“ Address: The Harbour / North Berwick / EH39 4SS / Scotland „
The Scottish Seabird Centre is located in the little East Lothian town of North Berwick. The centre has a great location, sat on a rocky outcrop in the harbour overlooking the town's white sandy beaches, the seas of the Firth of Forth, with the massive, volcanic plug of the Bass Rock dominating the horizon only one mile away.
The Scottish Seabird Centre aims to entertain and educate people about the wonderful wildlife of the Firth of Forth, particularly its seabirds. Over 300,000 seabirds breed in the area, during the spring and summer, forming massive 'seabird cities' of communal nesting sites on rocky islands and cliffs located in the Firth.
One of the area's star attractions is the Bass Rock. This is home to a staggering 140,000 gannets; the largest colony in the world. Sir David Attenborough described this site as "one of the wildlife wonders of the world". Gannets are our largest seabirds, pure white, with a six foot wingspan. They are noted for 'plunge diving' from high in the air, reaching 60 mph as they hit the water in search of fish.
The Scottish Seabird Centre is THE place to watch gannets in action. The discovery centre has visitor operated cameras on the Bass Rock. The visitor can move the camera, pan and zoom, to see every detail of the frenetic action as a gannet arrives, swooping down, to be met my the upturned dagger-like bills of its neighbours.
If getting this close isn't good enough for you, you can embark on one of the trips run by the centre, around the Bass Rock. Here you'll see gannets plunge diving all around the boat and see, hear, (and smell!), the amazingly active colony on the island. On this trip, you'll realise why the island is white; it's due to gannet poo, not the colour of the rock! Other seabirds should be present including guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, and puffins.
Cameras are also located on the Isle of May. Here thousands of puffins return to breed every year. Close views of these comical little birds can be obtained through the centre's cameras. These cameras can also be used to view the grey seal colony. The seals breed in the winter months, so if you want to view seal pups, this is the time to visit.
The centre has a viewing deck overlooking the Firth of Forth. Here, telescopes and binoculars are available for visitors, thoughtfully placed at different heights for adults and children. On a sunny day, this deck is a lovely place to be; with the sun reflecting off the blue sea and white Bass Rock.
The discovery centre has some superb interactive displays, showing the wildlife of the area, and for kids, there's a new play area for them to burn off some energy. There is also a movie theatre, with various, short films about the seabirds and other wildlife showing every few minutes.
The café has an extensive menu and serves pretty good quality food. Considering it's a visitor café, the prices are quite reasonable. The best thing about the café in my opinion is that there are outside tables. Here you can eat your meal on a sunny day, enjoying the lovely vista.
As is usual with tourist attractions like this, there's a visitor's gift shop. This is standard fare, with books, clothing, local food and sweets all available at typical prices. It's worth having a look around as the shop does have some unusual items for sale.
Price wise, the centre is reasonable considering the amount to see and do. Adult tickets are £7.95, with children's tickets costing £4.50. There's no family ticket available, however.
I visited the centre last year and was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to see and do. The highlight for me was seeing the seals, through the centre's cameras, amazing! Viewing the gannets on camera was also enjoyable, as well as using the centre's telescopes to watch them fishing. I can highly recommend a visit here if you're in the area.