Visiting Bass Rock, The ‘Scottish Alcatraz’

Located on the east coast of Scotland by the town of North Berwick, Bass Rock Scotland has been a prison to royals, ministers, and Jacobites! Today it is home to over 150,000 Northern Gannets. A trip of a lifetime for bird watchers, naturists and historians.

Bass Rock Scotland: Looking Out to Bass Rock, North Berwick ©MDHarding
Looking out to Bass Rock, North Berwick ©MDHarding

Visiting Bass Rock Scotland: The ‘Scottish Alcatraz’

History of Bass Rock

Bass Rock Scotland made the ideal location for a nearly impenetrable prison, located in the Firth of Forth. With a journey time of 1 hour from mainland Dunbar today, you can only but imagine what the journey was like back in the 1600’s, when the first prisoners were imprisoned.

Bass Rock Scotland: The remnants of the castle and prison walls ©MDHarding
The remnants of the castle/prison walls and Stevenson Lighthouse ©MDHarding

Landing Trip To Bass Rock Scotland

To visit Bass Rock the trip departs from the coastal town of Dunbar. This past week I had the amazing opportunity to experience the journey on-board the solid fishing boat – Fisher Lassie. The scenery along the coast draws your eye for the hour journey, with spectacular views of Tantallon Castle. One of the islands most famous visitors has been Sir David Attenborough who described Bass Rock as “One of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world“.

Bass Rock Scotland: The incredible trip starts with Sunrise, Dunbar Harbour. ©MDHarding
The incredible trip starts with sunrise, Dunbar Harbour. ©MDHarding

On Bass Rock

A seabird sanctuary, home to 150,000 North Gannets. They arrive from the Mediterranean or as far south as the Equator each January and re-establish their territory on the island, before leaving again with the chicks in October.

Bass Rock Scotland: The Scottish Alcatraz: Gannett chick and parent, Bass Rock ©MDHarding
Gannet chick and parent, Bass Rock ©MDHarding

The Return Trip

On the return trip back to Dunbar witness the surge of Gannets fill the air and follow the boat, while being fed fish, diving at over 60mph and descending up to 30 feet.

What you Need to Know Before Visiting

You are on the island for three hours with an amazing opportunity to sit with these incredible birds, watching them at very close quarters. Take time to enjoy the experience in-between capturing some unique photographs. There is no official toilet on the boat or the island, however an area has been created outwith the live camera area. Wear comfortable old clothes and walking boots, as with the huge number of Gannets, it’s not seen as the white island for nothing!

If you haven’t visited the Galapagos Islands, this is a close 2nd for me. An incredible trip of a lifetime not to be missed!

There is a number of lovely accommodation options in Dunbar and the surrounding areas. For ease of access and flexibility, I would recommend hiring a car. If arriving into Edinburgh or Glasgow Airport, you can pre-book your car and collect upon arrival.

I hope I have inspired you to visit Bass Rock Scotland and create a lifetime memory. As always we would love to hear from you. Have you visited Bass Rock? What was your highlight? or perhaps you have a question? Please drop us a line below. We would love to help. Happy Travels:) x

About MichelleDeansHarding


 Michelle has a love of travel and photography, which has currently taken her to six continents. Experiencing other cultures/history and food both independently and while working on-board luxury cruise ships. Discover more about Michelle, her enthusiasm for travel and photography via:

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2 Responses

  1. North Berwick a former Royal Burgh - Go4Travel Blog

    […] to see some of the species of birds up close, why not book a boat trip to visit the Isle of May, Bass Rock or on-board the Three Islands Seabird […]

  2. Avatar for MichelleDeansHarding

    William Gee

    Wow a 17th century Alcatraz State Prison turned into one of the most amazing animal sightseeing spots in the world. Talk about irony. From the ultimate ugly to the ultimate Beauty. Sir Attenborough approved!


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