One of the trips that is on most aviation geeks’ list is to do a beach landing. In the UK, you can land on the white sands of the Isle of Barra in Scotland on the scheduled service by Loganair.
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In the summer, there are two return trips every day from Glasgow, with the times of the flights governed by the tides. It is easily achievable to do a day trip from Glasgow with nearly 4 hours on the island. You can also stay as there are several hotels and B&Bs on the island. It is worth bearing in mind that you could get stuck overnight as if the weather is bad, the aircraft can’t land on the beach.
You will need to book well in advance as tickets sell out quickly. Tickets costs £54-82 each way. You can book flights on Loganair here.
The flight from Glasgow boarded quite late, around 10 minutes before departure. That’s probably not surprising when there are only 15 passengers! You walk out to the aircraft and then up the built in steps.
The interior of the Twin Otter is absolutely tiny, as are the seats – no business class section here!
The seats are 1-2 and they did not use row 1 in either direction even though the flight was fully booked. Sitting in row 2 allows you a good view of the cockpit although you are right by the propeller. You will only be allowed to take a small bag onboard, so no wheelie bags. You can check luggage in though.
The pilot does the safety briefing as there are no crew onboard. So there is no inflight service on the hour-long flight. However, with the lower altitude of the propeller aircraft, you will definitely get some inflight entertainment, looking out of the window at the views!
On the approach to the beach you pass over the most beautiful white sand beach with turquoise waters. You can walk to this beach from the airport using the grass path directly opposite the entrance.
I was surprised by how wet the beach we landed on was, but also how enormous it was as we landed quite a distance from the airport!
The aircraft taxis to right by the terminal so you don’t have to trek over the beach but you will step out onto the very firm sand of the runway.
The flight back was very similar, with the pilot waiting for us to board by the aircraft before he gave the safety briefing.
There were some nice views coming into Glasgow, too, and I enjoyed being able to see through the cockpit to the landing.
The airport is in the middle of an expansion that has been going on for two years already. The cafe is currently closed, but there are a couple of vending machines with hot and cold drinks, plus a few snacks like crisps or chocolate.
The check-in counter appears to be what will be the cafe counter and certainly looks very makeshift. Even if you have a boarding pass on your phone, you will need to see check-in and swap it for a paper Barra boarding pass.
Once the cafe is open again, it will be a lovely place to sit and have a meal to watch the aircraft landing as it has huge windows overlooking the beach.
If you need to charge your phone, there are some sockets by a bench area suitable for working. It is worth mentioning that I could not get a phone signal or wifi anywhere on the island. Hopefully, there will be free wifi at the airport when it is finished.
The flight boarded around 10 minutes prior to departure, and we had our tickets checked at the entrance to the beach.
Barra is often referred to as the jewel of the Outer Hebrides, it has a blend of rugged hills, rocky coves and flower-covered “machair”. Machair is the name given to the low-lying grassy plain habitat, which is one of the rarest habitats in Europe. It only occurs on exposed western coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
Getting around without a car is a little tricky unless you want to walk. There is a bus service to and from the airport to the ferry port and the main town of Castlebay. It is also possible to hire a car, but you need to book well in advance.
It takes around 20 minutes to get from the airport to Castlebay and the buses are timed to meet the flights. It costs £2.10 each way, and they only accept cash. In fact, most businesses here seem to only accept cash, so I would definitely bring some with you. However, there is a RBS cashpoint on the harbourfront. The bus stops in a few places in town. I’d suggest getting off at the Co-op and then walking back to the stop by the post office for the bus back. Next to the Co-op is the Barra Island Distillery, where you can sample gin and liqueur. If you decide to buy some, there is no security at Barra airport, so you don’t have to worry about the 100ml limit for that flight.
You can then stroll around town. I recommend heading for the harbour where you can get the best views of Kisimul Castle. There used to be a boat service to the castle but now the only way to get there is by kayak.
One issue I found was that unless you have a car, there was nowhere for a decent lunch. The cafe at the terminal is still closed. The only option in the town open at lunchtime is the Barra Island stores, that has a selection of fast food to eat on benches outside the shop. You could also grab something from the Co-op.
However, there is a lovely tea room in the Post Office by the Castlebay harbour where you can sit outside. It’s cash only but has a decent menu of coffees, teas and homemade cakes. My scone was enormous! I loved all the mismatched china too.
If you are able to explore further afield, there are plenty of white sand beaches to enjoy. There is also the deserted village of Eoradail on Vatersay and the Barra seals at Seal Bay. Vatersay is the start of the Hebridean Way – the long-distance walking and cycling routes – which go through 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides, both finishing in the Isle of Lewis.
You can see more of the flight in my video here.
Like our Beach landing in Barra, Scotland – an amazing day in the Outer Hebrides review? You can read other destinations review here.