landscape, with the seabirds' calls echoing like spectres. Despite challenges like relying on the ferry for supplies and dealing with unpredictable weather, the solitude and natural beauty of Handa make it a unique experience. Watching eider ducks and feeling the sand under my feet, I found myself reluctant to leave when the ferry finally arrived. Handa Island offers a peaceful escape and a unique glimpse into Scotland's natural wonders.

Top Articles
Top 15 best hotels for beach weddings around the world, from beautiful secluded hideaways to famous island resorts

Top 15 best hotels for beach weddings around the world, from beautiful secluded hideaways to famous island resorts

Jul 22, 2024 19:15 PM
The best resorts in Colorado for 2024: from luxury mountain getaways with direct access to the slopes to gorgeous resort spas with hot springs

The best resorts in Colorado for 2024: from luxury mountain getaways with direct access to the slopes to gorgeous resort spas with hot springs

Jul 22, 2024 13:07 PM

Top 5 best Vienna hotels travelers recommend: with superb restaurants, exclusive spas and attractions at your doorstep

Jul 22, 2024 08:05 AM

Top 40 hotels in Paris: from luxury spa hotels and trendy designer boutiques to historic townhouses and legendary urban hideaways

Jul 21, 2024 19:04 PM
More News
Four boys laugh on the grass, one plays the guitar

Free Summer Activities for Kids and Teens in Amsterdam and Weesp

Jul 23, 2024 01:30 AM
Boats docked near a crowded urban area in Bangladesh

Travel Risks in Bangladesh: Recommendations from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Dhaka

Jul 23, 2024 00:05 AM

Planning Your Perfect Trip to Jutland, Denmark's Scenic Lake District

Jul 22, 2024 23:30 PM

Travel Alert: Reconsider Egypt Travel Amid Heightened Risks

Jul 22, 2024 22:30 PM
oyster dish

15 Seafood Specialties Worth Traveling For

Jul 22, 2024 21:30 PM
Colca Canyon, Chivay, Peru

Peru's First Tented Camp Opens in Colca Canyon: A Unique Adventure Awaits

Jul 22, 2024 20:30 PM
John Wayne Airport, California, USA

Why Takeoffs from California's John Wayne Airport Keep Passengers on Edge

Jul 22, 2024 19:30 PM
Scenic view of boats docked by coastal houses in Majorca

Protests in Spain Over the Influx of Tourists

Jul 22, 2024 18:30 PM
a group of people walking through an airport

Stabbing Incident at Miami Airport Leaves Woman in Critical Condition

Jul 22, 2024 17:40 PM

Free Parking and Bus Travel in Stratford-upon-Avon: A Boon for Travelers

Jul 22, 2024 14:30 PM

New "Sunset Shuttle" Service Launches in Swanage

Jul 22, 2024 12:30 PM
Boats on a calm sea with mountainous background in Marmaris, Turkey

Tragedy Strikes Off the Coast of Marmaris: Yacht "Eagles" Catches Fire

Jul 22, 2024 10:30 AM
Ryanair aircraft parked on the tarmac with visible engine

Emergency Landing Diverts Ryanair Flight to Dublin

Jul 22, 2024 08:30 AM
Blue bus passing by lush green and yellow trees in an urban park setting

New Weekend Bus Service Opens Gateway to Peterborough's Ferry Meadows for Travelers

Jul 22, 2024 06:30 AM
Railroad tracks and platform with moss, surrounded by trees

Vermont Unveils Longest Rail Trail in New England, Now Open for Adventure

Jul 22, 2024 04:30 AM

Paris Mayor Swims in Seine to Prove Water Cleanliness for Olympics

Jul 22, 2024 02:30 AM

Essential Advice for British Nationals Visiting Thailand

Jul 22, 2024 00:05 AM
Passengers waiting at the airport after flight cancellations

Airlines Struggle to Recover from Major IT Outage

Jul 21, 2024 22:30 PM
Close-up of a white llama's head

Emotional Support Llamas Delight Travelers at Portland Airport

Jul 21, 2024 20:30 PM
Night scene at a busy tram stop in Manchester with people crossing the street and a bus on the left

24-Hour Transport Service Enhances Night Travel in Greater Manchester

Jul 21, 2024 18:30 PM
A vintage steam train traveling through scenic countryside

Summer Memory Train 2024 Brings Joy and Connection to Travelers

Jul 21, 2024 16:30 PM
A tube train illuminated at night in a modern Uxbridge station

Experience History with the Return of the 1938 Art Deco Tube Train

Jul 21, 2024 14:30 PM

The Aerial is an all-inclusive luxury resort in the British Virgin Islands, from its unique approach to wellness to its charitable missions

Jul 21, 2024 13:11 PM

SS United States Conservancy Seeks Extension for Ocean Liner Relocation, Offering More Summer Tours

Jul 21, 2024 12:30 PM
Yesnaby Castle sea stack on Orkney cliffs

2025 Island Games: A Grand Sporting Event in Orkney

Jul 21, 2024 10:30 AM
The best resorts in South Carolina, from rustic mini hotels to beachfront boutique hotels and luxury resort spas

The best resorts in South Carolina, from rustic mini hotels to beachfront boutique hotels and luxury resort spas

Jul 21, 2024 09:11 AM