Handa Island is internationally famous for its sea-bird colonies, including the largest breeding colony of guillemots in Britain and there are estimated to be around 120,000 pairs of breeding on Handa! There are also puffin, fulmar, shag, razorbill, artic and great skuas, kittiwake, gulls and terns. You will also find attractive plant-life and archaeological remains of an old village which was inhabited until 1847.
Handa is renowned for its magnificent Torridonian Sandstone cliffs, which rise to a height of 400 feet along the dramatic northern edge of the island. Thousands of years of weathering of the sandstone has formed horizontal layers which provide ideal disturbance free places for seabirds to breed. Each summer they come alive, when nearly 100,000 seabirds gather here to breed. Guillemots, razorbills, and great skuas reach internationally important numbers.
Many of Handa’s seabirds, which can live for 20 years or more, return to exactly the same spot on the cliff year after year. In these sea-bird ‘cities’ each pair holds a territory of a few square feet, which is essential for breeding. From mid-July onwards the seabirds begin to leave the cliffs to spend the winter out at sea.
Tarbet is the departure point for Handa Island. A small ferry boat operates from the pier. The turnoff for Tarbet is 11 miles north of Kylesku (2 miles North of Scourie) from the A894 . It is a left hand turn (going north) and the signpost is on the right adjacent to a small loch. Parking and public toilets are available in Tarbet ( no toilets on Handa).
The island is owned by Dr. Jean Balfour and managed for its wildlife by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT). On arrival the island visitors will be met by staff/volunteers. After a short introductory talk, the staff will point you in the direction of the footpath which encircles the island. The complete trail is 6 km and takes at least 2 hours (it is best to allow 3 to 4 hours or more to fully appreciate the sights and sounds of Handa). The terrain is rough, the cliffs are steep and the weather can change quickly, so take care.
- Monday – Saturday (Monday 2nd April to Saturday 8th September 2012): The first ferry departs Tarbet at about 9.00am and thereafter crossings are on demand and weather dependent (Tel: 0775 625890 or 0778 0967800)
- The last outbound journey is approx. 2:00pm. Return ferries are approximately every 30 minutes until 5.00pm.