The Isle Of May and Bass Rock

Note: I posted this article as two separate posts on another site a few days ago.

Bass Rock

Bass Rock in the Firth Of Forth sticks out of the water with sheer cliffs all around.

From a distance the top of the rock looks white. It’s white with the density of gannets that call it home during the breeding season.

At 150,000 birds, it’s the largest colony of Northern Gannets in the world. It has grown year on year but looking back to earlier in the 20th century there were no gannets.

The top of the rock was green – the green of meadows and planted fields. The produce from them helped to support a small population of lighthouse keepers and their families.

The lighthouse is still in use but since 1988 it has been run by remote control. The Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouse Board monitor it from their headquarters in Edinburgh.

With the human disturbance gone the gannets claimed the rock as their own. And once established, the breeding pairs return year after year.

Visiting in 2015

The Scottish Seabird Centre run trips to Bass Rock. Landings depend on the weather and you need to be fit.

I and eleven others were in an inflatable RIB, having just visited the Isle Of May.

On the way back to North Berwick we idled in the waters for a while. We didn’t land but we did see gannets. I was truly staggered with the sheer numbers overhead. It was amazing – one of those times when my head stops and I know I am enjoying something so deep that it clears the fog.

That’s when I took these shots.







The Isle Of May

The Isle of May and puffins go together like bread and butter, like toast and jam, like haggis and Scotland. And this low-lying jewel of an island in the Firth of Forth was home this year to 46,200 breeding pairs of puffins.

Puffins steal the glory but there are also thousands upon thousands of breeding pairs of kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, and greater and lesser black-backed gulls.

The Island Itself

With all those birds it is easy to overlook the island itself, so here is a short photo essay on the island of May itself.

The first photo is a shot looking down to the small harbour on the eastern side of the island. The tide rises five metres, and the rocks between the two tides are covered in bladder wrack.

At high tide boats use the second landing stage. That’s the one with the red gantry nearer the bottom right of the frame.

And way over on the north side of the island is Bishop’s Cove, where the rocks drop sheer to sea in a tumble of layers and columns, while further around towards the west, the rocks are covered in bright yellow lichen.






  1. vanglo48 says:

    Your article and lovely photos bring to mind Keith Brokie’s “One Man’s Island. Paintings and sketches from the Isle of May.” It is a book I purchased at Waterstones during a year abroad teaching Art @ a high school not too far from Edinburgh in the early ’90’s. Brokie’s year living on the Isle of May and many previous years of study of the island and it’s colonies of seabirds culminated in a marvelous sketches of fauna, fish and fowl. Nothing escaped his talented pen; rabbits, and seaweed, puffins and stinging nettle, razorbills and seals. It is a treasure trove of Mother Nature’s beauty rendered by a gifted artist in the natural world where these island wonders abide. Thanks for the memory jolt.


    1. How nice that it brought back good memories 🙂

      Thank you so much for your comment. I have found the book ‘used – in very good condition’ on Amazon – more to follow once I have read it.


  2. tassitus says:

    Breathtaking scenery!

    What a wonderful experience, awesome photos!


  3. We saw this island on the TV show Coast. How amazing that you got to see it close up.


    1. The sight of hundreds and hundreds of gannets in the air above us was ‘prehistoric’ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.