The Bass Rock

Sited in the Firth of Forth, rising 106 metres above sea level, Bass Rock could easily be mistaken for an iceberg from a distance. In fact, this immense chunk of carboniferous rock is given its white glaze by the thousands of gannets – 150,000 in the peak breeding season – that nest there. Unsurprisingly, Bass Rock is home to the largest gannet colony in the world, earning it Sir David Attenborough’s claim to be one of the ‘wildlife wonders of the world’.

Over time, this volcanic crag, protected by the waters of the firth, has served many purposes. In the seventh century, it was a Christian retreat and home to St Baldred of Tyninghame, the ‘Apostle of the Lothians’. Sometime after 1058, the Lauder family established a castle on the rock, which later offered protection to James, son of Robert III. Bass Rock also has a strong history as a prison and played a key strategic role in control of the Firth of Forth.

Today, Bass Rock is uninhabited, except for its many feathered residents! With jagged rocks that are beaten by the waves in stormy weather, the ruins of an ancient chapel, and the remains of the castle, the site has a distinctly wild and forsaken atmosphere – the obvious contrast being the charming lighthouse that was erected in 1902 on the site of the castle keep.

GETTING THERE AND OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Bass Rock is situated in the Firth of Forth, approximately one mile from Tantallon Castle to the east of North Berwick.

Boat journeys to the site are available through the Scottish Seabirds Centre, which offers half-day trips allowing visitors to see the gannet colony and to enjoy a visit to the castle ruins.

Landings, between Easter and autumn, are subject to the weather. Due to the uneven and exposed terrain on Bass Rock, visitors should be physically fit with a good sense of balance. Appropriate clothing is essential (walking boots, strong trousers, waterproof, hat, gloves, sunglasses, and sunscreen).

Note that there are no toilets on Bass Rock.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO NEARBY

With an imposing curtain wall perched on a clifftop on a small peninsula, Tantallon Castle retains much of the appearance and atmosphere of 1651, when it was besieged by the army of Cromwell. Inside, there is much to explore, and superb views over Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth.

The highly rated Scottish Seabird Centre is an informative and interesting diversion, with an excellent discovery experience that offers a unique insight into the many species that frequent the Scottish shoreline. Live cameras enable visitors to zoom in on wildlife, including the gannets on Bass Rock and the colony of puffins on the Isle of May. 

PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

At the Seabird Café, at the Scottish Seabird Centre, you can enjoy light refreshments while absorbing the fantastic views over the Firth of Forth from East Lothian’s only seaside sun deck.

Close to Bass Rock, North Berwick features several dining options that offer locally sourced produce and international cuisine. Try Osteria or Cucina Amore for authentic Italian dishes, The Puffin Bistro or No. 12 Bistro for European flavours, or The Grange Restaurant and Steakhouse for superb steaks (vegetarian options are also available). 

DID YOU KNOW…?

Bass Rock has featured in many literary works, including Catriona (Robert Louis Stevenson) and The Lion is Rampant (Ross Laidla).

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