Staffa island to close to public as 'urgent' work gets underway amid high tourist demand

The Isle of Staffa will close to the public early next year as “urgent” repairs and improvements get underway amid growing visitor numbers.

More than 100,000 people now visit the uninhabited island in the Inner Hebrides, which is home to the geological wonder of Fingal’s Cave and a vast seabird colony, every year.

Access to the island has been basic and often challenging, with a new staircase to be built up the side of Clamshell Cave and a new landing area and platforms to be created.

The National Trust of Scotland (NTS) described the building project as a “huge challenge” given the weather and location of the island, which sits to the west of Mull. Contractors are moving onto site in January, when the island will close to the public.

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    A statement from National Trust for Scotland said: “The existing access infrastructure on Staffa is in need of urgent improvement and repair. Visitor numbers to Staffa have risen dramatically in recent years and at times congestion on the staircase can be very problematic.”

    The high number of visitors now venturing to the top of the islands has caused the ground to erode, with new paths also to be laid. This work will begin next month at the end of seabird breeding season, but access to the island and Fingal’s Cave will remain open.

    Work will begin on the staircase in January and then pause for next year’s seabird breeding season, before resuming again.

    The Isle of Staffa has experienced a significant rise in visitor numbers with "urgent" upgrade works, which will include the creation of a new staircase, now required. PIC: Rosa Menkman/CC/Flickr

    It is hoped the works will be completed by spring 2024, although the weather will be one factor that will drive the timetable for the project.

    The statement said: “A construction project on an island in this location, with many complex factors to consider and work through, is a huge challenge. We’ve worked with our experts from within and outwith our charity to come up with a timeline that gives us the best chance to get the works completed with minimum disruption to wildlife and to people.

    "With the many different elements to consider, our plans and timelines will need to be flexible and could change as the work proceeds.

    "There will be times during some of the works that landing on Staffa won't be possible. We’ll keep the local boat operators up to date with plans and will do all we can to limit restrictions.”

    Pal Grant, of Staffa Boat Tours, welcomed the works. He said: “We are very supportive of what is going on and it will be a great benefit to visitors going on to the island.

    "What was there was put in place more than half a century ago and it was a temporary fix at the time. We have been talking to NTS about their plans and now it has got the go ahead, its all good, positive news.”

    Mr Grant said an original plan to close the island later this year after breeding season would have affected his business, but the new timeline wouldn’t affect trade, given his boats don’t sail in January.

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