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How To Get to Staffa To See Puffins

how to get to staffa to see the staffa puffins

Wild, windswept, and wonderful – Staffa is one of the most delightful Scottish Islands I’ve visited. If you’re wondering how to get to Staffa to see the puffins that nest there – it’s a lot easier than you think. In this guide, I’m sharing the history of the island, my tips for visiting, and how to plan your perfect trip to Staffa.

Welcome to one of the wildest islands off Scotland’s coast! Home to comical puffins, otherworldly rock formations, and mysterious sea caves, the trip to Staffa is worth the journey.

This tiny island is only 1/2 a mile long, and 1/4 mile wide, and you can easily explore it in just a couple of hours. There’s something I love about small, wild islands; maybe it’s because they can be explored easily, or because when you’re on a tiny remote island it forces you to slow down.

Whatever reason, there is something magical about Staffa and I encourage you to visit the ‘pillar island’.

I visited Staffa while on my 3-Day tour to Mull and Iona with Rabbies. The trip to Staffa was optional, but how could I pass up seeing puffins and the legendary Fingal’s Cave?

basalt rock formations on staffa

How to get to Staffa

Staffa is located off the west coast of Scotland, tangled between many Scottish islands. It lies in the North Atlantic sea around 7 miles off the west coast of Mull and 6 miles north of Iona.

Staffa is a popular island to visit for anyone visiting Mull and to get to Staffa you often have to go via Mull.

Staffa, with Fingal’s Cave to the right of the photo

In fact, you can easily have an island hopping adventure and visit Mull, Iona, Ulva, the Treshnish Isles, and Staffa, because all the islands are located closely together.

There are several boat tours that depart from different destinations to reach Staffa.

Map of Staffa and surrounding islands

How to reach Staffa from Mull

Staffa Trips, Staffa Tours and Turus Mara all provide tours from the Isle of Mull to Staffa

  • Staffa Trips departs from Fionnphort (£30 adult return).
  • Staffa Tours departs from Tobermory (from £55 adult return) or Fionnphort (£30 adult return).
  • Turus Mara departs from Oskamull (the ferry port to Ulva) and costs £35 return per adult.

You can book your tickets on their websites.

How to get to Staffa from Iona

You can also catch a ferry from the island of Iona to Staffa. This is a popular option for anyone who wants to also explore Iona, before the journey to Staffa. 

  • Staffa Trips and Staffa Tours are the two main companies that offer tours departing from Iona. Both cost £30 for one adult return.

How to get to Staffa from Edinburgh or Glasgow

The best way to get to Staffa from Edinburgh or Glasgow is by driving to Oban and catching the CalMac ferry across to Mull and catching a ferry tour from there. Or you can do what I did and book a guided tour that departs from one of these cities.

I highly recommend Rabbies. I did the 3-Day tour to Mull and Iona departing from Glasgow. Staffa was an option to add, and I had to pay for my ferry ticket with Staffa Trips additionally, which cost £30.

rabbies mull and iona tour
The Mull, Iona and Staffa tour with Rabbies

What I love about this tour with Rabbies was they organised everything for you. It was an easy way to experience these three islands without the hassle of planning multiple ferry times. My 3-day tour was also a very reasonable price, and I got to experience many other things on this tour. 

It made visiting Mull, Iona, and Staffa super easy!

The Journey To Staffa

Staffa Trips (who I visited Staffa with) can fit 40 people on their ferry. The journey from Fionnphort took 45 minutes, passing along the breathtaking mountainous scenery of the west coast of Mull.

Our guides told us to look out for wildlife as we sailed north – wild animals you have the opportunity to spot from the ferry include:

  • Dolphins
  • Otters
  • Seals (usually bathing on the smaller islands)
  • Minke whale (if you’re lucky!)

There are also many different types of seabirds you can spot, including:

  • Cormorants
  • Guillemots
  • Razorbills
  • Black Guillemots
  • Shearwaters
  • Fulmars
  • Gannets
  • Eiders
  • Turnstones
  • Arctic Terns
  • Great Skua

Most tours will pass by the towering basalt caves, including the Boat Cave and Fingal’s Cave, so you have the chance to see what they look like from the sea.

Ferries and boats land on Staffa near Am Buachaille, a tidal islet on the southeast side of the island which is surrounded by stunning curved basalt columns. 

>> Read more: Best Birdwatching Sites in Scotland

Where To See The Isle of Staffa Puffins

Staffa provides a home to nesting puffins from May to the end of August.

The best place to see the Staffa puffins is on the east side of the island. Once you disembark the ferry you will walk up a steep staircase that rises above Clamshell Cave. The staircase contains around 40 steps, and listen out for the eerie calls of shags from their nests within the cave. 

When you reach the top, follow the path to the right to walk anticlockwise around the island. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the Staffa puffins – you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see a pink marker (a buoy).

Sit down, relax and wait for the puffins to appear on the cliff! They are friendly, curious birds, and when they see humans around they will come up to say hello from a safe distance. 

You will see the puffins dip into small holes in the side of the cliff, where their nests are located. Keep an eye out for puffins carrying small fish in their beaks to take to their pufflings.

I could have easily laid by the cliffs watching these comical birds all day, but we only had 1.5 hours to explore the island, so I begrudgingly walked back to the ferry.

Visiting Fingal’s Cave on Staffa

Fingals Cave, as viewed from the ferry

Fingal’s Cave is a sea cave and designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It’s distinguishable by the tall, black columns of basalt rock that look so carefully crafted you might believe they were carved by Gods. 

Thomas Pennant, a Welsh naturalist and writer at the time, wrote when he visited Staffa: ‘’Compared to this, what are the cathedrals and places built by men?’’

Some of the basalt columns are curved and twisted into dramatic formations, If you look down at the columns you’ll notice they are the shape of a hexagon.

The same volcanic activity is what formed the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

The cave is named after legendary Irish hero Fhinn McCoul (known as Fingal in Scotland), who is said to have defended the Hebrides from Viking raids during the 3rd century. 

Interestingly, it’s unknown if he ever visited the cave on Staffa that was named in his honour!

There are also several other caves on Staffa. There’s the Boat Cave, McKinnon’s Cave (or Cormorants Cave), located on the west side of the island. The west side is harder to access by boat.

Tips For Visiting Staffa

how to get to staffa to see the staffa puffins
  • Puffins nest on Staffa from late April to early August. Make sure you plan to visit within this timeframe if you want to see puffins.
  • Bring a warm, waterproof jacket with you. It can get windy on Staffa.
  • Bring a pair of binoculars with you. This will make wildlife spotting from the ferry and from the island a whole lot easier!
  • Don’t get too close to the puffin’s nests- it’s easy to accidentally step on a nest and cause damage.

Do you have a question about visiting Staffa? Pop it below and I’ll do my best to answer it for you!

KAREN KAPLANSKY

Sunday 24th of July 2022

Will Staffa be closed by 8/15? We will be in oban for two days third week in August.

Yvette Webster

Tuesday 26th of July 2022

I wouldn't think so, but the puffins might be gone by then. The best place to check would be with Staffa Tours or Staffa Trips. Best of luck!