I love being just a fifty minute drive from the East coast of Scotland. The sea is so calming and beautiful, even on it’s stormiest of days in the middle of Winter. Our plans to have a day out in North Berwick this week meant we needed to listen to the shipping forecast because we planned to take the Forth Ferry across from Anstruther.
Thankfully the weather was kind to us and the sea was relatively calm for this forty five minute catamaran crossing from Fife across to East Lothian.
Forth Ferry – Destination, North Berwick
The ferry seats just over fifty people and I would say on the morning of our trip there were over forty of us waiting on the harbour wall for our trip across the water. One gentleman even had his golf clubs with him and obviously planned on making use of one of the coastal courses either side of North Berwick. Once seated we were advised that one side may get wetter than the other and yes we had sat down on the “wrong” side. We are hardy types and didn’t move though. It is advisable to have waterproofs and a something warm on because even in the glorious Scottish Summer, out on the sea it gets rather chilly!
All loaded up and safety message relayed from crew, we were away. Leaving Anstruther and its quaint little fishing village.
It is really nice to have a different view of the coastline, the sea and the wildlife too. There was plenty of time to scan our eyes along the Fife coast and try to point out which towns were where. As we drew closer to our destination the ferry slowed and pointed out to us that if we looked closely we would see puffins in the sea – and right enough, we did! We had brought our binoculars with us and managed to get a good view of these cute little sea birds.
Before we knew it we were getting off the ferry with a return time of 16:45. This left us with plenty of time to explore. First thing was first – coffee! We chose to pop in to the Seabird Centre where we would be later visiting. They have a lovely cafe area and is open to everyone not just those going to the centre. But I will come back to this later.
Coastal walk to Bass Rock
Bass Rock is a rather impressive island just off the coast of East Lothian and is actually volcanic rock. Its highest vantage point is 107 metres and although through the years it has been home to a castle and a prison, these days approximately 150,000 gannets call it home. This makes it the worlds largest colony of Northern gannets.
Even from aboard the ferry the Bass looks like it is covered in snow. Completely white with birds and for those of us with good eyesight (or binoculars) you can see the birds in large numbers flying over too.
Walking from the Seabird Centre the first thing you see are long stretches of sand, great for family days out. From what I could see, seafront parking is a bit sparse but there are disabled parking bays for those who may need them. As we carried on further out of town we walked passed the golf club house and admired the pristine greens and fairways. They looked rather busy, people obviously wanting to make the most of the nice weather.
Shortly after this we stopped to have lunch on a bench and admired the view. I think you will agree there are worse places to eat your sandwiches!
Following this coastal path, and praying NOT to get hit on the head by a stray golf ball, we wandered further and further and eventually ending up on a beach, on which there was not a single soul. We had a perfect view of cormorants sat up on rocks, drying themselves off. By now, of course, we are much closer to Bass Rock and it is a real hive of activity – on the rock, in the air and the surrounding sea.
We sat for a while, enjoyed “our” bit of the beach, I took photographs of shells and the view and then we started to make our way back. Considering we were only thirty minutes walk out of town you would have thought we were somewhere more remote. Well worth climbing over rocks and along the path to get to. I do have to say if you have small children and lots of kit to carry it probably not a good idea to go this far.
By the time we got back into town the beaches were now full of families – lots of squeals of excitement from children on the beach.
Scottish Seabird Centre
Located right in the heart of North Berwick harbour the Scottish Seabird Centre is a conservation and education charity. Every day is a school day so just because it’s the school holidays doesn’t mean the little ones should stop learning. Or the big ones, like me, for that matter!
Perfectly located to be in the heart of the rich breeding ground of over half a millions seabirds, the live cameras within the centre give the visitor a bird’s eye view of the birds. Listed on the website are the top ten wildlife for the area: gannets, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, eider ducks, peregrine falcons, seals, dolphins and whales. That is quite a list! Eider ducks are one of my favourite seabirds but I didn’t see any on this occasion.
Downstairs in the discovery centre we were greeted by a volunteer who told us about the interactive cameras, short films, tidal and fish tanks and the Flyway tunnel.
We had just missed a short talk with one of the members of staff but there were plenty of people around just in case we had any questions. There were models of the many birds found in the area and by pressing a button, a bird lit up and a corresponding short video was played – usually an audio of its call and a fact about it. Two great ways learning how to identify birds and being able to put the two together really helps. A brilliant way for any budding ornithologists to learn more.
For whatever reasons not everyone has had the pleasure of rock pooling as a child and discovering what is under rocks and in the sea. I used to love it (and still do) and it is fabulous to see the tanks in the discovery centre that allow a form of rock pooling. Large tanks filled with anenomes, snails, sea urchins and even prawns, amongst other things. All going about their daily business as they would in the sea and we get to have a good look through their window!
The Flyway tunnel is a walkway with more bite size chunks of information and fantastic photos too. At the end of this is the Ray Zone and a life size model of a Manta Ray, one of the most majestic creatures of the water.
Making a point about recycling and looking after the planet we live on too – and it really hits home what we should be doing and that by just recycling one drinks can is enough to run your TV for about three hours. Of course, there are many different ways we can all do our bit and hopefully look after our wildlife in the process.
Forth Ferry – Destination Anstruther
Exact same journey except going the other way! Not exactly. We had a great day and had learnt about many of the local birds, we saw more puffins and gannets diving! This was rather exciting. The speed in which these birds hit the water and dive under for food is phenomenal. This experience, I think, made a really good day out even better.
The water was calmer on the way back but it was also much cooler, we were glad to have our coats (which had not been needed for the rest of the day). Arriving safe back in Fife, we said goodbye to the seaside once again. But more “see you later” than goodbye.
We really enjoyed having a day out in North Berwick and will definitely be going back. Maybe next time we will take on the cruises out to Bass Rock and get a close up of all the gannets? There is plenty here to keep you entertained, fed, watered and fit (golf, sailing, walking etc) whether it is for a week holiday or a day out. The town has plenty of cafes and independent shops too if you have enough at the beach!
We would like to thank Forth Ferry and the Scottish Seabird Centre for their kind hospitality. In return for this blog review we received free tickets for the ferry crossing and entry to the Discovery Centre.