Bass Rock

About the Bass Rock

What’s this attraction all about?

Just over a mile off the shore of North Berwick lies one of the most fascinating islands in the Forth Estuary, the mighty Bass Rock. This rocky outcrop is home to the largest northern gannet colony in the world, and bird watchers from across the planet come here to take boat trips around the island to watch thousands of swarming birds make the Bass Rock their home.

The rock is monumental in size and reaches 107 metres above sea level at it’s highest point, with most of the sides of this 320 million-year-old volcanic plug standing almost vertical above the pounding waves of the Firth of Forth.



The history of the attraction

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 has played a key role in the history of this part of Scotland where it has been used as a religious retreat and a fortress, but today it’s enjoyed by interested tourists as well as observing scientists.


What can you do there?

More than 150,000 gannets nest on the rock at the peak of the season, but these numbers gradually reduce towards the end of October when they set off on their long journey south, with many travelling as far as the west coast of Africa. Nature-lovers have plenty to watch without the gannet’s presence though, as the Bass Rock is also home to shags, guillemots, razorbills and puffins, and seals can be frequently seen hauling themselves onto the rocks below.

Visitors wishing to see the rock up close can book a tour on one of the boats run by the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, and it’s here where you can also get a closer view from land thanks to the array of powerful telescopes in the centre and the remote-controlled cameras that are installed on the rock.

The boat trip is definitely recommended as it’s probably the best way to appreciate both the size of the Bass Rock and the number of birds that live there. The Seabird Centre also has exclusive landing rights to the island from the owner Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, so it’s not possible to land on the island without booking through the centre first.


What I liked about this attraction

  • The Bass Rock is seriously impressive thanks to the amount of bird-life swooping about
  • The boat trip to it is great fun
  • It’s a wildlife photographers dream attraction

What I didn’t like about this attraction

  • I haven’t got any negative comments about this attraction

Getting there

Head to the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick to book boat trips to Bass Rock.

Scottish Seabird Centre,
North Berwick,
EH39 4SS

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Contact details

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.



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Craig Smith is your guide to the best attractions in Scotland. He loves exploring the Scottish wilds and is happiest when he’s knee-deep in a muddy bog in the middle of nowhere.

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