Bass Rock: The tiny island that gannets love

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A few miles off the coast of North Berwick sits the core of an old volcano, Bass Rock. Despite being just over a mile long, it is home to the world’s largest colony of gannets.

Bass Rock – the tiny island that gannets love

Murray Orr visits the island hailed as one of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world.

But the gannets are not the only creatures to make use of Bass Rock.

Its remote location made it a natural place to house a jail. In the 17th century, high-profile political and religious prisoners, including royals, ministers and Jacobites were held there.

Covenanter Prisoners are sent to Bass Rock, 1673

Preacher Alexander Peden and forty other Covenanters are arrested and sent to Bass Rock.

The remote location does not mean that the gannets have had a stress-free existence.

Back in the 19th century people, including members of the Royal Family, would visit the island to shoot the birds as they nested.

The Bass Rock

By the 19th century, shooting nesting seabirds for pleasure became a hugely popular pastime.

Luckily, things improved for the gannet population in the 20th century when visitors stopped shooting and began just observing.

While Bass Rock is recognised as a site of special scientific interest, there are concerns that human activity might yet impact on the birds.

Some scientists have warned that gannets fly higher than previously thought, meaning that they could be injured by the blades of offshore wind farms.

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