A Commercial Airport… on the beach?

Monday, 19th April 2010 by

The airport on the island of Barra in northern Scotland handles over 1,200 flights a year, but none of them can land at high tide since the runways are on the beach!

Aircraft at Barra Airport Barra Airport entrance

Located in Outer Hebrides, Scotland, Barra Eoligarry Airport is a commercial airport with three runways located in a shallow tidal bay called Traigh Mhòr. Between the high tides that fill the bay, the water recedes far enough to expose a wide area of hard compact sand where planes have been landing since 1933.

Barra Airport Chart Traigh Mhòr Bay

The airport has a control tower positioned near the edge of the beach, a parking area for guests, and a small terminal building for arriving and departing passengers. Google's Street View car passed by on what looks like an absolutely beautiful day, but unfortunately no aircraft were to be seen.

Barra Airport control tower Entrance to Barra terminal

The airport's three sandy runways are laid out in a crossing pattern which gives pilots flexibility based on the bay's current wind conditions. Airport officials marked the end of each runway with wooden poles stuck in the sand because normal ground markings would be washed away by the twice-a-day tidal swings. There are some runway number signs however that can also been seen from the street view car, but they are positioned on land well away from the washing effect of the ocean.

Barra's runway 15 marker Barra's runway 07 marker

Large windsocks near the end of each runway are displayed when aircraft are approaching the airport. This not only gives the pilots a glimpse at wind direction, but also gives visitors on the beach a chance to get out of the way! Once again, out street view driver missed out on seeing the actual windsock, but the "Keep off the beach" sign is clearly visible at the entrance.

Windsock pole Warning sign

Barra's airport offers daily flights to Benbecula and Glasgow with Flybe1 and, if you want to book a trip, the airport code is BRR.

For more information, see our previous coverage, the airport's website or Wikipedia.

  1. Volcanic ash depending. ↩︎