Where to See Puffins in the UK

A close-up view of a puffin standing on a grassy verge in the UK

Nicknamed the ‘clowns of the sea‘, puffins are incredibly popular seabirds, known for their striking appearance and comical behaviour. If you’re a bird watcher, nature lover, or simply want to know the best places to see puffins in the UK, you’re in for a treat. The UK is home to several stunning locations where you can observe puffins in their natural habitat, from remote islands off the coast of Scotland and Wales to the rugged cliffs along the coastlines of England and Northern Ireland. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the top destinations to see puffins in the UK, providing you with insider tips and inspiration for your next birdwatching adventure. So grab your binoculars, put on your hiking boots, and let’s get ready to find puffins in some of the most breathtaking locations the UK has to offer!

Skomer Island, Wales

Skomer Island, located off the coast of Wales, is a renowned wildlife haven known for its puffin colonies and beautiful scenery. With its rugged cliffs, stunning beaches, and diverse birdlife, Skomer Island is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and a popular destination for birdwatching and photography.

Puffin in the grass on Skomer

Seeing puffins on Skomer is a truly magical experience. As you approach the island by boat, you’ll be greeted by stunning coastal cliffs and bright green vegetation, and the distinctive sight of puffins soaring above. Once you step foot on the island, you’ll have the opportunity to walk along the rugged trails, leading you to puffin nesting sites where you can see puffins as they fish, feed and greet each other.

When to go: Typically from April to August, when the island is accessible to visitors and the wildlife is most active.

How to get there: Boat transfers to the island are available from Martin’s Haven.

Farne Islands, England

The Farne Islands, situated off the Northumberland coast in England, are a group of rocky isles known for their vibrant bird populations, including puffins, guillemots, and terns. The islands are also home to one of the largest grey seal colonies in England, making them a popular destination for wildlife lovers and photographers alike.

A group of puffins on the cliffs on the Farne Islands

Encountering puffins on the Farne Islands is a truly awe-inspiring experience. As you approach the islands by boat, you’ll be met with a cacophony of seabird calls and the unmistakable sight of puffins perched on the rocky shores. You’ll be able to witness these charismatic birds in action, as they take flight with impressive wingbeats, dive into the sea in search of food, and interact with each other in their bustling colonies. 

When to go: Typically from May to July, when the weather is mild and the bird colonies are at their peak activity.

How to get there: Boat tours are available from Seahouses.

Handa Island, Scotland

Handa Island, located off the northwest coast of Scotland, is a remote and rugged island known for its rich biodiversity and stunning coastal scenery. Home to one of the largest seabird colonies in Europe, including puffins, guillemots, and razorbills, Handa Island is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts seeking an unspoiled wilderness experience.

A seabird on Handa Island

Spotting puffins on Handa Island, a remote and uninhabited island off the northwest coast of Scotland, is a remarkable adventure for wildlife enthusiasts. On the journey over from the mainland, you’ll be treated to breathtaking coastal scenery that only continues as you step foot on the island. Walking along the cliff edges, you may catch sight of puffins perched on rocky ledges or flying gracefully through the air. The island’s grassy slopes and rugged cliffs provide ideal nesting sites for puffins, and you may even be lucky enough to observe these charming birds up close as they tend to their burrows or interact with each other. 

When to go: During the summer months of May to August, when the island is open to visitors and the puffins are most active.

How to get there: Limited ferry trips are available to Handa Island from Tarbet Pier.

Bempton Cliffs, England

Bempton Cliffs, found on the Yorkshire coast in England, is a renowned nature reserve known for its stunning chalk cliffs and large colonies of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes. With thousands of birds nesting and soaring above the cliffs in the summer months, Bempton Cliffs offer a unique opportunity to witness the beauty of seabirds in their natural habitat.

The beautiful Bempton Cliffs in the UK

As well as panoramic views of the North Sea, the cliffs offer the opportunity to observe puffins as they gather to nest and raise their young. You may see them perched on the cliff ledges, flying in and out of their burrows, or diving into the sea to catch fish to bring back to their pufflings. The sight and sound of these charismatic seabirds going about their daily activities against the stunning backdrop of the cliffs and sea is a truly beautiful sight.

When to go: The cliffs offer excellent vantage points to observe puffins during the breeding season, which usually runs from April to July.

How to get there: The Bempton Cliffs nature reserve is easily reachable by car. Alternatively, you can take a train to the nearby town of Bridlington and then transfer to a local bus or taxi to reach the Bempton Cliffs.

Staffa, Scotland

Staffa Island, located in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, is a unique and mesmerising destination known for its stunning basalt column formations, including the famous Fingal’s Cave. Staffa offers visitors a chance to marvel at its otherworldly landscape, observe wildlife, including puffins, during the summer months, and experience the dramatic beauty of this remote and rugged island.

Four puffins overlooking the cliff edge on Staffa Island, UK

As you approach Staffa, you may spot puffins perched on the cliffs or flying low over the water. Landing on the island, you’ll have the opportunity to see puffins up close as they go about their daily activities. You may witness them nesting in crevices, socialising with each other, or taking flight to find food out at sea.

The island offers a rare chance to see these charming seabirds in such a unique and stunning location, making Staffa a truly unforgettable adventure for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

When to go: The best time to visit Staffa to see puffins is during the summer months of May to August. This is when puffins arrive on Staffa to breed and raise their chicks.

How to get there: Staffa can be reached via ferry or boat tour from nearby ports, such as Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull or Oban on the mainland of Scotland. Tour operators also offer guided tours to Staffa during the summer months.

Lunga, Scotland

Lunga, a remote and unspoiled island in the Treshnish Isles of Scotland, is known for its rich birdlife and stunning natural scenery. Visitors to the island can see colonies of seabirds including puffins, razorbills and guillemots up close, making it a popular destination for birdwatching and nature enthusiasts.

Hundreds of puffins on the grassy cliffs of Lunga Island, Scotland

As you approach Lunga by boat, you’ll be treated to views of the stunning coastal cliffs and the island’s pristine wilderness. Then, as you explore the island during the summer months, make the most of the opportunity to observe a thriving population of puffins. You may see them perched on the cliffs, tending to their burrows, or diving into the sea in search of fish. 

When to go: The best time to visit Lunga Island is typically during the summer months of May to August. During this time, the puffins are nesting and breeding.

How to get there: Boat tours to Lunga are available from the Isle of Mull.

Isle of May, Scotland

The Isle of May, located in the Firth of Forth in Scotland, is a small and remote island known for its rich wildlife population, including seabirds such as puffins, guillemots, and kittiwakes, as well as seals and dolphins. The island is a designated nature reserve and offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe and appreciate the diverse and thriving ecosystem of this remote island.

Puffins perched on the rocks of Isle of May, UK

The Isle of May is renowned for being home to one of the largest puffin colonies in the UK, with thousands of these adorable seabirds making their home on the island during the breeding season. You may see them perched on the cliffs, tending to their burrows, or interacting with each other in their bustling colonies. 

When to go: Typically during the summer months of May to August, when puffins come to the island to breed and raise their chicks.

How to get there: Several tour operators offer boat trips to the Isle of May from ports such as Anstruther, North Berwick and Crail.

Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Rathlin Island, located off the coast of Northern Ireland, is a beautiful and remote island known for its stunning coastal landscapes, rich animal population, and unique cultural heritage. The island offers visitors opportunities for scenic walks, wildlife viewing, and immersing in the island’s history and traditions, making it a unique and memorable destination to explore.

The cliffs of Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Rathlin Island is known for its thriving population of puffins, with the island being one of the few places in Northern Ireland where these charismatic seabirds can be observed up close. Visitors to Rathlin Island may have the chance to witness puffins during the breeding season from April to August, as they nest and raise their chicks in burrows along the island’s cliffs, providing a delightful spectacle for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike.

When to go: Puffin viewing on Rathlin Island is at its peak during the breeding season in spring and early summer.

How to get there: Rathlin Island, located off the coast of Northern Ireland, is accessible by ferry from the two main ports of Ballycastle and Cushendun.

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In conclusion, the UK is home to several remarkable destinations where you can witness puffins in their natural habitat, providing you with unforgettable wildlife encounters and cherished memories. From the remote Skomer Island in Wales to the picturesque Farne Islands in England, the stunning Handa Island in Scotland, and the rugged Bempton Cliffs in England, each location offers its own unique charm and opportunities for observing these beloved seabirds up close.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher, a nature enthusiast, or simply have a soft spot for puffins, these top places to see puffins in the UK are a must-visit for any wildlife lover. Happy puffin-spotting!

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