A Trip to Avalon

Hanging about the local harbour has its charms, especially on a sunny day, such as Sunday was. Sometimes you get to crew one of the fishing boats hauling creels and snag a nice lobster for your troubles. Sometimes it’s more recreational—last weekend my mate Cam wanted to shake down and rig his new lugger and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours ploutering about off the Lattie Doocot working out how best to set her three sails.

But this time one of the rare un-cancelled trips out to the Isle of May still had a couple of empty places, so I pulled a favours to take up one of them. The bad forecast slipped to the next day and, despite lumpy seas making something of a juddering passage out, the day improved hugely as it went on.

The Isle of May from the North East

Much though I love the four islands closer to the East Lothian shore, to me The May is Queen of the Forth. Not only is it larger and flatter than the rest but you get to land and wander and, even with nesting seabirds almost all gone, it remains a magical place. With waves surging only on the lower NE shore, the rest of the island is a haven of peace now—the only birds now obvious are some oystercatchers, shags down by Kirkhaven and a flock of pigeons.

View SW over walled gardens (once used for vegetables by lighthousekeepers) towards Bass Rock & Berwick Law

After a brutal spring and early summer that left much of the island’s vegetation brown and withered until recently, the place looks green and lush, with the rabbits hopping about in acres of space, now that the crush of 10,000+ puffins are off out to sea. The peace along Holyman’s Road and the SW cliffs at Three Tarn Overlook was particularly noticeable.

Approaching the Low Light on Holyman’s Road

The island’s owners (Scottish Natural Heritage) are understandably touchy about people straying off paths, especially during the breeding season. But there are still so many paths taking you to odd corners to explore, such as the flat rocks next to the landing stage at Kirkhaven.

Kirkhaven with the SSC RIB tied up at the Landing and the South Foghorn in the Background

Because of its size (over a mile long) and undulating landscape, the May seems like a much bigger island. Even discounting Rona at the north end because it is inhabited year-round by a hundred or more grey seals that should not be disturbed, it is still hard to get to know the island, even in several two-hour landings. Especially in the brilliant weather that we had, it’s hard to accept that it’s already time to kit up and head home.

Gathered again & kitted out at the Visitor Centre ready for the return

Full of history, including a ruined monastery and many WW1&2 buildings, the isle even has associations with King Arthur from the time when Arthur’s Seat was named. That this was the fabled isle of Avalon is not too hard to believe.

The Crowning Glory—the magnificent, castle-like Main Light, built by the Stevensons in 1816 (original 1637 light on the left)


About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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1 Response to A Trip to Avalon

  1. Angela says:

    Looks beautiful. Will come back to NB one day and get to May and Bass!!

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