Isle of May opens its doors

The Isle of May is taking part in Doors Open Days 2017.
The Isle of May is taking part in Doors Open Days 2017.

The Isle of May will be opening its doors next month offering visitors a unique chance to find out more about the fascinating island.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will be allowing people to visit on Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3 as part of Doors Open Days 2017.

David Steel, SNH reserve manager said: “The weekend gives people a chance to see behind the scenes. There will be guided walks on the wartime history of the island and on its archaeology.

“Visitors can also explore the buildings which are normally under lock and key: you will be able to see inside the 200-year-old Stevenson lighthouse, the impressive engine rooms, and see where my staff and I live when we are working on the island.”

People will also be able to see a display of artefacts which archaeologists excavated from the island in the 1990s.

The exhibition charts the long religious and cultural history of the island as a focus for Christian pilgrimage, beginning in the 5th century AD. Housed in the Main Lighthouse, the free exhibition was set up to mark 2017’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology with items on loan from the National Museum of Scotland.

Peter Yeoman, consultant archaeologist, said: “This summer is the first time that the fascinating objects from the May island monastery have ever been displayed. The excavations uncovered remarkable evidence relating to 1000 years of Christian community on this small island at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, including some of the oldest church buildings ever found in Scotland.

“Leading historian Dr James Fraser described the place as ‘St Andrews before St Andrews.’ One of the key discoveries was the remains of a pilgrim buried around 1300, with a scallop shell from Santiago de Compostela in Spain placed in his mouth.”

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, the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick or by Forthwild also in North Berwick.

Anstruther - for tickets and details, see www.isleofmayferry.com (May Princess) or www.isleofmayboattrips.co.uk (RIB Osprey).