North Coast 500: A day trip to Handa Island

As part of day 2 of our Scottish Road trip (full day 2 blog post to follow) we took a ferry over to Handa Island to explore. We loved our time there so much I decided it was worth doing a post devoted to the island.

Scotland is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, and the beach you land on when you arrive at Handa Island rivals many of the best. It has the softest, whitest sand along with the clearest, bluest sea! Add to that sand dunes that rise up and shelter the coves and it really is simply stunning!

The illusion is soon shattered when you try to paddle in the sea though. It. is. FREEZING!

I was determined to get a photo of me paddling in the luscious blue waters so I could fool my friends at home into thinking we’d gone somewhere exotic (it worked!), but I couldn’t stand to be in the water for more than 10 seconds at a time. Cue my husband thinking it was funny to pretend to take the photo so I had to keep getting back into the icy water. Whilst it may not rival the Caribbean for the warm waters, you have to agree with me that it certainly does give it a run for its money in terms of beauty.


Seriously…. that is Scotland!!! Scotland!!!

Beaches aside, Handa Island is definitely worth a trip across to. To get the ferry (though for ferry read small boat) that takes you across head to Tarbot. It’s quite hard to find, you have to go about 3 miles down a single track road to a tiny cove. Once there, you buy tickets from the shed (£12.50 return for adults) and hop into the waiting boat. The last ferry across is at 2pm, and the last return ferry is at 4:15pm. Unfortunately we didn’t know how much we were going to love Handa Island and only got the boat across at 2pm which didn’t give us as much time to explore as we wanted.

Handa Island is a nature reserve run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, there are no people living on the island (though the volunteers do stay there for a few months at a time), and the whole island is a dedicated bird sanctuary, and home to over 100,000 seabirds, including puffins (!), razor bills and guillemots.

When we arrived our group were taken to a small hut where one of the Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteers told us a bit about the history of the Island, the wildlife there and told us about the rules they ask all visitors to follow (stay on the paths, no littering, don’t take anything or leave anything). We also got warned that some birds may try to dive bomb us as they tried to protect their nests! Apparently they don’t actually hit people but they do hover menacingly over your head (trust me, it is intimidating. One took a disliking to me and hovered above me for a good 2 minutes before he decided I’d gone far enough away).

Introduction done we made out way through the paths and looked out for birds.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do the full 6km loop of the Island due to our arrival time. We probably could have done it at a push, but we wanted to stop and enjoy the scenery and see the birds. Instead we did a there and back to a great stack at the top of the Island, where we saw puffins and guillemots nesting. After enjoying our picnic we sat for a while watching the birds, wishing we had binoculars (a rookie error. There are some to rent but these had all gone by the time we got there). It was beautiful.

We headed back in time for the last boat, both a little sunburnt, but both having fallen in love with the place. I’d love to go back with more time and a decent pair of binoculars. I never thought I’d be a birdwatcher, but Handa Island may have changed me!


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