Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Isle of May Nature Reserve

Home to seabirds, stories of smugglers, and seals, the Isle of May National Nature Reserve is full of incredible attractions and activities for those brave enough to venture to the edge of the Firth of Forth.

If you’re touring the Fife Coast, the Isle of May National Nature Reserve is an incredible wildlife and nature reserve with a visitor centre and boat trips that will dazzle visitors! If you plan to stop by during your journey through Scotland, give our guide a read so you’re clued up on this beautiful Scottish island.

About the Isle of May National Nature Reserve

The Isle of May National Nature Reserve is run and managed by NatureScot and grants guests an intimate look at some of the unique wildlife that calls the Isle of May their home.

You can access the Isle of May National in a variety of ways. You can take a tour from Anstruther, Dunbar, and North Berwick. The busy season for the Isle of May is May through to June, as early summer is when the seabirds are most prominent. That being said, through the Autumn and Winter months, you’ll also be treated to seals and their pups as they begin the breeding season!

There’s a lot you can see, but one of the most famous attractions is the puffin colony that inhabits the Isle of May!

Things to Do at Isle of May National Nature Reserve

We bet there’s something to do at the Isle of May National Nature Reserve for everyone! And to be safe, we’ve outlined the top attractions and things to do while you’re on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve so you’re knowledgeable on your next trip to this stunning Isle.

Take a Pleasure Cruise

Take a Pleasure Cruise

One of the best ways to experience the Isle of May is to take a pleasure cruise from one of the cities on the Firth of Forth. Covering a few hours, the various pleasure cruises take you to and from May Island the scenic way. Ferries run reasonably regularly, so there’ll be some en route during your holiday!

If you’re leaving Anstruther, you’ll go from East Shore (easily found from the nearest bus stop) on one of the Anstruther pleasure cruises. The charming May Princess or Osprey Rib offer a breathtaking experience as your approach the magnificent slope overlooking the Firth of Forth and the noisy spectacle of seabird calls. The May Princess is more luxurious, offering 100 seats, refreshments, partial disabled access, and bathroom facilities, while the Osprey Rib seats 12 but offers a quicker trip with more time on the island.

The Dunbar trip takes you with the Bluewild Rib and offers a 4-hour tour with a guided island tour. Finally, the North Berwick takes trips nearly daily and is also on a Rib (rigid inflatable boat).

We recommend checking the opening times and closing times for when the major attractions on the island adhere to; you don’t want to make the mistake of previous visitors who’ve missed their boat!

See Scotland’s Oldest Bird Observatory

Scotland's Oldest Bird Observatory

Orthnothologists and birders are welcome to see the abundant birds that populate the Isle of May from Scotland’s Oldest Bird Observatory! The Isle of May Bird Observatory was initially opened in 1934 and has served as a way for ornithologists to view breeding seabirds.

The observatory’s large windows offer more sheltered viewing for those who want to see the unmistakable puffin bills and other birds without the wind blowing them away. This site offers a peek into Scottish history and will undoubtedly be one of the premier stops your guide will take you as you navigate the Isle of May.

Visit the Scottish Seabird Centre

Scottish Seabird Centre

If you’re planning to reach the Isle of May, we highly recommend you also look at the Scottish Seabird Centre! This visitor centre offers a host of various ways to learn about the beautiful island of May as well as the wildlife on it.

The centre has exhibits, games, and live interactive cameras trained on the world’s largest Northern Gannet colony! The live webcams are a great way to check in on the island before you leave on one of the wildlife sightings cruises.

If you want to entertain your children before you head out to the Isle’s main harbour, we highly recommend you visit the immersive Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

Traverse the Isle of May

Traverse the Isle of May

Once you reach the main harbour of the Isle of May, you can enjoy guided or unguided tours of the pathways throughout the island! The cliff-top path takes you up close to a quarter of a million sea birds and grey seals that populate the island during the seabird breeding season.

From there, the squawks and calls create a magical mix that dazzles visitors during the busy summer months. Guided tours are an excellent way of receiving an intimate knowledge of the island, from the South Horn to the island’s visitor centre, which gives you unparalleled views of the cliffs and birds from an external viewing area.


The Isle of May Nature Reserve offers plenty of events for guests to get involved with. Many include volunteer programs and chances to contribute to the continued conservation of this significant initiative.

You can volunteer if you’re willing to stay for the entire season – an excellent option for young adult or adult visitors planning to stay and study locally. Otherwise, schools can arrange outdoor learning events for pupils with NatureScot to learn about the island.


Various excellent accommodation options are available before and after your visit to the beautiful Isle of May National Nature Reserve. The towns of Anstruther, Dunbar, and North Berwick are filled with stunning options for your stay.

Choose luxurious hotels, cosy self-catering apartments, or homely B&Bs in Edinburgh if you want a great morning start.

Thinking Of Booking A Trip? Check Out Our Top Accommodation Options In Edinburgh

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