Essential repairs are urgently needed to Handa’s path to prevent visitors disturbing nesting birds and damaging fragile habitats.
As the small ferry-boat bobs across from the mainland, Handa Island welcomes its visitors with glimpses of sweeping beaches and dramatic cliffs. Home to one of the largest seabird colonies in Europe, Handa offers a spectacular wildlife viewing experience. Despite its remote location off the Sutherland coast, the island receives thousands of visitors every summer.
Unfortunately, over time, the passage of so many footsteps combined with severe local weather conditions has eroded the island’s path. But repair work on such a remote island is costly. The Scottish Wildlife Trust has already secured grant aid to cover the majority of the costs of these vital repairs. By donating today you can help us to raise the remaining funds.
What makes Handa special?
I’ve had the privilege of being Reserve Manager for the Handa Island wildlife reserve for four years. Every visit inspires me, whatever the season. But I particularly cherish summer evenings listening to the drumming of snipe as the setting sun melts the striking blue sky to deep orange.
Yet Handa’s value is so much more than its spectacular setting. Each summer its cliffs provide shelter to around 100,000 nesting seabirds – one of the largest seabird colonies in Europe. A shrieking, whirling, mass of guillemots, razorbills and puffins. The sharp smell of guano blown by the wind as bonxies swoop low to defend their nests.
A simple bothy enables seasonal rangers, volunteers and visiting researchers to study the birdlife, collecting valuable data at a time when seabird numbers are dropping. It’s no surprise that the island has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and forms part of a Special Protection Area.
The path to conservation
Most visitors to Handa explore the island by following a five kilometre circular route. The path takes visitors past the remains of a village (abandoned in 1848 during the potato famine) before leading them to stunning coastal views and magnificent cliffs teeming with birdlife.
By sticking to this path visitors stay safe and avoid disturbing nesting birds or trampling sensitive vegetation, such as the delicate Sphagnum mosses of the island’s blanket bog. On Handa Island, a sound path is a vital conservation tool.