Visiting Edinburgh? Don’t skip North Berwick (and Bass Rock)!

Edinburgh is, like mentioned in my previous blog, not a large city. So, if you are able to cover a few miles by foot, you could see the main attractions of the city within two days. As I stayed in Edinburgh for three days, I needed another activity. Because I wanted to see Puffins, a boat trip around the islands near the city (Bass Rock) seemed like a great idea. However, with all Puffins gone by August, looking for another interesting bird became my new plan: Gannets.


Gannets on Bass Rock.

From Edinburgh Waverley Station, a train will bring you to a village called North Berwick in only just over half an hour. A return will cost you £6,80 (at the moment of writing). North Berwick is a quiet village with a golf court and a stretched beach at the North Sea.

Beach of North Berwick

The main beach of North Berwick.

It is in this little village, where you can find the Scottish Seabird Centre. Being the guards of the seabirds, they have breeding programmes and take care of the environment of the birds and mammals in the Scottish waters. They also organise boat trips to some of the islands just outside mainland.

North Berwick

North Berwick, a calm place.

A one hour boat trip, that will cost you £17, will take you to Craigleith and Bass Rock. This is their cheapest of many tours, and it is truly fun to do! As I am a big sucker for wildlife, I excitingly hopped on board of their catamaran. As the boat left the coast, the sunny summer morning turned in a foggy morning.

Fog in North Berwick

Fog hits the village of North Berwick, as seen from the boat.

As we got further out the coast, the wind picked up and the fog disappeared slowly. The sounds of the birds greeted us when got near the first island: Craigleith. Many Cormorants enjoy the save rocks of the island.


A cormorant at Craigleith.

And surely, after twenty minutes we saw the first seal sleeping in the water near the rocks. Very exiting! Only a few minutes later we saw another seal! I already enjoyed the trip and had no idea what was waiting for me.


A sleepy seal stares at the passing boat.

After a half-hour boat trip, I saw only one Gannet, sleeping on the rocks  of Craigleith. As the boat went into open sea again, the skipper ensured us that we would see and smell many Gannets. The chance for dolphins however, was small. Ah well, I already spotted seals, and as the Dutch say: a child’s hand is filled quickly, so I was a happy boy.


Many Gannets are waiting for you at Bass Rock.

While at open sea, a large rock arose from the horizon. Left to us many Gannets started following the boat. What a sight!


A Gannet following the boat.

And as we approach Bass Rock, the sounds of the many Gannets was impressive. Even more impressive was to see that this seemingly white rock, is just grey. Over 150.000 white Gannets make it look like a white rock!


One of the 150.000 Gannets.

While the skipper turned the boat around the corners of this impressive rock, I started to realise why the skipper said we would smell the birds. This is not a fragrant by Coco Chanel! Yet, while the smell isn’t pleasant, the sound, smell, and feeling of the wind adds to the experience of seeing these birds nest up close.

Flying Gannet

Flying around the rock.

With a laugh the skipper warned us: “If you wear a hoodie or have a head, now would be the time to put it on, as the thousands of birds above you might drop a little surprise“. Luckily they didn’t pooped on us this time!


Bass Rock is home to over 150.000 Gannets!

There is even a little lighthouse at the rock. Taking care of that with these many birds must be quite a job!

Bass Rock

See all that white on Bass Rock? Those are birds!

Despite the lack of dolphins and Puffins, this boat trip is a great experience, and must do if you are around. You’ll be supporting the Scottish Seabirds Centre in their good work too! If you must see the Puffins, go there from mid April until the first week of August. They’ll be out on the sea and down south for the other months.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, or feel free to share your story!

Kind regards,


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  1. I love Berwick! It’s my favourite view on the train from London to Edinburgh – absolutely spectacular when you see the sheer drop from the window to the sea.

    • Hi Vanessa,

      I haven’t done that route, only a return Edinburgh – Borth Berwick. It is amazing indeed! I guess the sea becomes visible near Northumberland Coast? Must be a beautiful train ride indeed! And only 5 hours? That is the same distance as Edinburgh – Fort William!

      Thank you for your comment 🙂 Have a great day!


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