Gruinart Flats, Islay SPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

These flats are located on the Hebridean island of Islay on the west coast of Scotland. The main features are a sheltered estuarine and intertidal sea loch.  The entire population of the Greenland race of barnacle goose arrives at the site in early autumn, before flying off in winter to other areas in Ireland and western Scotland.

MPA Type

Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites designated uner European legislation. They are established to protect rare and vulnerable birds and for regularly occurring migratory species.

Designation date

1 July 1988

Surface Area

32.59 km2 (12.58 mi.2)


68.64 km (42.65 mi.)

  • Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)

    A medium sized goose not seen in summer in the UK. Because it only appeared in winter, people in the Middle Ages believed the geese were developing underwater and hatched from barnacles - hence the name.

  • Greenland white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons flavirostris)

    A grey goose with important wintering grounds in the UK.

  • Light-bellied brent goose (Branta bernicla hrota)

    A small dark goose with small wintering populations in the UK. it is vulnerable as the entire population depends on less than ten wintering sites.

  • Red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)

    A crow with a bright red beak and red legs that can only be seen in the west of the British Isles.

  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins)
  • Salt marshes, Salt pastures, Salt steppes

Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers