New gateway to the May Isle

Isle of May visitor centre
Isle of May visitor centre

It’s not just the world-famous puffins that will be greeting visitors to the Isle of May this year – a bright new visitor centre has just been completed in time for the summer influx of visitors.

Built during the winter, the new centre replaces the old ‘Mouse House’ – a small timber building originally built in the 1960s as accommodation for researchers studying the island’s mouse population.

It became a visitor centre in the 1990s but it was small, had no windows, two toilets and very dated displays.

Now the new gateway building will give visitors a panoramic view of the island and provide information about what there is to see on the island at different times of the year, so that visitors get the most from their time on the Isle of May.

Information about the birds and the research going on on the island, and what visitors can do to help the birds there will also be available.

It also provides essential visitor facilities – toilets, seating and shelter – and a meeting place for larger groups.

In addition, the new centre is much more accessible and closer to the boats coming in.

Generous windows open on to views of the sea and recycled materials have been used in the construction.

Reserve manager Dave Pickett remarked that this presented one of the problems in the construction: “It is the floor that is proving the challenge. 

“The granite setts from demolished original Victorian Northern Lighthouse Board building are being reused, but to get the smart, even lines they have to be re-sorted as they are a number of different sizes.

“They are then laid and the cracks fills to give an as even floor as possible.

“It is a nice thought that these original setts brought over to the island some 120 years ago are getting another lease of life,” added Mr Pickett. 

“It is a floor that shouldn’t wear out.”

Up to 10,000 people visit the Isle of May between April and October each year on visitor boats which run from Anstruther and North Berwick.

Visitors are rewarded with one of Scotland’s best wildlife spectacles – over 200,000 seabirds on the island in peak breeding season plus a large seal population.

Last year the Isle of May received more visitors than ever before as a National Nature Reserve with 10,800 visitor making the crossing to the island, beating the previous record by more than 1500.