Isle of May NNR - Visiting the reserve
Visit the Isle of May NNR to experience a magical mix of seabirds, seals and smugglers.
You’ll need to take a ferry to reach the Isle of May. Ferries run from April to September and depart from Anstruther in the East Neuk of Fife, or Dunbar and North Berwick in East Lothian.
Boats depart from the harbour and tickets can be purchased from the ticket office by the Lifeboat station. There is parking (200 metres) and the nearest bus stop is at East Shore (100 metres).
Anstruther Pleasure Cruises
A round trip of up to 5 hours in the May Princess, including time to explore the island. The ferry has 100 seats – 35 covered – refreshments, a toilet and partial disabled access.
A round trip of 4-4.5hrs, the Osprey Rib takes 12 people and is a open fast boat journey including time to explore the island on foot.
For further details visit the Isle of May Boat Trips website.
This is a 5 hour round trip in a fast boat via Bass Rock including 3 hours ashore with a Bluewild guide. For further details visit the Bluewild website.
This is a 4-hour round trip, including time to explore the island. Depending on when you land, you are either accompanied by a guide or are free to explore on your own. Please check with the Scottish Seabird Centre when booking (telephone 01620 890202). Travel is on a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), which is open to the elements. Waterproofs will be provided.
A guide to the island will be given when you book your ticket along with a map to guide you around the reserve.
Seabird populations including those on the Isle of May were hit hard by Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in 2022. The virus is still circulating widely in wild bird populations across the UK and beyond. This year to prevent the transmission of the virus by visitors’ biosecurity measures will be in place for all visitors to the island. All footwear must be free from mud, and disinfectant footbaths will be provided to disinfect footwear on arrival and departure. We thank our visitors and all the boat operators for supporting this action and helping protect our precious seabird populations.
The visitor centre is open throughout the season.
It nestles into a slope overlooking the main harbour. An external viewing area looks out across the island. It has excellent views of wildlife, the shoreline and the south of the island. Large windows offer more sheltered viewing from inside the building.
An outdoor information area provides details on where to go and what can be seen around the island. We update this regularly with news and wildlife sightings. Interpretation boards inside provide more information about the island through the seasons, it wildlife, work and research. There are also information panels around the island, which explore the Isle of May’s history and people.
NatureScot Cupar office telephone: 01738 458800
There is a fully accessible toilet at the visitor centre.
Shelter is available in the visitor centre, the South Horn and the old bath house. The visitor centre has no steps. The South Horn has a flight of steps with a handrail, and there are steps going into the bath house.
Trails for all
Explore the network of paths around the island. Our visitor map shows the variety of routes and best places to visit on the island.
Copies of the map are available for all visitors to the island.
May and June are the best times to see breeding seabirds.
Seabirds begin to gather on the Isle of May in April, with numbers increasing throughout the spring. You’ll see guillemots, fulmars, terns, gulls and, of course, the cheeky little puffins. Spring is a good time to watch courtship rituals. You’ll also hear the soft cooing of male eider ducks – and look out for the females nesting right next to the paths.
In summer the island’s birds are busy with their young – rearing and fledging. At the peak of the seabird breeding season, this small island supports more than a quarter of a million birds!
Autumn sees a build up in the grey seal numbers around the island as they gather to breed. The Isle of May is also a convenient stopover for migrating birds. More than 250 species rest here on their journeys north or south.
The Isle of May can have up to 2,000 seal pups in autumn and winter. As one of the most important sites for seals in the east of Scotland, it’s a valuable centre for research.