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Isle of May opens to walkers

Boat trips to Scottish Natural Heritage’s Isle of May National Nature Reserve re-start for this year’s visitor season on 1 April. The island is renowned for its bird populations, its seals, its history and its carpets of flowers. The reserve, at the mouth of the Forth, has a boat service from Fife and East Lothian during the visitor season.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) welcomes boat trips to the island from April until the end of September and SNH does not charge for visiting. The island has a visitor centre and marked paths covering the island. The private May Princess boat operator from Anstruther runs trips every day of the week, except Tuesdays, during the season and has a knowledgeable crew who can talk about the island and its wildlife. Return tickets cost £20 for adults, £18 concessions, £10 under 16s with under 3s going free plus there is a family ticket for two adults and two children of £50. It is advisable to reserve tickets in advance but if tickets can be bought on the day. As the boat has to leave at different times due to the tides it is best to phone the boat operator at Anstruther on 01333 310103 for details or visit the ferry website.

The Scottish Seabird Centre operates trips from North Berwick. These services sail at different times throughout the week from April until the beginning of July. Some trips provide a guided tour that takes in some of the history as well as the amazing spectacle of thousands of puffins and other seabirds packing the island to breed. For times and more information contact the Scottish Seabird Centre on 01620 890202 or www.seabird.org.uk .

David Pickett, SNH’s reserve manager, who has recently transferred from another SNH reserve to the Isle of May said: “As well as its fabulous natural history, the May has a long and interesting cultural history. There are two members of staff based on the May and we meet the arriving boats to give a short talk. We are also available to give advice and information to visitors. I know that I am a bit biased but I think that visiting the Isle of May is one of the best wildlife spectacles in Scotland and an island full of seabirds can make a trip of a lifetime.

”This year people can keep up with the regular goings on on the island by following the new Isle of May blog. Even if you can’t visit the island every week you can follow what the wildlife and the staff living out on the island are up to.”

The May or May Isle, as it is called locally, is a long rocky island with sheer cliffs and caves. It is home to thousands of grey seals, the fourth largest breeding group in the UK, who feed in the rich kelp forests surrounding the island. It is most famous for its seabirds, over 200,000 of them, which include shags, puffins, terns, guillemots, razorbills, eider ducks, gulls, kittiwakes and fulmars. The huge west cliffs are teeming with seabirds in summer.

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Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.