Lovely Fair Isle
Trip Start May 06, 2008
130Trip End Sep 30, 2008
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Fair Isle has belonged to the National Trust for Scotland since 1954, having been bought from an avid ornithologist, George Waterston who had bought it soon after the war, having spent his days as a prisoner of war in Germany dreaming of owning it. The island, situated as it is right in the migratory path of northern bird species which summer in the north and winter in the south, together with its relative proximity to mainland Europe and with its strong winds, now holds the British record for the number of bird species recorded - 345 in total. Its' importance as a bird sanctuary has resulted in the construction of a Bird Observatory and hostel and over 220,000 individual birds have suffered the indignity of being ringed for science. Today, the island has about 70 full time residents, who spend the summer months crofting and fishing and the winter months on the creative arts, not least of which is knitting the unique Fair Isle knitwear, with its non-repeating patterns redolent of early Norse patterns
The morning proved to be bright and quite warm, in the face of the forecast which was for mist, winds and rain. Realising that the best was now and that the weather might well deteriorate, after seeing our American and Norwegian friends off, we had a quick coffee in the Bird Sanctuary and booked lunch, then set off to explore the northern part of the island. Here, there is little evidence of man's impact in that the land consists mostly of heather and peat. Of course, man has made some impact - his animals graze the heather, in the form of sheep that resemble Soay sheep and on the highest hill there was a radio communications tower (our mobiles worked, surprisingly) and on the northernmost tip of the island, was a magnificent lighthouse and an even more magnificent foghorn. What was fascinating was that the foghorn was placed some 200 yards from the lighthouse, out on a rocky peninsula and access to it was via a narrow path, fenced on both sides to prevent the staff from being blown off the cliff, presumably. Actually, in the Rough Guide for the Scottish Highlands & Islands, it goes so far as to say that the operation of the foghorn was eventually done remotely, as it was too dangerous to get out to it! Tough guys, those Trinity House lighthouse keepers.
The walk we had that morning ended up being one of those special occasions, never to be repeated or forgotten
Returning to the Bird Santuary, we joined the walkers, twitchers, birders and people who had come just to absorb the atmosphere. They only charge £30 / night full board, so it is a cheap holiday. For £5.00 each we had super leek and potato soup, baked potato with mushroom topping, grated cheese and salad and sponge cakes - wonderful things. Incredible value for money and truly delicious food. We loved it.
We decided to get back to the boat to digest a little and then get the bikes out to explore the southern part of the island. Then it all went wrong. Firstly, the bad weather descended, with mist and drizzle and then it took me over an hour to find the "££^$$£ bicycle pump to inflate the tyres. In fact, by the time I found it, the weather was so grotty that we decided to batten the hatches and stay put. Then we were descended upon by a Dutch sail training boat with no less than 8 Dutchmen on board, all the regulation 6' 6'' that they are nowadays. God they were sooo noisy and clumsy as they clambered over our poor boat, at all hours, the sods. Mind you, they were nice guys so I don't begrudge them, just wished they'd come on a different day!!