Skip to main content

20 August, 2014

Seeing the lighthouses on the Isle of May

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is offering a unique chance over the weekend of 6th and 7th September to see inside the lighthouses on the Isle of May.

As part of Fife Council Doors Open Weekend, two of the lighthouse buildings on the island will be open for visitors to explore, including associated buildings such as the engine room and the keepers’ cottages.

Lying on Scotland’s doorstep, the Isle of May has been a lighthouse island for more than 350 years and has three lighthouses including Scotland’s oldest lighthouse, the Beacon, which dates from 1636.

Besides the lighthouses on the island, visitors will be able to explore the other structures that help a lighthouse island to function. This includes a well-preserved example of a lighthouse engine room, one of the two fog horns on the island, and two different lighthouse keepers’ cottages.

David Pickett, reserve manager said, “This is an exciting chance to get a glimpse of the life of a lighthouse keeper. The first lighthouse in Scotland started lighting the night sky 378 years ago to warn ships in the Firth of Forth of the rocky Isle of May. Since then, the island has developed a lighthouse heritage greater than almost anywhere else in Scotland.”

It’s free to visit the nature reserve, but you must take a boat trip to reach the island. Advance booking is recommended. 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

Contact information

SNH Media

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

’S e NatureScot buidheann nàdair na h-Alba. Bidh sinn a’ neartachadh àrainneachd na h-Alba agus a’ brosnachadh dhaoine gu barrachd suim a chur ann an nàdar. Tha e mar phrìomhachas againn gum bi nàdar na h-Alba beairteach agus gun dèilig sinn gu h-èifeachdach le èiginn na gnàth-shìde. Tha an tuilleadh fiosrachaidh aig no air Twitter aig


Isle of May lighthouse: Please credit Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Isle of May lighthouse

View | Download

Isle of May lighthouse: Please credit Scottish Natural Heritage/Lorne Gill.

Isle of May lighthouse

View | Download