I wrote here recently about the development of the Battery, which sits on the eastern edge of the Victoria Harbour in Dunbar. From the Battery, it is possible to see for miles, to St. Abbs Head and Barns Ness to the south, Fife, the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law to the north. The Isle of May, a long horizontal white cliff face with a point in the middle, is also visible, usually with a tanker or two nearby idling waiting for prices to change or whatever. There was apparently a traditional rhyme that boys came from the Bass Rock, girls from the Isle of May. I believe that is still to be confirmed, though it is certainly more feasible than folks coming from Mars or Venus.
From Fife, the May looks more like an island, in truth more like a whale venturing above the waves. It is about 45 minutes by boat from Anstruther and it is possible to visit in the summer months. It’s a seabird colony, also settled by seals later in the year, though it is also where the first Scottish lighthouse was built in 1636 by Alexander Cunningham of Barns, later replaced by Robert Stevenson’s Main Light in 1816. Apparently Stevenson and the Northern Lighthouse Board wanted to bring down the old light but no less than Sir Walter Scott (for it was he) campaigned successfully to keep it.
I’ve been there, maybe about five years ago, and it was fine, with great views the 11 miles across to East Lothian and back to Fife. My abiding memory is landing at the gap in the cliffs at the back of the island. It was a bright, sunny day and miraculously I avoided being shat on by one of the avian residents.
Even though I’ve been there, every time I see the May, I still get a sense of mystery. It’s irrational – I know there are puffins and other seabirds, seals and the token Scottish Natural Heritage employed human who records the wildlife and writes a blog. It’s probably something to do with the distance, with the island always on the edge of the horizon, tempting a trip. Maybe this year, I’ll need to make a return visit, just to solve any mystery that remains.
Sources and further reading –
Isle of May National Nature Reserve – https://isleofmaynnr.wordpress.com/
Northern Lighthouse Board – https://www.nlb.org.uk/LighthouseLibrary/Lighthouse/Isle-of-May/
Scotland’s National Nature Reserves – http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/isle-of-may/cultural-heritage/the-main-light/