The Bass Rock is an island just off the coast of North Berwick, if you look closer at this Rock its actually smothered with bird droppings. Described by Sir David Attenborough as ” one of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world ” , the Bass is a santuary for gannets, hosting over 150,000 of them during peak breeding season.

Gannets and their chick on precarious cliff edge.

Sporting treacherous jagged edges, and dangerous cliffs, ancient chapel ruins, a lighthouse, and a Castle turned prison.

It is said that the very first of all human inhabitants was St. Baldred in 600 A.D. , an evangelist, monastery founder, and hermit. Today, only the ruins of St. Baldred’s Chapel remain upon the spot he used to frequent. The Chapel was bestowed upon the Lauder family by the Church in 1316.

Ruins of St. Baldred’s Chapel.

Currently uninhabited by humans, the Bass Rock was passed on to the family of Sir Hugh Hamilton- Dalrymple in 1706, after being in the Lauder family for over six centuries. Legend states that the island was a present from King Malcolm 111 of Scotland. Over the years, the Lauders received a string of royal visitors such as King James 1V in 1497 and King James V1 of Scotland in 1581

Tantallon Castle with Bass Rock

In 1671, The Bass Rock was commandeered from the Lauder family and transformed into Scotland’s own Alcatraz following Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland . Subsquently, this castle-turned-prison became riddled with religious and political prisoners. It was also with large numbers of Coventanters. From 1672 to 1688, approximately 40 people died in the depths of the dungeons. Additionally, 1688-92 saw a handful of prisoners contained during the 1st Jacobite Rising, French Napoleonic prisoners were also known to have been prisoner here in later years.

The Seabird Centre in North Berwick hold exclusive landing trips from Easter to Autumn, weather dependant, ferrying tourists in local fishing boats and accompanied by an expert guide, this is a fascinating destination for photographers, historian and wildlife enthusiasts.

Red Arrows over the Firth of Forth.

Irene Higgenbotham 23rd May 2021.