Local Islands

A chain of four islands sits just off the coast of North Berwick, in the Firth of Forth, all visible from the Scottish Seabird Centre.

The islands Fidra, Lamb, Craigleith and the Bass Rock are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are part of a larger Special Protection Area under EU legislation, due to their internationally important breeding seabird populations.

Bass Rock

Bass Rock
The iconic Bass Rock.
©Susan Davies

The iconic Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, sits just 5 kilometres north east of North Berwick. At the peak of the season, this steep sided volcanic rock is home to over 150,000 gannets making it the world's largest colony of northern gannets.

The Bass is uninhabited but historically has been settled by an early Christian hermit, later the site of an important castle and in the 17th Century was used as a prison. The substantial remains of the old castle still prevent access onto the island. The Bass belongs to the Hamilton-Darlymple family, who acquired it in 1706. The Lighthouse, built in 1902 by David Stevenson, became automated in 1988.

In addition to the gannets, the lower ledges of the Bass are home to shags, guillemots and razorbills, with seals hauling up on the rocks below.

Enjoy the splendour of the Bass Rock from our remote cameras in the Discovery Experience or check in to watch the amazing wildlife from the webcams on our webiste.

Our range of seasonal boat trips to the Bass Rock are a fantastic way to see the wildlife up close. Click here for more information.

Fidra

RSPB reserve Fidra.
©Susan Davies

The small rocky island of Fidra, an RSPB reserve, lies about 3 miles west of the Scottish Seabird Centre and just 300 metres from Yellowcraig Beach.

Robert Louis Stevenson is known to have visited Fidra during the construction of the lighthouse and the island may have been the inspiration for Treasure Island. Fidra is also mentioned in another book of his, Catriona.

The lighthouse, built in 1885 by David and Thomas Stevenson has been automated since 1970. Look out for the 4 flashes every 30 seconds, after nightfall.

With its grassy slopes and cliffs, Fidra is home to significant populations of shags, guillemots, razorbills, gulls and puffins. During spring there are fantastic views of nesting fulmars.

Puffins first nested on Fidra in the late 1960s and numbers built up slowly thereafter. Tree mallow reached Fidra in the 1990s and like Craigleith it spread rapidly, covering about half the island by 2007 when the SOS Puffin project started. Work by the volunteers has since brought tree mallow under control, allowing puffins to nest. Breeding numbers in 2018 were just over 1,000 pairs. As on Craigleith, tree mallow control needs to continue each year to prevent mallow returning. Click here to find out more about our SOS Puffin project.

Enjoy the wildlife up close on Fidra from our two remote cameras from the comfort of our Discovery Experience and follow daily on our webcam links here.

Craigleith

View towards Craigleith from Elcho Green, North Berwick.
© Susan Davies

Craigleith is one of a small chain of islands in the Firth of Forth just off the coast of North Berwick, one kilometre from the Scottish Seabird Centre. Craigleith is home to a rich variety of seabirds and marine life and it is a particular hot spot for puffins.

Craigleith was home to about 10,000 pairs of breeding puffins in the 1990s. However numbers crashed dramatically due the invasion of a non-native plant called Tree Mallow (Lavatera arborea), a giant plant which grows up to nine feet high, choking the puffin burrows and preventing the birds from nesting and rearing their chicks, known as pufflings. To tackle this problem the Scottish Seabird Centre set up a project called SOS Puffin in 2007 whereby work parties of volunteers make regular trips to Craigleith and the neighbouring islands of Fidra and the Lamb to cut down tree mallow.

To date, over 320 work parties have made regular trips to the islands to keep the tree mallow under control. This has largely been achieved and the amount of mallow which appears every year has slowly declined. The northern half of the Island is now largely free of tree mallow, having been replaced with grasses, allowing puffins to breed again and numbers to recover.

SOS Puffin is supported and run entirely by Volunteers. To find out more click here.

It is wonderful to see the puffins up close, why not take one of our seasonal boat trips to see for yourself? More details can be found here.

Lamb

The Lamb is the smallest in this chain of islands in the Firth of Forth, sitting between Fidra and Craigleith.

Puffins first nested on the Lamb in the 1970s and numbers are thought to have increased slowly since then, although few burrow counts were attempted until 2015. A surprising 620 pairs of breeding puffins were counted, mostly nesting on the higher grassy part of this small island.

The spread of tree mallow here was less marked than on Fidra or Craigleith and had not encroached on the puffin nesting areas when SOS Puffin started. Occasional work parties have been sufficient to contain the spread of tree mallow and numbers have been steady over the last few years, with around 680 pairs of breeding puffins, (2018 count).

Wildlife in the Firth of Forth
The Firth of Forth supports one of the largest colonies of breeding grey seals on the east coast with up to 4,000 pups born each autumn, mainly on the Isle of May but also in increasing numbers on Inchkeith and Craigleith. The female seals (cows) give birth to their fluffy white pups from October to December.