Ahoy There!

After dropping our new friend Blade and his owner Alison off at the train station, we decided to take off on another adventure before heading home. So off we set towards North Berwick.  We have never been to North Berwick before, and when we arrived the sun was shining and a beautiful beach lay in front of us!  But first we had to go and get some lunch so we had a nice sit down on the decking area of the Scottish Seabird Centre’s cafe while Katherine had tea and cake, then we could be let loose on the beach!

Playing among the rocks was a lot of fun, and we also had our trusty ChuckIt! Ultra Ball to play fetch with too!

But while we would have been happy to stay on the beach for the rest of the day, we were on a mission in North Berwick and our mission involved the big rock behind us in this photo –

Any guesses as to the name of this big rock? This is the famous Bass Rock, home to the largest colony of gannets (Katherine’s favourite seabird) in the world.  It looks white on the top doesn’t it?  That is because of all the gannets (and their poo!) covering the island.  And this island is where we were going to be heading!

After a walk around the town where we realised there were several cafes where dogs were welcome (useful to know for a future visit) we headed down to the harbour in search of a boat...one boat in particular...this boat in fact...

This boat belongs to Sula Boat Trips, the Sula II is named after the very birds we were going to visit and it was on this boat we would be heading out to sea to Bass Rock! 

At the moment though the tide needed to rise a bit before we could board the boat. Once sailing time was reached the boat was high enough for us to jump on board!  With a little difficulty...it was a bit of a jump for us!  We found a spot on the boat for us to sit, which wasn’t difficult as it was a fairly quiet sailing, and off we went, the engine of the boat rumbling away as we left the harbour and headed to Craigleith. Here we saw puffins in the water around the boat and lots of other birds before we started heading towards Bass Rock and it’s cloud of gannets.

As we got closer the noise became deafening and the smell...well...let’s just say you would need a lot of air freshener to get rid of that smell!  Seabird colonies tend to be a bit on the smelly side and this gannet colony was no exception.  Gannets are big birds, they are the largest seabird in the Northern Hemisphere!  And they were flying all around our boat and crammed on the island just out of pecking distance of their neighbour.  We don’t blame them for keeping that distance – we wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a jab from that beak!

The Sula II took us very close to the cliffs and the nesting gannets who took no interest in us or the boat.  The Sula II has been visiting them for the last 42 years though so they are well used to her paying them a visit.  This gave us some fantastic views of the gannets who continued doing whatever it is that gannets do, which seemed to be a bit of courting and bit of fighting, a bit of bringing their mate a nice bouquet of nesting material followed by a bit more courting...

We’re sure there is probably some fishing done in between that too but around the colony it was all about the breeding.   Gannets eat big fish including mackerel...bit strange thinking that we are competing with these big seabirds as we like mackerel too!  Just as well they don’t know that we eat the same things they do or they might not have been as happy with us on the boat sailing around their island!

Eating mackerel is nothing though compared to what some people eat...some people serve up the gannet chicks as a special dish known as Guga (though this practice is severely restricted to one small island now as gannets are a protected species). Sadly, we have found the occasional dead gannet on the beach, but eating it is far from the first thought that comes into our heads. Rolling in it most definitely but they don’t smell at all appetising so we haven’t attempted to scavenge from a carcass of one! People eat the strangest things!

Round the island we sailed, passing the lighthouse and shortly after we were saying goodbye to the island of the gannets and heading back towards the mainland.  And we got recognised by the crew as the two Border Collies on Facebook haha!  The crew on board were very nice and gave an excellent commentary on our sailing to and from Bass Rock, they certainly know their stuff!

On the way back, we spotted our next destination on the top of a cliff...a mighty castle that looked out towards Bass Rock, Tantallon Castle.

What could be better than a nice big castle to explore and give us a chance to stretch our legs after our boat trip?  And Tantallon is a BIG castle with lots of stairs to go up and down...we found a set of stair going down into a basement type place, and from there a mysterious set of stairs leading up a little way...

...there was only a toilet up there though!  Still, it is still fun investigating every part of the castle and there were many more stairs to go up and down, and some fantastic views from the top of the castle!

All too soon though it was time to say goodbye to the Bass Rock, the castle and North Berwick and start heading back home though we are determined we will return for another fun day out...and maybe even squeeze in another boat trip on the Sula II if it isn’t too busy!

Until our next blog!

Millie, Fly and Kat T


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