Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Long Weekend in Scotland– Isle of May

Mid-August 2014: The last time we visited this part of the world we had heard about the Isle of May and how popular it was with puffins. We knew that our visit was going to be rather late to see the massed puffins – but apparently 2014 had been a good year for puffins on the island.

I know that I often point out the the weather can be surprisingly good in Scotland, well I have to be honest and note that sometimes it is unsurprisingly less good.   So we checked the web and then to be on the safe side rang the operator of one of the boats that gets you to the Isle of May. The island in about 5 miles of the coast of Scotland in the out bit of the Firth of Forth (of Road and Rail bridge fame).

There were a two different boats sailing from Anstruther, the May Princess and Osprey. The former is a normal boat and the latter a RIB or rigid-inflatable boat. There are pros and cons, the May Princess is slower (~45mins), but has an indoors,toilet and sells food and drink on board. The RIB is faster( ~25mins), open to the elements, but they do lend you waterproofs if necessary.

We went for the Princess of May, mainly because we didn’t really check out the alternatives. In fact we didn’t really check out much at all.  We ran up, found that they would be sailing and when and that we could buy tickets on the day. So that is what we did.

It was only when we were on the Isle that we saw the other boast and then when I got back I looked up the details. The day was pretty cloudy when we headed off, we all took our larger waterproof coats. just in case. The harbour was pretty easy to find along with the parking and ticket office. We were early so we had a look around.

Anstruther Harbour – dark clouds

Boats in Anstruther harbour

The boat for our Sea Voyage – May Princess

Wibbly Masts – Anstruther Harbour

Nice sands and the typical multi-coloured houses along a Scottish fishing village.


Anstruther Wester Parish Church

Anstruther Wester

Anstruther Harbour

Although the May Princess wasn’t full there were a reasonable number of people aboard, come to see the Isle of May.  We hadn’t really done any planning and hadn’t though about what we would eat and drink when on the Isle.  I think was had half assumed there would be stuff available.  Fortunately we were able to buy some food and drink on the boat.  The sea was a tad rougher than in harbour, as you might expect. It wasn’t that bad though.

We didn’t see any puffins on land but we did see two whilst on the boat.

Leaving Anstruther Harbour for the Isle of May

Anstruther from the Sea

Anstruther from the Sea
Church and Base-station side by side

On the way and when we got their things were pointed out to us and the history of the Isle explained. We also sailed around the coast before reaching the Isle of May.

The Island is owned by Scottish Natural Heritage and is only open to visitors from May to the end of September. Early in its history is was a Priory and later the sight for a lighthouse designed by Robert Stevenson in 1816. Two foghorns were also placed on the island, powered by compressed air, generated at the centre of the island and distributed by pipe to the north and south of the island. We passed the foghorn to the south.

Isle of May – Southern Foghorn

Isle Of May – Robert Stevenson’s Lighthouse

There are three off-shore Wind farms planned, with a total of 450 turbines so there is some concern about the effect on the wildlife.

Looking towards North Berwick and Edinburgh from the Isle of May

the identification of birds is not a strongpoint of mine, in fact it is a weakpoint, so forgive the lack of names.

“You looking at me?” – Isle of May

Another bird – Isle of May

This is Bass Rock or the Bass, home to a large colony of gannets.

Bass Rock

Isle of May – Lighthouse

May Princess – at berth – Isle of May

Seal at Sea – Isle of May

North Berwick Law

Another bird – Isle of May

Isle of May – Southern Foghorn

Isle of May – Southern Foghorn

Seal – Isle of May

Two seals – Isle of May

Seal – Isle of May

Isle of May – Southern Foghorn – from a bit further up the island

Seal – Isle of May

Two Seals – Isle of May

Two Seals – Isle of May

Slip-streaming – bird style

Lighthouse – Isle of May

we had a good old wander around the island and despite the squalls that blew through our coats kept us dry and it made for a pleasant day in the fresh air. hen we headed back to the harbour area we sheltered and watched birds feed their young.


At one point birds were swooping on people walking by – a little too close to their chicks for comfort.

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