• Puffins in Orkney

Come puffin-spotting in Orkney!

Orkney's puffins are back - find out where you can see them around the islands!

So far this spring Orkney has seen orcas, sea eagles and a walrus, highlighting just how special our nature and wildlife attractions are.

And now an old favourite has returned…our puffins are back!

These colourful clowns of the cliffs are chattering away at various locations across Orkney right now and they always prove popular with both visitors and locals.

Orkney has some prime puffin-watching real estate!


With their technicolour bills, distinctive black and white plumage and bright orange legs, our puffins are a welcome addition to the coastline, building burrows alongside our other seabirds, including fulmars, guillemots, gannets and kittiewakes.

Puffins are known as ‘tammie norries’ in Orkney and actually spend most of their lives at sea. They return to their breeding colonies around April and May where they lay only a single egg. They then begin to leave their cliffside burrows in August.

So, if you want to watch a glimpse of these little characters, you’ll have to be quick. Here are some of the best places to see puffins in Orkney.


Castle of Burrian, Westray

Puffins at sunset on the Castle of Burrian


This is probably Orkney’s prime puffin-spotting site. A small sea stack provides the perfect home for hundreds of tammie norries during the summer months, and the surrounding cliffs form an almost natural amphitheatre, offering excellent vantage points to see them.


RSPB Hoy Nature Reserve

The cliffs at St John's Head in Hoy


A visit to this truly wild landscape is a must during your time in Orkney. With vast moorland stretching out to the tallest vertical sea cliffs in the UK, the Hoy scenery is spectacular. Puffins can be found on the cliffs near the famous Old Man of Hoy sea stack along with plenty of other seabirds. You might also be lucky and see Hoy’s sea eagles in the nearby Rackwick valley too.


Brough of Birsay, Mainland

Puffins on the cliffs at the Brough of Birsay


This tidal island off the west coast of the Orkney mainland is a fantastic place to visit. Time your arrival at low tide so you can cross the concrete causeway. You can usually find puffins on the cliffs around the island, particularly close to the lighthouse on the west side. Take some time to visit the remains of the ancient settlements too - but remember to head back to the mainland before the tide comes in!


RSPB Marwick Head, Mainland

Marwick Head and the HMS Hampshire memorial


Another dramatic stretch of coastline, Marwick Head is also one of Orkney’s seabird cities, welcoming thousands of species. Picking out a puffin amongst all the guillemots, kittiewakes and fulmars can be a challenge but keep your eye on the greener slopes and around the rocks and you should see their distinctive bills.


There is no doubt that puffins are beautiful and entertaining, but they are just a small part of Orkney’s seabird population. Remember to take some time at all our recommended locations to watch the other resident species!

The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

Orkney.com Newsletter

Keep up to date

Sign up to receive our newsletter and keep up to date with the latest news from our beautiful, busy islands.
Sign Up Now