The Treshnish & Puffin Island

08th June 2012
On Thursday morning it was time for our trip to the Treshnish Islands, we had made the same trip about six years earlier and I’ve wanted to return ever since. This is a must do trip for anyone who loves Puffins and there are quite a few other sea birds to see as well, including Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, possibly Skua, etc. And who knows what may turn up in the sea as well as on it.

The boat leaves Ulva Ferry at 11:30 and the trip costs £50/person. It takes around 45mins to reach the first destination Staffa and you have around an hour on the island. The boat then leaves Staffa for Lunga and you have 2hrs on this island to marvel at the Puffins. Many people don’t bother to move away from the Puffins as they are so enchanting.

Anyway our boat Hoy Lass left Ulva promptly at 11:30 but the boat didn’t appear to be full and most people sat on the top, even though the weather was overcast and windy.

We left Ulva heading south through the Sound of Ulva a narrow channel separating Mull and Ulva.

We then travelled round the southern tip of Ulva and even though there was a breeze and the sky still overcast the sea was relatively calm.

Leaving Ulva and Gometra we headed out towards our first destination the island of Staffa the southern most island of the Treshnish group of islands.


Leaving Ulva towards Staffa

Staffas' most famous feature is Fingals' Cave, a large sea cave located near the southern tip of the island some 20m high and 75m long formed in cliffs of hexagonal basalt columns. This cliff-face is called the Colonnade or The Great Face and it was these cliffs and its caves that inspired Felix Mendelssohns' Die Hebriden (English: Hebrides Overture opus 26). The original gaelic name for Fingals' Cave is An Uamh Bhin – "the melodious cave". Mendelssohn was inspired by the sound of the waves in the cave and waxed lyrical about his visit.

The skipper of the boat sailed the boat around to view Fingals Cave head on then with the precision of a surgeon manouvered the boat toward the darkness of the cave almost moving into it. Even though the skipper had probably done this manouver many times before, with the swell of the waves there wasn’t much room either side of the boat. I thought I could hear some music playing but I may have been imagining that.


Fingals' Cave

The boat then pulled back and sailed around to the tiny landing point passing Am Buachaille “The Herdsman” a pyrimidial shaped rock made up from the hexagonal basalt rock.


Am Buachaille “The Herdsman”

When you alight from the boat you can walk along the base of the cliffs to view Fingals Cave or walk up the narrow and steep steps to the cliff tops and wander around the island. The young and fit can do both but as we are neither fit or young we decided to climb to the top of the steps and take photographs from there. It also doesn’t help when you have brought too much gear with you!! We were quite content with that.


Thrift growing on the cliff



Southern coastline of Staffa

After our hour on the island was up the boat left Staffa leaving Fingals Cave and some of the other caves in our boats bubbling white wake.


Leaving Staffa - The Colonnade or "The Great Face"

On our way to Lunga we passed Bac Mor or “The Dutchmans Cap” on the port side and all the other islands that were visible were also pointed out including Iona and Coll.


Bac Beg on the left, Bac Mor or “The Dutchmans Cap on the right

During the trip plenty of seabirds including Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills and Shags, could be seen on the water.


Puffin


Puffins & Razorbill

Strangely while we were on the boat to Staffa the weather was dull and miserable but as soon as we reached the island the sun shone brightly, bringing everything to life.
This was repeated to and on Lunga.

There isn’t a proper landing stage at Lunga and the boat collects a floating pontoon which is then pushed onto the boulder and stone strewn shore. There isn’t any problem getting off the boat but traversing the boulders and stones on shore is a different kettle of fish. One older lady who had made the trip just couldn’t manage to walk over them and had to return to the boat. Once the shore has been negotiated there is a steepish unmade path up to the cliff top where the enchanting Puffins await you.


Landing on Lunga

Everyone has heard the phrase wall to wall carpet, this is wall to wall Puffin heaven!! A Pufffin metropolis, Puffins leaving, Puffins landing, going down holes, coming out of holes, you name it they were probably doing it!


Puffin peering down a hole


Puffin - going up?

It is very easy just to stay here and watch the activity but there are other birds to be seen and the walk up to the west side of the island is well worth doing. It is haowever probably a 20minute walk, it could be more as the path can be a little difficult to negotiate especially if you have a lot of gear with you!


Fulmars on nest


Shag preening

Tempus Fugit, 2hrs can pass very quickly and it did! Time to leave this little Puffin haven, I will return, such is the draw of these lovely little birds. Just I hope it’s not another six years.

The boat left Lunga heading towards Fladda with everyone discussing their experiences with the Puffins, I think everyone was happy.


Atlantic Grey Seals

Other than seeing a few Atlantic Grey Seals and a couple of fishing boats the return journey down Loch Tuath to Ulva Ferry was uneventful.


Mull fishing boat Jessica Louise in Loch Tuath

If you do decide to make this trip, you don’t need a long focal length lens a 100 – 400mm zoom would be good and anything in between: my 500mm lens was almost useless. Enjoy the experience!

Cheers

Andy

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