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01 July, 2014

Isle of May offically opens new visitor centre

Visitors to the Isle of May national nature reserve will have even better experiences this year, thanks to a new building on the island which was officially opened in late June.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) held a ceremony to mark the opening of a new visitor centre on June 20. Invited guests watched as Simon Pepper, SNH Board Member, cut the ribbon and declared the centre open.

In his speech, Mr Pepper spoke about the importance of national nature reserves for giving the public close-up experiences of nature and how the new centre on the Isle of May will contribute to that.

Replacing the 1960s timber hut which previously served as an information centre, the new visitor facility has been built following sustainable principles. It is low maintenance with no energy costs and collects rainwater for toilet flushing. Materials available on the island were reused and recycled during construction.

David Pickett, Isle of May reserve manager, said:

“This innovative centre will greatly enhance the visitor’s experience at this important nature reserve. It will help those arriving at the island plan their visits and will give them information on what to look for while they’re here. At this time of year, visitors can get really close to the Arctic terns which are raising chicks all around the building - even on the turf roof of the new centre.”

Construction of the centre started in September 2013 and was not without its challenges. Special barges were used for delivering building materials but were often at the mercy of the weather and tides.

Overlooking the harbour, the new facility creates a focal point and provides toilets, shelter and interpretation for visitors.

It’s free to visit the nature reserve, but you must take a boat trip to reach the island. Sailings are on the privately-run May Princess or Osprey of Anstruther from the Anstruther Harbour or through the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

Known locally as 'The May', this small island sits on the edge of the Firth of Forth. The island's importance for seabirds has drawn scientists to its shores for many years and the May is home to the oldest continuously running bird observatory in the UK. The May is also a regular haunt for grey seals, often seen lounging on the shoreline rocks. This island is a historical gem and it's been a place of pilgrimage for centuries with an early island monastery. The May was also the site of Scotland's very first lighthouse, built in 1636, while the current, castle-like lighthouse was designed by the engineer Robert Stevenson.

Notes to editors

The Isle of May is one of more than 50 national nature reserves in Scotland. These are special places that look after some of the best of Scotland’s nature on behalf of everyone who lives or visits Scotland, and they provide unique opportunities to visit, enjoy and learn more about Scotland’s nature. For more information, see

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NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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Isle of May visitor centre

Isle of May visitor centre

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Isle of May new visitor centre 2

Isle of May new visitor centre 2

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