|The Isle of May
||[May. 23rd, 2014|10:24 pm]
...and we're home again! But first, back to the holiday posts.
From our sitting room windows we had a fine view across the Firth to the Isle of May, and in the evenings we could watch the double flash of the lighthouse. We had agreed - for various reasons - that Wednesday was the day we would take the boat trip across to visit the island, so I was quite anxious when I woke that morning to see - well, not very much: the previous day's haar had thickened to a real sea mist. But the sun soon burned it off, and it ended up warm and sunny, the best weather of the entire week.
We drove into Anstruther in time to buy tickets as soon as the booth opened, which gave us an hour and a half before our sailing to explore the town. Time to visit the bookshop, where I bought a copy of Moomin and the Sea - it seemed appropriate. Time to check out the charity shop (the only one I saw all week) and the deli, and the bakery that boasted of a recent competition triumph: "the second best fruit scone in Scotland". This rather muted superlative seems to be the local style: today I saw, emblazoned across the fascia of a sandwich shop, "Probably the best filled rolls in Fife." Probably.
It was a day of superlatives. As I boarded the May Princess I was complimented by the boatman: "Lovely t-shirt. Best one of the season so far." (It was the Icelandic puffin one, of course.) Not that the season is very far advanced, but I was pleased, anyway. The crossing was calm, but something about it made GirlBear feel very queasy, and she wasn't able to enjoy the fine display of puffins overflying us as we neared the island - "It's puffintastic today!" said the boatman.
The island is a nature reserve. We were greeted by one of the resident wardens, and given the talk: stay on the paths, don't cross the rope barriers, don't worry too much about the terns, they aren't too aggressive at the moment, we've only just found the first egg - and this was true, although later in the afternoon the Bears did observe one lady coming under attack (according to the Isle of May blog post about the day of our visit these fiece little birds have been filmed attacking polar bears).
After this we had several hours to explore the island, to circumambulate the (Stevenson) lighthouse, sitting next to the remains of the seventeenth century beacon tower - the first in Scotland. We followed paths out to the edge of the cliffs, and sat and watched the puffins: durham_rambler has some fine close-up photos, but I was pleased with this one of mine, because you can just, I hope, make out the puffins on the top of the cliff, the guillemots lower down, and Anstruther back on the mainland. I learned a new puffin fact from the information boards at the visitor centre, too: numbers of puffins on the island fluctuate from day to day, as the puffins go about doing whatever it is that puffins do; but the numbers peak every five or six days, when the majority of the birds congregate "apparently to sort out any outstanding colony business!" it says here. "Party time!" says GirlBear.
Puffins are special, but other seabirds are also available. Have some guillemots:
I was disproportionately thrilled by the gannets: just a pair of them on the outward voyage, a group of three on our return, so white in the sunshine, neck stretched foreward, with such a lazy flap of the wings but moving so fast - no chance of a photo. Instead, a silly one of a gull sitting on the South Horn:
Also on the return trip, we sailed round Norman Rock to see the grey seals: always a pleasure. And back in Anstruther, I had time to cross the road to the museum shop, and buy next year's puffin calendar. So altogether a day well spent.