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25 Apr 2022

Staffa improvements timings confirmed

Island with grey stone columns, in a blue sea
A project to update visitor infrastructure on Staffa National Nature Reserve will begin in mid-August 2022.

Staffa has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 1986. It’s a world-famous National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and sits in the centre of the Loch na Keal, Isle of Mull National Scenic Area. The sea around Staffa is also a Marine Protected Area and Special Area of Conservation.

The wildlife, geology and dramatic scenery draw around 100,000 visitors every year.

The issue

The existing access infrastructure on Staffa is in need of urgent improvement and repair. Visitor numbers to Staffa have risen dramatically in recent years and at times congestion on the staircase can be very problematic.

The high number of visitors to the top of the island has caused erosion, which requires new path works.

As the charity which protects and cares for Staffa, the National Trust for Scotland is seeking to improve the access infrastructure.

A close-up of a puffin with a row of sand eels dangling from its brightly coloured beak.
Staffa is an important seabird colony for Scotland.

Our plans

We’ve received planning permission for an ambitious project to, for the first time, update the visitor infrastructure on Staffa in a holistic way.

We’ve been able to take account of the island’s multiple designations and special features to come up with plans that will ensure that visitors have an enjoyable, memorable and safe experience, while continuing to protect everything that makes Staffa special.

We’ll be improving the landing area, stairs and paths.

An artist's impression of proposed changes to infrastructure on the island of Staffa, showing a set of stone steps leading towards some cliffs.
Plans for Staffa will improve the landing area, stairs and paths on the island.

Timings and access

We’ll start work in mid-August 2022 – after the seabird breeding season. Work will take place throughout the autumn (weather permitting). During this time, we won’t be able to have visitors on the island.

There will be a short pause in work over December 2022 and January 2023, before restarting in early 2023. Again, while contractors are on island, it will not be possible to land on Staffa.

The aim is to have as much of the island accessible in spring 2023 as possible.

The challenges

A construction project of this scale, in this location, is a huge challenge. We’ve worked with our experts from within and outwith our charity to come up with a timeline that gives us the best chance to get the works completed with minimum disruption to wildlife and to people.

This does mean that at some points in the year, it won’t be possible to land on Staffa. We’re keeping the local boat operators up to date with the plans and are doing all we can to limit restrictions.

Please check the Staffa page for the latest info – we’ll highlight any closures there.

Another challenge for our charity is covering the cost of a project of this scale. Latest estimates suggest this project will cost around £1.6 million. We’ve secured some support from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF), administered by Argyll and Bute Council. This grant has enabled us to explore the options and to prepare a further funding bid to RTIF which could cover a significant proportion of the major costs of carrying out this project.

Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone

This project is one of the first to come out of our new 10-year strategy Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone. It fits with all three of our pillars – conservation, engagement and sustainability.

Watch this space for more news.

Dense clusters of pink thrift flowers grow on a grassy cliffside, with the sea seen far below.
Staffa is rich in wildlfowers and wildlife