Bass Rock is an island in the
Firth of Forth that sits about two miles
northeast of North Berwick. It is a 110m/360 ft high lump of volcanic rock that
has a circumference of about 1 mile/1.5km; it is sometimes referred to as the
Ailsa Craig of the east due to its similarity to the island in the Firth of
Clyde. Its size and shape certainly make it the most easily recognised island in
The Bass was a retreat for early Christians, including St. Baldred who is
said to have died on the island in the mid 8th century.
The site of his cell on the island was later used to build the now ruined St.
Baldred’s Chapel; this was mentioned as noviter erecta in a Papal Bull
of 1493. The lighthouse on the island was built by David Stevenson in 1902; this
stands above the remains of a 16th century castle, although this might have been
built on the site of an earlier Castell of the Bas. Prior to the
lighthouse, the castle was rebuilt as a prison and used to hold Covenanters
during the 17th century, including Alexander Peden and John Blackadder. In the
late 17th century Jacobite prisoners seized the island and held it for
three years in the name of King James VII; the prison was demolished at the
beginning of the 18th century.
Today, like other islands in the Firth of Forth, the Bass Rock is now a sea
bird sanctuary. It is the home of a large gannet colony, which can be watched
from the Scottish Seabird Centre in
North Berwick; with a current
estimate of over 150,000 gannets on the island, it is the world's biggest
single rock gannetry and David Attenburgh once described the island as
one of the Twelve Wildlife Wonders of the World.
North Berwick's Islands
To the west of Bass Rock, sitting to the north of
North Berwick, is Craigleith; rock from the island is used to manufacture curling
stones. Continuing west is Lamb, which sits between two rocks known as North and
South Dog; collectively these rocks are known as Lamb’s sheep dogs.
Further west is Craigleith, which is said to have been the inspiration for
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The lighthouse on Fidra was
built in 1885 by David and Thomas Stevenson, the uncle and father of Robert
Louis; in 1970, this became the first fully automated lighthouse run by the
Northern Lighthouse Service. Like the Bass Rock and the small island of
Eyebroughy that sits to the west of Fidra, these islands are also noted for
their bird colonies; these include puffins, cormorants, guillemot and herring
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