How to get to the Isle of Staffa from Mull – boat trips you need to go on!

If you’ve made it to the Isle of Mull then you might be wondering how to get off it to see another iconic Scottish island – Staffa!

This one has been on my list to visit forever but since I was trying desperately to wing this trip to Scotland and not plan too far ahead (always a plus when weather can be tricky) I actually only realised we’d be within reach of this island at the last minute. It’s a top thing to do on Mull for visitors but for some reason I missed that!

With a promise of puffins for James and me being a bit of a fan of geology Staffa is a perfect boat trip!

So, combined with amazing weather (I know – how lucky?!) and a desire to have a day off from our driving our camper around, we settled in at a campsite on Mull and wandered the short way to the port of Fionnphort for an amazing adventure with our dog Annie!

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

how to get to staffa from mull

Read on to learn how to get to Staffa from Mull, specifically our experience from the west of the island in Fionnphort.

All images are our own from our trip – as you can see, our wildlife photography needs some practice!

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Staffa boat trip from Fionnphort or Iona

We took our boat trip to Staffa from Fionnphort on the very south west tip of Mull. It’s the shortest way to get to Staffa.

Our trip was with Staffa Trips although there’s also Staffa Tours who run trips at the same time and confused me and some others! Staffa Tours has larger boats and seems to be a larger operation also doing trips from Tobermory. Staffa Trips is a little smaller and does tours just from Fionnphort/Iona.

You can also get to Staffa from the larger towns of Oban on the mainland, Tobermory which is to the north of Mull or even Ardnamurchan which is a little off the beaten path.

Trips normally run between April and October but if you’re traveling at either end of this timeframe check with the companies whether they are still going. As always, really bad weather might cancel trips.

Check these companies out for your boat trips:

boat trip from mull past iona
Seabirds (shags I think) with Iona in the background

Wildlife to see on a Staffa boat trip

The boat trip to get to Staffa is as much a part of the excitement as landing on the island itself and most of the tour operators will tailor the trip to see some wildlife on the way. It generally takes around 40-45 minutes to get to Staffa so plenty of opportunities to see wildlife on the way.

seals on boat trip to staffa from mull
If you look close you can see seals, honestly.

On our trip we navigated our way past some seals, loads of seabirds and when alerted to a sighting of a minke whale they headed to see if they could see it some more. We also saw dolphins!

I’ve been on many boat trips around the UK and I always worry if they get too close to wildlife or seem to ‘chase’ it. This definitely didn’t seem the case with Staffa Trips who kept their distance at all times.

first sight of the Isle of Staffa
first sight of the amazing Staffa!

Landing at the Isle of Staffa

On landing at Staffa you’ll probably get around an hour to explore. Depending on what you want to do you can either climb the stairs to get views over the island and towards where the puffins nest or you can walk around to Fingal’s Cave.

The tour operators encouraged us all to see the puffins first if that was our priority and pointed out where to go.

landing at staffa and stairs
Stairs to climb up to the top of Staffa to see puffins and views

There were some fairly steep steps to climb once we landed to make it to the top. I’m not in the best shape and managed ok, but some people might find them tricky.

Puffin nesting on Staffa
James managed to get a photo of a puffin up close (shame about the focus though!)

Puffins on Staffa

One of the highlights of a trip to Staffa is seeing the puffins that nest there in the summer months (from around April – mid August).

You can see them as the boat approaches Staffa – look out for them sitting on the water as they fish for sand eels!

puffins on sea around Isle of Staffa
Keep an eye out for seeing puffins on the water!

When on Staffa you can walk along to the area where they nest and see them flying in. It’s the opposite end of the island to where Fingal’s Cave is.

They nest in the cliffs rather than on the ground of the island but you can see them really well if you’re patient. (We saw puffins at the Farne islands a few years ago and were spoiled by how close they were there – they are a little further away on Staffa).

Puffins are a gorgeous bird though and they make me smile every time I see them – so cute!

Visiting Fingal’s Cave

The breathtaking Fingal’s Cave was my favourite part of the trip – it’s so majestic to see.

The name comes from the Irish legend of Fingal MacCool who you might have heard of in relation to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

The story, briefly, goes that Fingal built the causeway to Scotland to fight a giant there. On walking across the Scottish giant, Benandonner, was asleep and Fingal saw that he was much bigger than himself so he quietly walked back. When Benandonner woke he walked the causeway to find Fingal but he had disguised himself as his wife’s baby. When Benandonner saw the size of the ‘baby’ he was shocked and wondered how big Fingal must be! He crossed back to Scotland and ripped up the causeway as he went. What is left is the ends of the path in Northern Ireland and on Staffa.

The cave is also where the composer Mendelssohn was inspired to write the Hebrides Overture!

You can walk along and right inside the cave. It can get busy with other people so when I got there I didn’t manage to go inside which was a shame and I was also running out of time. Next time we do the trip we’ll prioritise seeing the cave!

Get yourself in the mood for your trip!
isle of staffa

Is the boat trip to Staffa worth it?

We had an amazing time on our trip and would definitely take it again if we could.

If anything I think our time was a little short but that was because I really wanted to explore Fingal’s Cave where James wanted to see puffins. He won! Also having our dog with us meant we were a little restricted in how we did things as it was important that she was ok and not disturbing the site or other tourists.

I definitely recommend the boat trip though and Staffa Trips were an excellent company to go with. They were really friendly and chatted throughout the journey with us all and helped people spot wildlife.

rock formations on staffa
Stunning rock formations are all around on Staffa

Can you go to Iona too?

I was really pleased to learn that even though we boarded our boat in Fionnphort, we were actually allowed to leave on the Isle of Iona if we wanted. Staffa Trips pick up from both locations and so you can choose how to start or end your trip. There was no difference in price to do this.

It meant that we could stretch our legs wandering around Iona after the boat trip and then we got the ferry back to Mull after that. The ferry is really inexpensive – just £1.85 per adult one way.

How much does a Staffa boat trip cost?

In 2023 the costs for a trip to Staffa from Fionnphort is around £30 per adult. Both tour companies allow booking online and it’s a good idea to book in advance, especially if you are traveling in high season (July and August)

How accessible is Staffa?

If you struggle with steep steps or uneven ground then you might well have a problem with Staffa.

The initial steps to climb, if you don’t go to Fingal’s Cave, are uneven, steep and the rail/handle isn’t that sturdy either (in fact they were fixing it when we visited).

To walk to Fingal’s Cave you’ll need to navigate the basalt columns – it’s a fairly level walk but you’ll be up and down the rocks as you walk along.

If you’ve any concerns check with the boat trip operators.

Staffa boat trip with dogs

We visited the Isle of Staffa with our dog Annie (a bedlington terrier) and were really pleased that we found a trip that allowed dogs (although see the note below). Both Staffa Trips and Staffa Tours allow dogs on board.

She adored the trip and although we were prepared with a fleece jacket for her in case she got cold we were so lucky with the weather that she didn’t need it. The trip also wasn’t rough either so again, we were lucky! She slept the entire way back – the sea air had got to her by this time!

On Staffa it’s worth noting that there are some very steep steps to navigate once you land – Annie is quite small and portable so James was able to carry her up. On the way down it was a little trickier but she managed it herself. If we had a bigger dog this might have been harder.

We kept Annie to the well worn paths on the trip, which was easy to do, and when we arrived where the puffins were landing we stayed well back. I could see them flying into land in the cliffs but Annie couldn’t!

James stayed with her by the boat jetty while I wandered along to Fingal’s Cave. She’d have probably been ok with most of the walk, but it can get busy with others on the island so getting past a dog can prove tricky.

Is it ok to bring a dog to Staffa?

Now I’m writing up this trip I’ve seen that the National Trust for Scotland actually ask you not to bring your dog to Staffa due to the ground nesting birds. I hadn’t seen this prior so assumed since the boats allowed it it was ok.

Our dog is generally no bother on a lead and doesn’t bark much. We kept her away from any heading off the paths which felt sensible. Another family who took their dog stayed in one place with it and allowed others in their family to explore.

Obviously, if you have a dog and are looking to visit Staffa please keep them under full control. You know your dog best!

The NTS ask you to use dog day care services on Mull – a quick google search doesn’t bring up much there and I couldn’t find anything (although happy to hear otherwise). If you’re concerned about how your dog will be on Staffa it is probably best to leave the trip to another time.

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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