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My Barra beach landing – the day I flew to Barra and landed on the sand (Part 1)

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This is my review of my trip to Barra in the Outer Hebrides, flying with Loganair.

I’m not really a ‘bucket list’ person, but one of the few aviation-related trips I have been wanting to do for many years was the ‘Barra beach landing’.

Barra is an island in the Outer Hebrides with a population of 1,100, of which 75% speak Gaelic.  It is not your usual tourist spot.  For the aviation fan, however, Barra is a special place.  It is the only place in the world with a scheduled flight which lands on a beach.

Who needs a runway, or runway lighting, or any of that boring stuff?  All you need is a bit of sand and a low tide and you’re in business.

I would also get to swap my traditional First Class long-haul suite for a seat on an 18-seater Twin Otter turboprop.

And, even better, I could do the whole thing on a special £77 day return ticket from Glasgow which Loganair sells during the Winter season until the end of March.

Before I go on, I want to flag up the video I made of my trip and which is embedded at the bottom.  Our videos are usually 2-3 minutes long and are just an extra bonus.  In this case, the video is 7 minutes long – with no music 🙂 – and if I’m honest the video tells the story far better than my photographs do.  If you have 7 minutes to spare today, do watch it.

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

How to book your Barra beach landing flight

You can book Loganair flights to Barra on ba.com as long as you include a connecting flight to Glasgow.  However, as the Barra flight is not a BA codeshare, you won’t get any Avios or tier points for it.

It is cheaper to book each leg separately (I used Avios for Heathrow to Glasgow) especially if you are flying during the October to March Winter season when the £77 day return ticket is available.  This is NOT bookable online and requires a telephone call to Loganair.

Flight times depend on the tide times and so vary from day to day.  Because the flights also need to fit around the rest of Loganair’s schedule, you can end up with either a very short or very long day trip.

Mine was short, but I chose it on purpose so that I could get back to London the same day.  I ended up doing:

  • 11.30 Glasgow – 12.45 Barra
  • 14.35 Barra – 15.45 Glasgow

The total price was £77.18, of which £29.71 was airport tax.  Loganair only got £47.47 from my ticket.  Luckily these routes are subsidised by the Scottish Parliament.

Because there is nothing near the airport, this worked quite well.  I landed, had a very pleasant lunch in the terminal cafe, went for a 30 minute stroll across the dune to the beach on the other side of the island, walked back, checked in and flew back.  It was just right.

You may prefer a longer day trip – you can hire a taxi to take you around the island, I believe – or even an overnight stay.

The Loganair flight to Barra

Whilst you are flying on a very tiny Twin Otter plane:

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

…. the procedure at Glasgow Airport is obviously the same as if you were flying anywhere else.  There aren’t any airbridges here, however.

If you have checked luggage, it goes into the hold via the hatch you can see in the photograph above.

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

Seating is 1-2.  I was in 7A, a solo seat, which just happened to be directly behind the door, right at the back:

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

This meant that I had a silly amount of legroom, which isn’t something you can say for the other seats:

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

There are no cabin crew here and so no in-flight service of any kind.   The pilot comes out of the cabin, which has no door, and does the safety demonstration him/herself.

On-board a Twin Otter

There are three things you need to know about Twin Otter aircraft:

they are very noisy

they are a bit smelly, at least if you are sat at the back

they climb very slowly and level out at a low altitude

It is all part of the experience, however, and when the clouds broke there were some terrific views of the Hebrides.  The video shows more.

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

Landing on the beach at Barra

The video shows the landing in detail and I recommend you take a look.  A lot of spray is kicked up as the plane runs along the beach which makes it even more dramatic.

This photo shows the steps being lowered by the ground crew:

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

…. and here is the aircraft parked up:

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

You are VERY alone here.  Apart from the terminal building, you can see one house around the headland and that is it.

This is Terminal 1 at Barra International 🙂  Richard Rogers and Norman Foster appear to have been otherwise engaged when the tender to design this airport came out.

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

To put the walk from the terminal to the aircraft in context:

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

In Part 2 of this article I’ll give you a detailed tour of the terminal building (!) and the nearby attractions.  You can read Part 2 of my Barra review here.

Here is our Barra beach landing video

I shot quite a lot of video during my flights including the landing and take off – click the image below to view it.  If you can’t see it, click here to visit the Head for Points YouTube page. You can also subscribe to our channel via that link.


Click here to read Part 2 of my Barra review.

Comments (80)

  • BJ says:

    Another for the aviation bucket list is the world’s shortest flight between Westray and Papa Westray. It is scheduled at 90s and frequently arrives early! Also of interest is Loganair/Cranfield efforts to convert flights to electric power:
    https://www.aerosociety.com/news/electric-pioneer/

  • Wayne Phillips says:

    You can do something similar on Stewart Island off the southern end of New Zealand.
    I hiked from Oban and arranged to be picked up from Mason Bay beach in three days time and be brought back to Invercargill. I had to trust they would show up – about 20mins late and I was worried Id have a long walk back
    http://www.stewartislandflights.co.nz/mason-bay

    • Reddot says:

      Faith is certainly required ! Sounds fab.

      • Shoestring says:

        Stewart Island has some very interesting penguins. And more birds you won’t see in NZ mainland.

  • Lewis says:

    The absurd thing is Barra has three runways. Heathrow has two

    • Julian says:

      They need them due to tides and because The Twin Otter is an Old School aircraft extremely susceptible to prevailing wind and weather conditions (of which there are plenty of various extreme natures in The Outer Hebrides).

      Heathrow once had six runways in its original “Star of David” configuration so that low powered propellor aircraft could make their takeoff run on the safest possible runway alignment for the prevailing weather. See https://your.heathrow.com/faqs/

  • Brian says:

    The line “Luckily these routes are subsidised by the Scottish Parliament” made me smile. The route is needed along with subsidy but let’s not kid ourselves. The subsidy is generally from the taxpayers of England and sent out via the Scottish parliament.

    • reddot says:

      You are not factually wrong, but a nation who decides to own vast stretches of land presumably wants citizens to sit around on it to ward off nosey invaders, or assume an air of ownership (if ownership comes without ability to use, what good is it?). As a quid pro quo, it should finance the postal and transport connections, high cost it may be. The same argument could be made for London “subsidising” the rest of England, but England would be a poorer country in more sense of the word than one without its remote areas.

    • MB says:

      Absolute garbage. Funny how England were desperate for us and all our oil to remain part of the U.K.

      • Callum says:

        They were? That completely went past me!

        • BJ says:

          Well, Westminster certainly was and remains so. Polls and their analysis also suggest that the number of rUK voters in Scotland (the vast majority being English) exceeded the difference between the yes and no vote counts, with the.majority of them voting no in 2014.

      • Iain Miller says:

        And thank goodness they were!
        Our we’d be in an annual £13billion hole and outside the EU already.

        • adubya says:

          All economic reports are estimates and accuracy or otherwise only comes after the fact. But in the case of the GERS report it’s particularly egregious as GERS estimates a hypothetical deficit based on Scotland remaining part of the UK. Therefore an independent Scotland would generate vastly different numbers than those hypothesised in GERS.

          A fairly obvious example is Whisky. Scotland would be assigned all of the scotch whisky tax and vat, which it currently doesn’t, it gets a share based on consumption. Just think about that, Scotland produces all of the scotch (in the world) but in GERS only is assigned the tax and vat on about 1/10 of scotch sold in the UK. There are loads of these examples, both positive and negative for Scotland in GERS that it truly makes the report almost worthless, being generous.

        • Iain Miller says:

          Adubya. This is nonsense. GERS isn’t even denied by the SNP, and formed the basis for their (hastily buried) growth commission report.

          And whisky….dear oh dear, have you been reading wings perchance?

          Scotland is assigned the vat and duty for sales in Scotland already. Why would we be attributed sales in other parts of the UK? What would be different in an independent Scotland given we are already attributed those funds? And what is the reference to the rest of the world? That an independent Scotland would somehow receive vat and duty on sales from across the globe??

          Please tell me you haven’t swallowed the mystical “export duty tax” dreamed up my the homophobic fake rev from bath!

      • joeeo11 says:

        … and funny the exploration for that oil was financed by anyone except the Scots…

      • Lady London says:

        I was in the oil industry and had access to some figures about that. Even taking oil into account past present and future the numbers don’t make sense for Scotland to separate. I am proud of my Scottish heritage and Scottish friends and all the well educated great Scottish people I’ve worked with in my career. It seems that whenever your PM wants to divert from other problems then secession is trotted out. Which BTW is against the agreement Scotland made that after one vote the issue would be closed.

        Sorry for OT.

    • CV3V says:

      The Scottish Parliament has a budget and determines how it is spent, using your approach then England subsidises everything in Scotland, so feel free to repeat the subsidy comment ad infinitum in respect to anything in Scotland (including free prescriptions, dental check ups, uni tuition fees, healthcare for elderly etc). But do bear in mind many people in Scotland pay a lot more in tax than those in England on the same income, perhaps we can just say it was that extra tax income that was used to help out our friends on an island.

      Meantime, I think there must be some Scottish (and other nations) tax revenue subsidising HS2, Crossrail and no doubt a whole range of projects which cost billions of pounds.

      • Iain Miller says:

        Rest of UK subsidises Scotland to the time of £13billion a year. Scotland does not pay towards crossrail, and whilst we do pay an apparent contribution to hs2, Barnet consequentials are adjusted to make our net contributions zero.

        I was also going to pick up the point that the Scottish parliament subsidises the route, because it doesn’t. Tax payers do.

      • BJ says:

        All of these discussions, one way or the other, are in reality nonsense because they are based on notional, disingenuous political interpretation and dissemination. The reality of Scotlands financial position when (not if) it becomes independent will be determined by the division of wealth agreed with the rUK and policy of the government elected following independence. Based on the Brexit shambles the former is now likely destined to be an acrimonious horror show,, thanks toWestminster, augmented by the SNP stupidity in supporting a second Brexit referendum. A farcicangsituation that can now only likely be tempered by delaying indepebdence until a substatial majority is achieved, thus prolonging uncertainty with its repercussions for investment and development in the meantime.

        • Alan says:

          In any committee I’ve been involved in there was always a 2/3rds majority required for any major change or motion that would entail financial expenditure – I always found it surprising that the prior referenda didn’t get set at that level. Sadly the SNP proposals for independence were about as well thought through and laid out as the Leave campaign for Brexit – I dread to think how they would go about extricating all the different aspects that have been enmeshed for so long.

        • BJ says:

          @Alan, 2/3 would settle it as a political issue but Ifear it would lead to decades of uncerainty which is what I dread most, I think 60/40 is doable. I would hope that an independent Scotland would not fall into the trap of a first past the post electoral system and would instead favour something more modern giving rise to more sensible and sustainable policies.

    • Bob says:

      Oh dear, the old ‘subsidised by English taxpayers’ chestnut that’s been rolled out for years!

      If you took the time to do a bit of research, you might be surprised to find how much Scotland contributes financially to the rest of the U.K., but don’t let facts get in the way of a good old rant…..

      • Iain Miller says:

        Or maybe you could read the Scottish government produced GERS figures and note our £13 billion deficit. Or you could read the hastily buried SNP growth report which outlined a need for a generation of austerity to bring our deficit under control.

        • CV3V says:

          There are discussions to be had on the accuracy of GERS and the politics that brought it into place and why it is still used. ONS stats show that with the exception of London and 2 regions in the south of England, that every other part of the UK runs at a deficit, in England the largest deficit per head as at £3,718 in NE England, compared to Scotland at £2651. The UK, as a whole, runs a deficit and not just the ‘regions’ yet they always seem to attract the subsidy comment.

        • Iain Miller says:

          But the region’s don’t want to break away and suddenly have a gapping hole in the finances around all the “free” stuff they like to hand out.

        • BJ says:

          @Iain, but the fact is that the people of Scotland, barring a massive demographic change, do increasingly want to break away, and this should solely be within the power of the people of Scotland without requiring permission from Westminster. In the last census, IIRC Scottish people were most likely to identify as British than any other nation in the Union. I don’t see that Scotland becoming independent need be acrimonious, we all still remain B(ritish and we still have more in common than divides us. I think we should focus on, and celebrate, that rather than than the nonsense pouring out the media. I have spent most of my holidays in the last two years exploring parts of the UK I have not been before. Nowhere in England or Wales have I been made to feel unwelcone being Scottish, I hope the same is true of the vast majority of English and Welsh people visiting Scotland, but there are idiots everywhere and bad things can happen. Also of note, I never once came across anybody in person in the last two years of travels who made a song and dance about Brexit. It was almost surreal, something that had a life largely in the realms of the media, blogs and political circles. I think it is likely the same with Scottish independence.

        • Iain Miller says:

          BJ.that is far from fact. As the latest polls from none other than Angus Robertson’s company “progress Scotland” show.

        • Alan says:

          @BJ I’m not sure it’s as clear-cut as that – with the massive mess that Brexit has been to date it is giving many people pause as to what could happen if Scottish independence was forced through in a similar fashion.

        • BJ says:

          @Alan, this is part of what I was trying to say earlier and why I agree with you that a bigger majority for independence is now necessary. Given Brexit combined with the idiocy of the SNP backing a second Brexit vote, I believe their is little hope of an orderly transition to independence. However, I doubt that is any more likely to put people off voting for indenpence in the same way I doubt many who voted for Brexit will have changed their minds.

        • Shoestring says:

          My wife has changed her mind on Brexit! Despite being born & bred in the country of our place in the sun, so a migrant to the UK, she strongly thought uncontrolled immigration had got so far out of control it was changing the nature of being British and voted Leave! (This feeling seemed to get very strong once she had acquired UK citizenship.) Having thought about it a bit more and seeing the mess we’re proposed as a Brexit deal is obviously far worse than actually staying, now she’s a Remainer.

        • BJ says:

          @Harry, I always thought immigration was a disaster waiting to happen, not only across Europe but within the UK itself. I think this stems from the one size fits all approach. Having seen the consequences of this with the UK and Brexit I think it is unbelievable that the UK government now seem set to make the same mistakes within the UK too. The comments about your wife are interesting, I think people in Scitland for the most part have become comfortable with multiple identities – Scottish, British and European and that fluid soveignty is a price worth paying for this. By contrast a much higher proportion of people in England seem to afford greater value to their own national identity and sovereignty which is fine too. I don’t quite understand the differeces in this respect, perhaps our experience with devolution is partly responsible, but I just don’t know tbh.

    • Relaxo says:

      There’s always 1 rabble rouser stirring shit up on any Scotland related article. So unnecessary.

      • BJ says:

        This is because many, including the media, love to portray it as some juvenile Scotland v England nonsense when in reality I believe for most people in Scotland it is a question of disenfranchisement by Westminster. A sentiment I believe people across the UK may now understand better given their experience of the goverments handling of Brexit.

        • Shoestring says:

          I lived in Glasgow for nearly 2 years without getting beaten up for being English! 🙂

          Great place to live, the West End. Jinty McGinty’s. Ubiquitous Chip. Chicken Pakora with hot sauce.

        • BJ says:

          And I lived half my adult life in England without any problems either. However, I nearly got beat up by a hard-assed Glasgow granny when I was a teenager for having the temerity to encroach on her footpath 🙂

  • Andy says:

    I did this flight a few years ago when it would stop off at Macrahanish,(sp) I was working in Campbelltown, we left Glasgow and the pilot announced that we were a bit early as the fire engine hadn’t arrived at the airport, so he went low level and took us on a tour of the coast, going out to the Mull.
    Also as the nearest hospital is at Glasgow if they need to get someone there a plane is sent out and they would ring people up asking if they wanted a shopping trip on the mainland to recoup some of the money

  • Julian says:

    Been to Barra back in 2012 but drove there in my MR2 Roadster and did all the other Western Isles at the same time (the Uists are more like Australia and have almost nothing there and your drive seems to go on and on with miles of just nothingness). It seems a waste to me to go to Barra and not also do a tour by taxi of this very small island. The capital, Castlebay is very pretty with the old castle only accessible at lower tides and sitting there right in the bay. Beaches are absolutely pristine with white sand and sparking blue water.

    In principal I would like to do the flight and land on the beach but I am somewhat scared of the more limited flying abilities of small light aircraft and speaking personally I would only consider risking the flight if booking at short notice when I was sure there would be good weather. But now the flights can’t be secured with Avios booking late so that would no doubt be a very expensive option…….

    • Rob says:

      Oddly not, at least in Winter. I went on the website to check my arrival time on the day of departure and a one-way was for sale at £78.

      • Julian says:

        Interesting. I wonder how much cash flights are at the last minute in non bank holiday weeks in May or June as there are pretty much always Avios flights (frequently Economy as well as Club) available on BA from LHR to Glasgow at the last minute. Landing on the beach would be special given that I am very much a beach freak.

        Of the Western Isles I loved Barra by far the most as the beaches were definitely the best and its capital is by far the most quirky and interesting compared to the other islands. It also has all kinds of dropouts from London and other parts of the world living there and hanging out in the pubs because of its special character and no doubt due to the easy umbilical plane connection to the outside world despite being a remote Western Isle. Benbecula by contrast and despite the interesting name was not at all special (just felt like a huge former military base in heavy decline), although no doubt it has been spoiled by being linked up to the neighbouring islands by road causeways (something Barra has escaped by being too remote from the other islands).

        I always wanted to be an airline pilot in terms of the lifestyle from a young age (I have also watched virtually every episode of Air Crash Investigation and similar programs because the technicalities of flying fascinate me so much) and was also a very keen planespotter in the days when the Heathrow viewing terraces on the old Queens Building (late 1970s) were still open but when going up in a small 4 seater Cessna aircraft on a blustery winter day at Blackbushe Airport with the school aero club at age 14 found the whole thing rather scary and kept noticing the stall warning light constantly flashing. I also found my flight over the Grand Canyon in 1999 on some ancient 1960s or 70s crate that was 15 aisles long with only 1 seat per aisle rather stomach churning (a very clear but also extremely windy April day so fantastic views of the Canyon but extremely bumpy and the plane was so old I felt sure that it would disintegrate at any moment). It probably didn’t help that my father’s younger brother (the closest in age and relationship of his three siblings) had been killed in a tiger moth crash at age 23 in 1958 and that my father and his mother had both never quite got over that.

        The circumstances of that crash were also horribly similar to those involving Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson as there was possible fog forecast in the early evening after a day trip from Denham airport and they could have stayed on the Isle of Wight for the night but the pilot was worried about paying for another day’s plane rental and so insisted on risking it (my uncle had probably never flown before in his life in those days as he was just offered the chance to go at the last moment) and so crashed in to the radio mast of a WRAF station near Petersfield. There was a small fire and the pilot got out unscathed but my uncle was trapped by damage to the plane and he actually died from inhaling poisonous fumes from the fire before it was put out and not from being burned. The pilot escaped liability back in those days but I feel sure would have been jailed for a stretch for manslaughter in the same circumstances today. David Ibbotson definitely would have been jailed for quite some time if he had survived while Sala had still died as he was ignoring almost every rule in the book regarding carrying passengers for commercial reward and/or flying at night without adequate visibility or an instrument rating and especially in view of his own very limited flying abilities. An absolute tragedy for Sala’s family while one can’t feel very sorry for Ibbotson (who was clearly the architect of his own misfortune) but only for other members of his family.

  • James says:

    A great plane – I’ve done about 50 skydives from TO’s in the US. The roller doors would be wedged shut with a shoe before being opened up again and 1,000ft to get some fresh air. This looks far more civilised!

  • James says:

    They use the same type of planes but without wheels, obviously, for the seaplane transfers from Male airport in the Maldives. Sitting in the front row watching the pilot fly barefoot and texting on his Nokia once at cruising altitude was an experience 🙂

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