Learn the history behind Scotland's ancient castles and buildings
Head to the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick to book boat trips to Bass Rock.
Scottish Seabird Centre
Telephone: 01620 890202
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Scottish Seabird Centre)
Prices and opening times
Phone the Scottish Seabird Centre for the latest prices and boat departure times.
Note: These facilities are at the Scottish Seabird Centre departure point only.
The Bass Rock is an island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland. Approximately 1.2 miles offshore, and 3 miles north-east of North Berwick, it is a steep-sided volcanic rock, 107 metres at its highest point, and is home to a large colony of gannets. The rock is uninhabited, but historically has been settled by an early Christian hermit, and later was the site of an important castle, which after the Commonwealth period was used as a prison. The island belongs to Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, whose family acquired it in 1706, and before to the Lauder family for almost six centuries. The Bass Rock Lighthouse was constructed on the rock in 1902, and the remains of an ancient chapel survive.
The island plays host to more than 150,000 gannets and is the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets. Described famously by naturalists as “one of the wildlife wonders of the world, it was also awarded BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Nature Reserve of the Year in 2015. When viewed from the mainland, large regions of the surface appear white due to the sheer number of birds (and their droppings, which give off 152,000 kg of ammonia per year! In fact the scientific name for the Northern gannet, Sula bassana, derives its name from the rock. It was known traditionally in Scots as a “solan goose”. In common with other gannetries, such as St Kilda, the birds were harvested for their eggs and the flesh of their young chicks, which were considered delicacies. It is estimated that in 1850 almost 2,000 birds were harvested from the rock. Other bird species that frequent the rock include guillemot, razorbill, cormorant, puffin, eider duck and numerous gulls.
The natural history of the rock was written about almost five hundred years ago in John Mair’s De Gestis Scotorum ‘The deeds of the Scots’ published in 1521. Today, the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick has solar powered cameras located on the island which beam back live close up images of the seabirds to large screens on the mainland, just over a mile away. The images are sharp enough for visitors at the Scottish Seabird Centre to read the ID rings on birds’ feet. The Seabird Centre has a range of cameras located on the islands of the Forth and also broadcasts the images live on the internet. The Centre also has exclusive landing rights to the island from the owner Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple and operates a range of boat trips going around, and landing on, the islands throughout the year, weather permitting.
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