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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 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)

  • Dave says:

    We flew from YVR to Victoria Harbour and back on a single otter seaplane a few months ago. What an experience! On the way back we were the only 2 passengers so it was like we had chartered it privately. We were blessed with incredible weather and visibility up to 150 miles

  • CV3V says:

    If you book far enough in advance you can find fares for the summer at a similar price, but always check the flight times as they change based on the tide times. Glad Rob enjoyed the experience despite the Scottish weather. A nice aspect of the return flight is it flies back down the coast a slightly different route.

    I sat in the same seat at the back, its good for when 2 of you are travelling as you both get window seats, and lots of legroom. I did find the gap around the door a bit disconcerting at first, but i think it sealed itself up.

  • Mikeact says:

    I did it once ,when it was BA years ago, and the plane looks very similar…the same one I took ?!
    Got off…..beaten up taxi took me around the ‘sights ‘ and back again for a welcome cup of coffee….bit of a breezy take off as I recall, but far less scary than flying into Lukla, on the way to Everest !

  • Liz says:

    Rob, you forgot to photograph the baggage reclaim – which is a bus shelter! Fab wee trip which I would definitely recommend. We were lucky to have a bit better weather in Sept 2017 and we did a 2 hr tour round the island before having a bite to eat in the cafe and heading back. Great day out!
    In 2018 we booked the Jacobite Steam Train over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (Hogwarts Express) which is another great trip – from Fort William to Maillaig and back again. We booked first class and afternoon tea but you can do it much cheaper. Next trip we are hoping to do is the Waverley boat around the Ailsa Craig!

    • Rob says:

      In Glenfinnan next week ….

      • Liz says:

        Are you doing the train trip from Fort William. The day before our train ride we went to Glenfinnan to watch the train go over the viaduct, you can either climb the hill to watch it from behind the visitor centre or walk about 100 yards up the road to get across the other side of the water and walk under the viaduct and then walk up that hill to get the view of the train coming towards you round the curve of the viaduct! You need to check the times of the train if you want to see it specifically as it only goes once or twice a day and get there in plenty of time to get in position as it is always busy with tourists now. I got a fab photo out the window of the train of the curve on the way back from Maillaig.

        • Rob says:

          Not sure yet, we have no real plan – not helped by the fact that I am in Hamburg at the moment and need to get home, pack the family up and be back at Heathrow by 7am tomorrow!

        • Cat says:

          There are some gorgeous short walks to be done in Glenfinnan. Another good spot for seeing the train is on top of the Glenfinnan monument, then pop to the Glenfinnan House Hotel for a whisky!
          Obviously it’s worth continuing on to Mallaig and hopping across to Skye (although I’m not sure how busy it gets in the Easter hols), Mull and possibly on to Iona.
          Have fun, I hope the weather isn’t too authentic!

        • Liz says:

          Cat – we climbed up the Jacobite Monument last year and it is a tiny hatch to crawl through at the top – but fab views down Loch Shiel if the weather is right! We are taking the caravan to Oban and Mull later this month – first time for hubby towing on to a ferry – looking forward to boat trips to Iona, Staffa and Treshnish Isles – hoping to see more puffins this year! Fingers crossed for some decent weather!

  • TripRep says:

    Yet to try this, Barra us a great weekend island perfect for cycling around.

    Rob have you done a seaplane trip anywhere?

  • Martin says:

    Barra is still on my list, but I’ve done one of the other Loganair specials: Papa Westray to Westray, which at two minutes is the world’s shortest scheduled flight. It’s on a Twin Otter, which has 8 seats, and hatchback-style seating: if you’re in row 2, you need to fold down row 1 to get in and out (and the same with the rear two rows). If there’s a 9th passenger, they get to sit next to the pilot! Here’s my video of the short hop:

    You can book a sightseeing round trip from Kirkwall by calling the airport on the day. Depending on the pilot’s schedule you might get a more scenic route back from the north isles – I’m told they sometimes take requests!

  • Stephan says:

    OT do you get the referral bonus if you refer someone to Amex who is not eligible for the sign on bonus due to the new rules and they are accepted?

  • Alex Sm says:

    Rob – this is the best article EVER I read on HfP in the last four years! Thanks a lot for such an insightful piece. I remember I was one of those who asked you to write an article on this flight and here we are! My partner and I are keen to do this trip some time soon (maybe not this year though as we are going to Faroe Islands! Via Scotland too).

    And this bit is brilliant:

    “Richard Rogers and Norman Foster appear to have been otherwise engaged when the tender to design this airport came out.”

    • EwanG says:

      Indeed, and perhaps the designer of Barra International would have had more work elsewhere if airport operators were not incentivised to make their costs as high as possible to enable them to inflate the landing charges (i.e. Heathrow)

      • Rob says:

        Indeed. I’m surprised Thames Water isn’t paying David Hockney to decorate the new super sewer pipes being buried down our road ….. with a guaranteed fixed annual return on their capex of course.

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