PUFFINS were among the attractions for a group of international passengers, who relished the launch of the very first community-run boat trips in Staffin this week.

Visitors from America, Australia and France were on the maiden voyage aboard the Skye Xplorer II, which is being operated by Staffin Community Trust (SCT) for the 2023 season.

A sea eagle, several puffins bobbing about on the surface and grey seals were all spotted by the excited passengers on Tuesday who enjoyed experiencing the local wildlife and taking in the landscape including the Quiraing, as well as seeing the location of the An Corran dinosaur footprints from the seaward side.

The 90-minute Trotternish Boat Tours sail around Staffin Bay, up to Flodigarry Island and south to the Kilt Rock.

It comes as SCT has been awarded a national grant to complete the community purchase of the current harbour and adjacent area: https://skyeecomuseum.com/latest/grant-awarded-to-staffin-community-to-purchase-harbour

The community buyout supported by the Scottish Land Fund will progress SCT’s ultimate ambition to deliver major improvements at Staffin harbour including a new breakwater, upgraded slipway, pontoons and on-shore facilities.

Skippers Andi Dunkel and Jock Gordon with the passengers aboard the Skye Explorer.

SCT has secured a grant from the Scottish Land Fund to buy the current facility from Highland Council and SGRPID, and will also be able to advertise and recruit a dedicated Staffin Harbour Manager later this year.

The Skye Xplorer, which previously operated out of Uig, can carry up to 10 passengers and is owned Andi Dunkel. Mr Dunkel, who had the boat based at Uig for the last decade, is leasing the vessel to SCT for 2023.

SCT is confident the new tours can generate an important income to support the management of the harbour when it comes into community ownership. The income in turn will help it secure grants and possible loan finance to support the construction costs of the new Staffin Harbour, which has full planning permission from the council and Marine Scotland.

The development trust has had to think creatively in light of the challenging economic climate. SCT has raised £2.3million in grants to date and has already upgraded the access road to the harbour, - which was a council planning condition - and will be blasting and extracting rock from Lealt quarry in the summer, to provide material for the construction of the new breakwater.

The Skye Explorer.

Trotternish Boat Tours will run three times a day, Monday to Saturday until October, weather and tide dependent. The new Staffin Harbour development would hugely improve the viability of the tours - and other local businesses - and reduce vulnerability to weather, which currently affects potential due to the lack of adequate shelter to berth boats and embark passengers. The tour boat will also provide a platform for training local residents to achieve commercial boat skipper qualifications and thus provide local employment opportunities.

More details, including tickets, can be accessed at: www.puffinsandwhales.co.uk