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19 October, 2017

Record number of visitors for Isle of May NNR once again

For the third year running, a record number of people have visited the Isle of May. Almost 13,000 visitors came ashore to the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) national nature reserve in 2017 to enjoy the wildlife and learn about the island’s cultural heritage.

The numbers were boosted by a variety of popular events – including a seabird weekend, family days and a seal weekend – and a lengthy feature on BBC’s Countryfile programme in July this year.

A special event this year was an archaeology exhibition, in conjunction with National Museums Scotland, featuring artefacts excavated in the 1990s. As part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, the show told the fascinating story of the island as a focus for Christian pilgrimage for a thousand years, beginning in the 5th century AD.

David Steel, SNH’s Isle of May reserve manager, said:

"We’re so glad that so many people have come to enjoy the wonderful wildlife and history that the reserve has to offer. This stunning and mystical island has a backdrop of almost 100,000 puffins which are a major draw, as are the terns, other seabirds and the amazing history.

 “If you missed out this year, boats will start sailing from 1st April 2018, so make sure you book a place!”

David writes a popular blog about the island, its wildlife and what it’s like to live there. It had over 80,000 hits last year and has no doubt played a part in encouraging visitors as well. See

Sailings are on the privately-run May Princess or Osprey of Anstruther from the Anstruther Harbour; or through the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

  • Anstruther - for tickets and details, see (May Princess) or (RIB Osprey).
  • North Berwick - for tickets and details, book online on the Scottish Seabird Centre website at or call 01620 890 202.   

    Known locally as 'The May', this small island sits on the edge of the Firth of Forth. The island's importance for seabirds has drawn scientists to its shores for many years and The May is home to the oldest continuously-running bird observatory in the UK. The May is also a regular haunt for grey seals, often seen lounging on the shoreline rocks. This island is a historical gem and it's been a place of pilgrimage for centuries with an early island monastery. The May was also the site of Scotland's very first lighthouse, built in 1636, while the current, castle-like lighthouse was designed by the engineer Robert Stevenson.

    Helping more people experience and enjoy nature in this way is one of the priorities of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.

    - For more information, contact SNH press & public relations officer, Vicki Mowat, on 0131 316 2659 or or the main SNH press office on 01463 725 022. Please credit pictures to Scottish Natural Heritage.

Contact information

SNH Media

Notes to editors

Isle of May National Nature Reserve is one of around 45 NNRs in Scotland. These are special places which showcase some of the best of Scotland’s nature. They provide unique opportunities to visit, enjoy and learn more about Scotland’s nature. For more information, see .

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

Tha Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba na buidheann comhairleachaidh dhan riaghaltas a thaobh nàdair agus seallaidhean-tìre air feadh Alba. ’S e an dleastanas a th’ againn cuideachadh a thoirt do dhaoine gus tuigse, luach agus tlachd fhaighinn bho nàdar na h-Alba, an-dràsta agus san àm ri teachd. Airson tuilleadh fiosrachaidh, tadhail air  no lean sinn air Twitter aig


IOM-D0099 - puffins-3

IOM-D0099 - puffins-3

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May 5

May 5

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