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5 places for puffin spotting in Scotland

VisitScotlandAngelaVisitScotlandAngela Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
edited April 2021 in General Discussion

Don’t you just love puffins!?  With their quirky character and distinctive rainbow coloured bill, you can’t help but fall in love with these iconic wee seabirds.  Luckily for us, Altlantic puffins love our Scottish coastline and spend the breeding season setting up home in the grassy clifftops and rocky islands around Scotland.  There’s a good change of spotting these stunning seabirds from the end of March onwards, before they head back out to sea around the end of August.  Check out these five locations in Scotland that are perfect for puffin spotting:

Dunnet Head

Puffins © VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins

The wild and untamed coastline of Caithness is the perfect breeding ground for puffins and the RSPB Scotland Dunnet Head National Nature Reserve is a great place to view these comical wee characters.  Follow the steep and challenging coastal path to Britain’s most northerly point to catch a glimpse of puffins nesting in the dramatic sandstone cliffs and grassy slopes.

Bullers of Buchan

Bullers of Buchan © VisitScotland / North East 250 / Damian Shields

Grab your binoculars and follow the dramatic coastal path from Cruden Bay to the Bullers of Buchan, taking in Slains Castle along the way.   The spectacular natural arch on the rugged coastline is a favourite nesting spot for puffins on the north east coast. 

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Puffins on the Isle of May © VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

Located 5 miles off the Fife shore at the entrance to the Forth Estuary, the Isle of May is home to the biggest colony of puffins on the east coast of Scotland with up to 90,000 puffins nesting on the rocky cliffs during the summer months.  Boat trips to the island operate from Anstruther and The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick where you can also watch puffins in their natural habitat on the interactive live video cameras.

Isle of Staffa

Isle of Staffa © VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

Puffins love the Isle of Staffa and who could blame them!?  This little island is located just off the coast of Mull and the steep grassy slopes are perfect for puffins to make their burrows.  Staffa also has some spectacular geological features including stacks of hexagonal columns which are reminiscent of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and Fingal’s Cave; the inspiration for Mendelssohn’s Hebridean Overture.  Boat trips to the island depart from both Oban and Mull.

 St Kilda World Heritage Site

Puffin © VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins

With its dramatic rocky landscape and spectacular sea stacks, St Kilda is a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site situated around 50 miles off the west coast of the Scotland in the choppy Atlantic Ocean.  With the highest sea cliffs in Britain, the island is one of the best locations to observe puffins, after all, it is home to the largest colony of puffins in the UK.  In fact, almost one million seabirds inhabit the island…how amazing is that!  A trip to this ancient archipelago is not for the feint hearted, however if you are brave enough to embrace the choppy waters there are plenty of excursions available to visit ‘the island at the edge of the world’.


  • Dunnet head - I have been there some years back , the most northerly point in mainland Britain, it has stunning sea cliffs and coastal grassland.
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