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How To See Puffins In The Treshnish Isles Of Scotland


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Codee Nissen



Welcome to the mesmerizing world of the Treshnish Isles, located off the western coast of Scotland. This archipelago is a hidden gem, adorned with breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and an abundance of wildlife. Amongst the most coveted inhabitants of these Isles are the charming and charismatic puffins.


Puffins, with their distinctive black and white plumage, clown-like beaks, and vibrant orange feet, are a beloved symbol of Scotland’s wildlife. These delightful seabirds have captured the hearts of nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike. The Treshnish Isles provide a unique opportunity to witness these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.


Whether you are a seasoned birdwatcher or simply have a deep appreciation for nature’s wonders, a trip to the Treshnish Isles is an experience like no other. With their secluded bays, dramatic cliffs, and diverse wildlife, these islands offer a haven for those seeking the tranquility and beauty of the Scottish wilderness.


Join us as we embark on a journey to discover the captivating world of puffins in the Treshnish Isles. From the best time to visit, how to get there, where to stay, and tips for puffin watching, we will provide you with all the essential information to plan an unforgettable adventure.


About the Treshnish Isles

The Treshnish Isles is a cluster of uninhabited islands situated in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. These picturesque isles are characterized by rugged coastlines, towering cliffs, and stunning panoramic views of the surrounding sea. The main islands of the archipelago include Lunga, Staffa, Bac Mòr, Cairn na Burgh Mòr, Cairn na Burgh Beag, and Fladda.


Stepping foot on the Treshnish Isles feels like entering a world untouched by time. The islands are rich in archaeological remains, with ancient structures and burial sites dating back to the Iron Age. Exploring the rocky landscapes, you’ll discover a myriad of geological formations, from striking basalt columns to hidden caves and natural arches.


One of the main attractions of the Treshnish Isles is their diverse and abundant wildlife. The islands are home to a variety of seabird colonies, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and fulmars. The cliffs and grassy slopes serve as an ideal nesting ground for these fascinating creatures, offering visitors an up-close encounter with their enchanting behaviors.


Aside from the puffins, the Treshnish Isles also harbor a range of other wildlife. Keep an eye out for seals basking on the rocky shores, otters playing in the coastal waters, and even the occasional glimpse of golden eagles soaring above the island peaks. This unique ecosystem showcases the natural beauty and biodiversity that Scotland has to offer.


Preserving the delicate balance of the Treshnish Isles’ ecosystems is of utmost importance. The area is designated as a Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, ensuring the conservation of its wildlife and habitats. Visitors are encouraged to follow the principles of responsible tourism and to respect the natural environment during their stay.


Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Treshnish Isles to see puffins is during the summer months, specifically from May to August. This is the breeding season for puffins, and the islands become a bustling hub of activity as these charming birds return to their nesting grounds.


May is an excellent time to witness the arrival of puffins to the Treshnish Isles. The sight of these seabirds returning from their winter migration is a true spectacle, as they fly gracefully across the clear blue skies. During this time, the islands are adorned with vibrant vegetation and colorful wildflowers, creating a picturesque backdrop for your puffin-watching expedition.


June and July are considered the peak times for puffin visits. By this time, the puffins have settled into their nesting colonies, and you can witness their fascinating behaviors up close. From courtship displays to nest building and feeding their fluffy chick, observing puffins during these months offers a captivating glimpse into their breeding cycle.


August marks the end of the puffin breeding season, and it is a great time to catch the last glimpses of these charismatic birds before they depart for their winter migration. During this time, you may also encounter puffins engaging in “rafting,” where groups of them float together on the sea’s surface, forming a delightful congregation.


It’s important to note that the weather in Scotland can be unpredictable, and the Treshnish Isles are no exception. It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast and plan your visit accordingly. Remember to dress in layers, as the climate can change throughout the day, and bring waterproof clothing to stay dry in case of rain.


Overall, the summer months offer the best opportunities to witness puffins in their natural habitat on the Treshnish Isles. Remember to bring your binoculars and camera to capture the magical moments as these delightful birds grace the skies and cliffs of this enchanting archipelago.


Getting to the Treshnish Isles

Reaching the Treshnish Isles is an adventure in itself, as these remote islands offer a sense of seclusion and tranquility that is hard to find elsewhere. While there is no direct transportation to the Treshnish Isles, there are several options to get you as close as possible to these enchanting islands.


The easiest way to reach the Treshnish Isles is by taking a boat trip from the town of Oban, located on the west coast of Scotland. Oban serves as a gateway to the Inner Hebrides, and numerous boat tours operate from here during the summer months. These tours usually include visits to other neighboring islands like Staffa and the Isle of Mull, providing a comprehensive experience of the area’s natural wonders.


Another option is to hire a private boat charter, if you prefer a more personalized and flexible experience. This allows you to tailor your itinerary and spend more time exploring the Treshnish Isles at your own pace. There are several boat charter companies operating in the area, offering a range of vessels and services to suit your needs.


Once you arrive on the Treshnish Isles, it’s important to note that there are no landing facilities or jetties. Visitors are typically brought close to the shore on small boats, where you will need to carefully step onto the rocks or use a small inflatable boat to access the islands. It’s essential to follow the instructions of the boat operators and be mindful of the rocky terrain.


Due to the remote location and limited accessibility of the Treshnish Isles, it’s advisable to plan your trip in advance and check for any updates or changes to boat schedules. It’s also recommended to book your boat tour or charter well in advance, especially during the peak summer months when demand is high.


Remember to come prepared for your boat trip to the Treshnish Isles. Bring appropriate clothing, including waterproof layers and sturdy footwear, as the weather conditions can change quickly and the terrain can be uneven. Additionally, pack any necessary supplies, such as food, water, and sunscreen, as there are no facilities or amenities on the islands.


Embarking on a journey to the Treshnish Isles is an unforgettable experience, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and serenity of these remote islands.


Accommodation Options

Although the Treshnish Isles themselves do not offer any accommodation options, there are several choices available on the nearby Isle of Mull, which serves as a convenient base for exploring the archipelago. Here are some accommodation options to consider:

  • Hotels and Inns: The Isle of Mull is home to a range of hotels and inns that cater to different budgets and preferences. From cozy family-run establishments to luxury boutique hotels, you’ll find options that suit your needs. Many of these accommodations offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and provide a comfortable base for your Treshnish Isles adventure.
  • Bed and Breakfasts: Bed and breakfast establishments are a popular choice on the Isle of Mull, offering a warm and personalized experience. These accommodations often provide comfortable rooms and hearty Scottish breakfasts to start your day off right. They are a great option for those who prefer a more intimate and localized stay.
  • Self-Catering Cottages: If you prefer a home-away-from-home experience, consider renting a self-catering cottage on the Isle of Mull. These cottages provide all the amenities and privacy you need, allowing you to relax and unwind after a day of exploring the Treshnish Isles. Many options are available, ranging from charming traditional cottages to modern eco-friendly accommodations.
  • Campsites and Caravan Parks: For those who enjoy the outdoors and prefer a more adventurous experience, camping or staying in a caravan park might be the ideal choice. There are several campsites and caravan parks available on the Isle of Mull, offering amenities such as shower facilities and electricity hook-ups. Wake up surrounded by nature and enjoy the beauty of the Scottish countryside.

When choosing your accommodation, consider factors such as location, proximity to the Treshnish Isles, and the amenities offered. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during the peak summer months, to secure your preferred choice.


Regardless of your accommodation choice, you’ll have the opportunity to sample the renowned Scottish hospitality and immerse yourself in the unique charm of the Isle of Mull. From enjoying local cuisine to exploring the quaint villages and picturesque landscapes, your stay on the Isle of Mull will complement your Treshnish Isles adventure.


Puffin Watching Tips

Observing puffins in their natural habitat on the Treshnish Isles is an incredible experience. To make the most of your puffin watching adventure, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Timing is Key: Visit the Treshnish Isles during the breeding season, which spans from May to August, for the best chances of seeing puffins. During this time, the puffins are actively nesting and caring for their chicks, providing great opportunities for observation.
  • Respect Their Space: When approaching puffin colonies, keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing their nesting sites. Puffins can be sensitive to human presence, so it’s important to respect their habitat and minimize any potential stress you may cause.
  • Binoculars and Cameras: Bring a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at the puffins and their behaviors. This will enhance the overall experience and allow you to appreciate their intricate details. Additionally, pack a camera with a zoom lens to capture stunning photos of these charismatic birds.
  • Patience and Observation: Puffins are agile and fast flyers, so it’s important to be patient and observe their movements. Watch for their distinctive flight patterns and look for signs of their presence, such as burrows or groups of puffins congregated near the cliffs. Take your time to fully immerse yourself in their captivating world.
  • Be Mindful of the Weather: The Scottish weather can be unpredictable, so come prepared with appropriate clothing and waterproof outer layers. Even on a cloudy or misty day, puffins continue their activities, creating a mystical atmosphere for observation.
  • Follow Conservation Guidelines: The Treshnish Isles are protected areas, and it’s crucial to respect the guidelines set for wildlife conservation. Avoid trampling on vegetation, disposing of waste responsibly, and leaving only footprints behind.
  • Learn from Local Guides: Consider joining a guided tour led by knowledgeable local guides. They have deep insights into the area’s wildlife and can provide valuable information on puffins and other species you may encounter. They can also ensure that you follow ethical practices when observing wildlife.

Remember that observing puffins in their natural habitat is a privilege. By practicing responsible and respectful wildlife watching, you can help preserve these wonderful creatures and their habitats for generations to come.


Other Wildlife to Spot

While puffins undoubtedly steal the spotlight on the Treshnish Isles, there is an abundance of other fascinating wildlife waiting to be discovered during your visit. Keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky enough to spot these incredible creatures:

  • Seals: The waters around the Treshnish Isles are home to a thriving seal population. Look out for both common seals and grey seals as they bask on the rocky shores or swim gracefully in the surrounding sea. Their playful antics and soulful eyes make for delightful sightings.
  • Otters: With their sleek bodies and whiskered faces, otters are a true delight to watch. The Treshnish Isles provide a suitable habitat for these elusive creatures, and you may catch a glimpse of them swimming or fishing along the coastline. Patience and a keen eye are essential when it comes to spotting otters.
  • Golden Eagles: The Treshnish Isles are also home to majestic golden eagles, which soar across the sky with grace and power. These impressive birds of prey often make their nests on the cliffs, and if you’re fortunate, you may witness their aerial displays or hear their distinctive calls echoing through the rugged landscapes.
  • Seabirds: Alongside puffins, the Treshnish Isles host a variety of other seabirds. Keep an eye out for razorbills, guillemots, and fulmars as they nest on the cliffs or dive into the sea. These seabird colonies create a cacophony of sights and sounds, providing a true feast for birdwatchers.
  • Whales and Dolphins: The waters surrounding the Treshnish Isles are frequented by various species of whales and dolphins. Keep a lookout for the distinctive blows of minke whales or the acrobatic leaps of dolphins. Boat tours often offer opportunities for whale watching, enhancing your chances of spotting these magnificent marine creatures.
  • Flora and Fauna: The Treshnish Isles are not just a haven for wildlife but also for unique flora and fauna. Look out for vibrant wildflowers, including sea campion and thrift, which adorn the rocky landscapes. Depending on the time of year, you may also witness the blooming of orchids and other native plant species.

Exploring the Treshnish Isles provides an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the diversity of Scotland’s wildlife. Every corner of these islands holds the potential for extraordinary encounters with the natural world.


Recommended Activities on the Isles

While the main highlight of visiting the Treshnish Isles is undoubtedly the opportunity to observe puffins and other wildlife, there are several other activities to make your trip even more memorable. Here are some recommended activities to enjoy during your time on the Isles:

  • Coastal Walks: Explore the rugged beauty of the Treshnish Isles through scenic coastal walks. From tranquil beaches to dramatic cliffs, these islands offer breathtaking views at every turn. Take in the fresh sea air and immerse yourself in the natural splendor surrounding you.
  • Photography Excursions: With its stunning landscapes and abundance of wildlife, the Treshnish Isles provide a perfect backdrop for photography enthusiasts. Capture the charm of puffins, the elegance of soaring eagles, or the captivating colors of the island scenery. Let your creativity flow as you document the raw beauty of this remote archipelago.
  • Boat Tours: Join a boat tour to further explore the Treshnish Isles and their surrounding waters. These tours allow you to witness the islands’ natural wonders from a different perspective, offering the chance to spot seals, dolphins, and even whales. Learn from knowledgeable guides who can provide insights into the area’s rich history and wildlife.
  • Sea Kayaking: Experience the thrill of paddling through the crystal-clear waters of the Treshnish Isles on a sea kayaking adventure. Glide along the coastlines, explore hidden coves, and get up close to the rock formations. This activity provides a unique perspective on the islands and allows for a more intimate connection to the marine environment.
  • Island Hopping: Extend your exploration beyond the Treshnish Isles by visiting neighboring islands such as Staffa or the Isle of Mull. Discover the famous Fingal’s Cave on Staffa, renowned for its stunning basalt columns, or explore the charming villages and diverse landscapes of Mull. Each island offers its own unique attractions and experiences.
  • Stargazing: The remote location of the Treshnish Isles makes it an ideal spot for stargazing. With minimal light pollution, the night sky opens up to a canvas of stars. On clear nights, marvel at the Milky Way overhead and witness the stunning display of constellations in this truly magical setting.

These activities provide a wonderful complement to your puffin watching adventures and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Treshnish Isles. Choose the activities that resonate with you and create lasting memories in this beautiful corner of Scotland.


Conservation Efforts for Puffins

Puffins are beloved icons of Scotland’s wildlife and are an essential part of the delicate coastal ecosystems. Recognizing the importance of safeguarding these charismatic birds, various conservation efforts have been implemented to protect the puffin populations and their habitats on the Treshnish Isles and beyond.


One of the primary conservation initiatives is the designation of protected areas, such as the Treshnish Isles’ Special Protection Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest. These designations ensure that the islands’ habitats and wildlife are preserved and managed in a sustainable and responsible manner. It restricts certain activities that may disturb puffins during their breeding season, ensuring their undisturbed nesting and feeding habitats.


The puffin conservation efforts also involve monitoring and research projects. Scientists and conservation organizations closely monitor puffin populations on the Treshnish Isles and other breeding colonies across Scotland. This monitoring includes tracking their numbers, studying their behaviors, and assessing potential threats they may face.


Education and public awareness play a crucial role in puffin conservation. Efforts are made to raise awareness about the importance of protecting these birds and their habitats. Educating the public about responsible puffin watching practices, such as maintaining a safe distance and avoiding disturbance, helps minimize human impact on their breeding grounds.


Collaboration and partnerships with local communities, businesses, and stakeholders are vital for effective conservation strategies. By engaging in dialogue with local communities and encouraging sustainable tourism practices, the long-term sustainability and welfare of puffins and their habitats can be ensured.


Additionally, measures are taken to address broader environmental challenges that impact puffins and their habitats. These include efforts to combat climate change, reduce pollution, and protect marine ecosystems. Promoting sustainable fishing practices and creating marine protected areas also contribute to the overall health and well-being of puffins and other marine species.


Participation in puffin conservation can extend beyond the conservation organizations and researchers. Visitors to the Treshnish Isles and other puffin colonies can contribute by practicing responsible tourism and adhering to guidelines for wildlife observation. Respecting puffins’ habitats and minimizing disturbance ensures their continued presence for generations to come.


By working together and taking proactive measures, we can help protect and preserve puffins and their unique habitats on the Treshnish Isles and beyond, ensuring that these enchanting birds continue to brighten our coastal landscapes for years to come.



The Treshnish Isles of Scotland offer a captivating escape into a world of natural beauty and wildlife. During the summer months, these remote islands become a haven for puffins and other fascinating creatures, providing a unique opportunity to witness their behaviors up close.


From the moment you set foot on the shores of the Treshnish Isles, you’ll be enchanted by their rugged cliffs, secluded beaches, and breathtaking landscapes. The archipelago’s conservation efforts ensure the preservation of these fragile ecosystems, allowing visitors to appreciate the rich biodiversity of the area while minimizing impact.


Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil retreat, the Treshnish Isles will leave you in awe. The fluffy charm of puffins, the majestic soar of golden eagles, and the playful presence of seals create an unforgettable experience.


But the Treshnish Isles offer more than just puffins. Explore the coastal walks, embark on boat tours, and engage in activities such as photography, sea kayaking, or stargazing. Immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of a truly remote and untouched corner of Scotland.


However, remember that responsible practices are essential when visiting the Treshnish Isles. Respect wildlife and their habitats, adhere to conservation guidelines, and leave only footprints behind. By doing so, we can ensure the sustained preservation and enjoyment of these captivating islands for future generations.


So, plan your trip, whether it’s a boat tour from Oban or a customized charter, and discover the magic of the Treshnish Isles. Let the sights, sounds, and wonders of puffins and the abundant wildlife leave an indelible imprint on your memories.


The Treshnish Isles are waiting to be explored, offering a remarkable experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for Scotland’s natural wonders.