Imagine touching down right on the beach to start your holiday? If you are heading to the northwest of Scotland, that fantasy can be a reality. Barra Airport is the only airport in the world where the beach, is actually the runway.
Arrivals and departures are carefully timed to avoid the beaches famous high tides. Flights starting landing on the beach, known locally as An Tràigh Mhòr (“The Great Beach") in June 1933 with more official scheduled flights beginning on 7th August 1936.
Flight schedule flexible to accommodate tide changes
The unusual airport is located on the Hebridean Island of Barra. The beach is divided into three runways designated by wooden poles.
Their design allows the airport's planes, Twin Otters to almost always land into the wind. Flight times need to be flexible to respond to the tide changes because, at full tide, the landings sites are completely covered in water.
Locals use the beach for fishing between flights
If a flight needs to land at night, usually only in emergencies, a series of parked cars illuminate the landing strip with their headlights. Incredibly, the beach is also still a place of recreation.
The beach is famous for its cockles and many local residents and visitors enjoy heading down to the sand to hunt for the delicious seafood.
The airport has a quaint way of alerting visitors to whether a flight is expected, they just need to check if the windsock is flying or not.
If its up, the cockle fishers need to leave the sand and wait for the flight to land. Flights into Barra are required to fulfill the same safety requirements as any other airport.
Access the Hebrides archipelago from Barra
The airport facilities have all the modern equipment, but emergency services are more often called to the beach to assist a stranded whale or dolphin than anything related to flying.
If you are keen to fly into the Barra Airport yourself, the flights are serviced by regional Scottish airline company Loganair.
Barra island is a part of the Hebrides archipelago, a stretch of islands in the north west of Scotland. The islands are famous for fishing and more recently renewable energy.
They have a long history of occupation by various colonizing forces which are reflected in the local culture. Barra island is part of the Outer Hebrides, it has a population of just 1,174.
There is evidence of human presence on Barra since the Neolithic era. In 1990 during the excavation for a new road, a near complete pottery beaker was docked that dated back to the discovery of a 2500 BC.