Puffin Colony – Wester Clett, Sutherland

Just on the Sutherland side of the Sutherland/Caithness border is a deep geo, or coastal inlet, with a steep sided island called Wester Clett in the middle. Wester Clett has been popularly named “Puffin Island”, which is fair enough given the number of puffins here in the summer months. The upper turf section of the island is pock-marked with puffin burrows. They’re all over it.

Photo of Wester Clett, "Puffin Island", Drumhollistan between Melvich and Reay on the border of Sutherland and Caithness
Wester Clett, “Puffin Island”, Drumhollistan between Melvich and Reay on the border of Sutherland and Caithness

What I hadn’t realised (having visited only once before in autumn when the puffins were all at sea) was that the colony has also spilled over on to the surrounding grassy hillsides of the mainland. Following the small path across the hillside in the lower right of the photo above, I turned a corner and almost stumbled over a group of puffins. I quickly stepped back, not wanting to alarm the birds. Over the course of the next couple of hours I moved carefully around the steep slopes taking photos and enjoying peaceful time watching and soaking up the atmosphere. The puffins were remarkably tolerant of my presence but I was keen to minimise any disturbance.

Photo of Three puffins on a ledge
Three puffins on a ledge
Photo of a Puffin surveying the geo around Wester Clett, "Puffin Island"
Puffin surveying the geo around Wester Clett, “Puffin Island”
Photo of a fine looking puffin standing
A fine looking puffin

See a map of the location of Wester Clett below. The best time to see the puffins is between late March and early August. Outside of this period the birds spend their time at sea in the Atlantic and North Sea. Even without the puffins this stretch of coast is worth a wander. The cliffs aren’t the highest but it is wild and feels remote even whilst the road is nearby. There is a small pull off the road immediately south of Wester Clett and a damp path heads through peat cuttings towards the coast.

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