Thursday, May 23, 2024

The UK’s best places to spot puffins

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Six of the UK’s best places to spot puffins

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

Together with its neighbour, Skokholm Island, Skomer has a large breeding puffin colony – numbering 42,500 at the last count, in March. The exposed headlands and towering offshore rocks make it a haven for all burrow-nesting birds, so visitors walk on designated paths to avoid damaging the intricate tunnels just underneath the surface. You can even stay overnight at a three-star hostel run by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

Tŷ Hotel in Mitford Waterfront (01646 400810; has doubles from £100.

The Farne Islands, Northumberland

Sir David Attenborough’s favourite place in the UK for wildlife-spotting lies a couple of miles off the coast from the fishing village of Seahouses. As well as its large puffin population there are razorbills, guillemots and seals. You can visit the National Trust-owned site or take boat trips around it.

Beadnell Towers Hotel (01665 721211; has doubles from £183.

Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Here you can find Northern Ireland’s largest seabird colony, including hundreds of pairs of puffins. A ferry from Ballycastle takes visitors the six-mile journey to Rathlin, followed by a bus to the RSPB Seabird Centre which is by an “upside-down” lighthouse, a feat of engineering that has the light at the bottom to cut through the fog.

Glass Island Boutique B&B (07800 889863; has doubles from £146.

The Isle of May, Scotland

Situated in the mouth of the Firth of Forth, boat trips to the Isle of May depart from Anstruther in Fife and North Berwick in East Lothian. In early summer the cliffs are alive with the spectacular sights and sounds of seabirds and puffins entering and leaving their burrows. 

The Bank in Anstruther (01333 310189; has doubles from £110.

Sumburgh Head, Shetland

With steep cliffs, a historic lighthouse, and cacophonous seabird colonies – the RSPB site of Sumburgh ticks a lot of boxes. As well as puffins, there’s also a high chance of seeing minke whales, orcas and dolphins. In the winter when the puffins have long gone, it’s also the best place in Britain to see the Northern Lights.

Sumburgh Hotel (01950 460201; has doubles from £140.

Flamborough Cliffs, East Yorkshire

Just a stroll along from Bempton Cliffs, these eroding chalk caves, holes and stacks provide the perfect backdrop for breeding puffins, auks, gannets and gulls. The chalk grassland is also rich in wild flowers which attract a host of butterflies and unusual moths.

Flamborough Manor (01262 850943; has doubles from £125.

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