Home to the UK’s largest puffin colony, Puffin Cove is a hidden gem on the north coast of Scotland, not far from the town of Thurso. Here is a complete guide.
How To Get To Puffin Cove
Puffin Cove is located just off the A836 between the Scottish town of Thurso and the village of Tongue on the north coast of Scotland and can be a little tricky to find.
Puffin Cove, Dumhollistan, Thurso KW14 7RN
Follow the A836 west from the town of Thurso for about 14 miles until you reach the border of Caithness and Sutherland. Here you will see small parking bays on either side of the road.
Parking is free but the two car parks are quite small.
After parking you follow a path towards the coast and after approximately 10 minutes you should reach the point where the path starts to lead down to Puffin Cove.
For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.
Puffin Cove Entrance Fee
It is free to visit Puffin Cove.
Puffin Cove Opening Times
You can visit Puffin Cove every day of the year, all year round.
Best Time To Visit Puffin Cove + Tips
Due to its remote location, it doesn’t really get overly busy here.
However, if you want to see the Puffins you need to visit between April and August.
The drop down the hillside to the cove is a little steep so be careful, especially in wet conditions.
Take some binoculars for a really close up look at the wildlife.
What To Pack
The puffin is a small stocky bird with short wings and a short tail. They have black feathers on their upper body and white/grey feathers on their underside.
Their faces are mainly white with a black cap on their head. However, the stand out parts of the puffin are their bright orange webbed feet as well as their bright orange, parrot shaped, beak.
If fact, they are sometimes called sea parrots and also sea clowns due these features.
Puffins are very agile in the water, their strong wings and webbed feet helping them to dive and manoeuvre well.
Although, they are not quite so graceful when coming in to land on the water or ground and will often spectacularly crash land!
Puffins don’t actually come on to land other than during the breeding season. In fact, they spend all their time flying, swimming or sitting on the North Sea or Atlantic Ocean throughout the rest of the year.
Puffin chicks take about 45 days to hatch, following which time both parent birds feed them for about six weeks until they are independent.
Finally, the cutest fact and the one I like the most – a baby puffin is called a puffling!
What To Expect At Puffin Cove
When you reach the edge of the cliffs you will see a coastal inlet with a steep sided island called Wester Clett in the middle.
This small island is more commonly known as Puffin Island due to the thousands of Atlantic Puffins that visit here to breed from April to August.
This island location protects the birds from land predators, as well as stopping human visitors getting too close.
In addition, you may see a few puffins nesting on the steep slopes on the mainland side near the cove. Remember that these birds on the mainland should also only be viewed at a distance, so as not to disturb them.
It’s possible to walk down to the pretty Puffin Cove at the base of the mainland cliffs where you’ll find a shingle beach. In my opinion one of the best things to do on the North Coast 500.
The path down is a little steep and could be slippery when wet, so good foot wear is recommended.
This is a great place to be to be able to look up at the cliffs and get a good view of the nesting birds.
Also, along the cliffs you can see other bird species such as Common Guillemot, European Shag and Razorbills.
Although the Puffins cannot be seen or approached from close range, the amazingly vast numbers of these beautiful little birds and their behaviours are definitely worth stopping at Puffin Cove to admire.
If you’re a lover of wildlife then the 90 minute Wildlife Cruise from John O’Groats would be a great option.
The next day we got up and headed to Melvich Beach for a chilled one!
Where To Stay In Scotland
Luxury – exploreNESS Apartment
Offering free WiFi and free private parking, exploreNESS Apartment is located in Inverness, just 0.8 miles from Inverness Castle.
The property is less than 0.6 miles from Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and 1.6 miles from Caledonian Thistle.
The apartment features 1 bedroom, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 1 bathroom with a shower. Towels and bed linen are provided.
A buffet breakfast is available daily at the apartment.
Mid-Budget – Loch Earn
Located 1.7 miles from Inverness Castle, Loch Earn provides accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking.
There is also a kitchen in some of the units with a dishwasher, a fridge, and an oven.
A continental breakfast is available daily at the bed and breakfast.
Guests can relax in the garden at the property.
Budget – Inverness Youth Hostel
Just 10 minutes’ walk from Inverness Rail Station, Inverness Youth Hostel offers free private parking and bicycle storage.
Eastgate shopping centre is a 10-minute walk from this hostel. Hootananny, a popular music venue, is just 15 minutes’ walk away.
Culloden Battlefield and its visitor centre is just a 10-minute drive away. The banks of Loch Ness and the country village of Dores are both a 20-minute drive away.
All rooms have a shared bathroom. Packed lunch and luggage storage is available on request.
For more places to stay in Scotland, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.