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The day I flew to Barra and landed on the beach

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

We have never repeated a trip review before on HfP – for obvious reasons, they don’t age well. However, there was discussion about Barra in our comments section last week and I thought new readers may appreciate a chance to read an updated version of a piece which first ran in 2019.

Loganair still flies to Barra, so you have no excuse for not giving it a go.

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

I’m not really a ‘bucket list’ person, but one of the few aviation-related trips I had 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 Loganair Twin Otter turboprop.

And, even better, I could – in Summer 2019 – do the whole thing on a £77 day return ticket from Glasgow which Loganair sells during the Winter season. Details are on the Loganair website here, although the current price is not given.

Before I go on, I want to flag up the video I made of my trip and which is embedded at the bottom.  It is a manageable 7 minutes long 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 the cheap day return tickets between Glasgow and Barra are available.

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 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 – or even an overnight stay.

Landing on Barra beach on Loganair

The Loganair flight to Barra

Whilst you are flying on a very tiny Twin Otter plane, pictured above, 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 a hatch.

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

Inside the terminal

I thought it best to find out where I needed to check-in for my return flight.  It wasn’t difficult, given that the terminal is about 100 feet x 30 feet:

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

I didn’t get a photograph of the cafe counter, which was a mistake.  The cafe is excellent.  I had a plate of scampi and chips, all cooked to order, for £8.  If I had a cafe like this on my street I would be in there all the time. Once I had arrived, all of the cafe customers got up to board the plane for its return trip to Glasgow so I had it virtually to myself.

(A comment below suggests that the cafe is currently – ie September 2021 – closed.)

Once I’d eaten I thought I’d check out the local vicinity.  Once you walk out of the door, there is literally nothing to see except hills and scrubland – or so I thought.  This is the terminal from the front:

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

Turn to face the other way and you see this path:

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

With half an hour to fill, I thought I’d see where it went.  I was genuinely stunned when, just over the horizon in the picture above, the land dropped down into a beautiful bay:

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

and

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

I was utterly, totally alone on a huge beach, on a very cloudy and cold April day.  It was great.

The journey home

When I arrived back at the terminal, my return flight was coming in to land on the beach.  I was lucky and caught it on video.

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

There is no security at Barra.  Well, there is a door marked ‘Security’ you walk through but that is about it!

I had Seat 2A on the return, another solo seat.  This is one of the best seats for being able to see into the cockpit during the flight – don’t take 1A as you are too close to the bulkhead to see in.

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

The video shows the take-off.

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

Around an hour later we landed back in Glasgow, directly on schedule.

Flying to Barra in the Outer Hebrides

If you’re interested in aviation then I thoroughly recommend the flight to Barra.   You may want to stay a bit longer than I did, especially if you go during the Summer, but the quick turnaround worked well for me.  If you pick your dates properly (remember the flight times change with the tide times) it is even possible as a day trip from London. 

Doing the whole thing from London in a day seemed a bit excessive to me so I stayed overnight in Glasgow, a city I have rarely visited. Here is my review of the Hotel Indigo in Glasgow.

Here is our Barra beach landing video

I shot quite a lot of video during my flights including the landing and take off from the beach – click the image below to view it.  If you can’t see it, click here to visit the Head for Points YouTube page.

Comments (42)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    I took a day trip to Grímsey from Akureyri on Norlandair this summer on a Twin Otter. I would recommend trying both the trip and the aircraft if you haven’t.

  • Dave says:

    Of course if you subscribe to the golden rule of never going back on yourself on your travelling, you can return on the daily ferry to Oban and thence Scotrail to Glasgow. However, this would not be a day trip!

    • Ben says:

      With the added bonus of some dolphin watching along the way.

      • RussellH says:

        We used to see basking sharks, not dolphins, from the Barra – Oban ferry in 1980/81.

        • Smid says:

          There has been a lot of tales recently of dolphins (seen near Largs) and whales in the clyde (seen near Greenock), and seals are now common on the beach there too. Whatever changed from my youth of the 80s, I’m not sure, but I’ve never seen a seal on the coast until three months ago. But there’s been a lot more, it might be the population has grown and moved from its traditional territories.

          So there’s likely to be a big difference now from travelling in the 80s.

          • Tony says:

            I’m also thinking that the Clyde will be a lot cleaner now than it was 40+ years back…

  • Jim says:

    Were you given a confirmation certificate, saying you (name) had landed on Barra with the only scheduled beach landing service in the world, dated & stamped?. I have mine, pride of place in my living room!! 😁😁😁

  • Liz says:

    We did the flight in 2016 and booked a 2 hr island tour with Rob’s Island Tours – weather was ok. We went back to Barra this year when we hired a motorhome for our Hebridean island hopping trip and stayed one night on Barra. We went to watch the flight come in and take off. We had a beautiful warm blue sky day this time and saw Barra at its best – Vatersay beach is stunning and we saw an amazing sunset – if you get the weather it’s worth an overnight stop!

  • Genghis says:

    Apparently the terminal cafe is no more.

    • Ben says:

      Sincerely hope it’s temporary due to low passenger numbers as it was a great cafe and even opened in the evenings during summer weekends.

    • Rob says:

      WHAT?!

    • Heathrow Flyer says:

      I was there in June – sadly the cafe is no longer open.

      The wider island is definitely worth a couple of days, however. Highlights for me were the beaches of Eriskay (favoured by the Royals) and Cafe Kisimul in Castlebay (reservations recommended).

    • James ware says:

      it was closed yesterday

  • TeesTraveller says:

    We did Lands End to Isles of Scilly (St Mary’s) a couple of weeks ago. No beach landing but it was in a Twin Otter and we had a great day there – wonderful scenery and a nice walk around the island. I would highly recommend it.

  • jonathan samuels says:

    I did this flight many years ago (before there was cafe!) You can do the flight on Microsoft Flight Simulator – it’s remarkably realistic. I’d also recommend a few days on the island. Flying to Colonsay is also a fabulous experience.

  • Ben says:

    My mum is from Barra so I have done this trip many times. As other posters have mentioned, the beach at Vatersay is stunning and one of the most beautiful (and coldest) I have seen anywhere in the world.

    If anyone decides to do more than a day trip, I highly recommend a curry at Cafe Kismuil and the scallop pakora in particular. You can also get fresh fish and seafood from Barra Atlantic facility which is quite close to the airport.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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