Fair Isle

Date published: 01 July 2014

Rugged Fair Isle lies midway between Orkney and Shetland in an area which has tides so challenging that the 24 mile stretch north to Shetland is shown on the chart as “The Hole”. With a population of seventy, it is also home to an important bird observatory. 


We sailed from Orkney to tiny North Harbour on the east coast and were grateful, even in daylight, for the leading-light guiding us into the narrow entrance through rocks and high cliffs.

Seemingly, all the islanders turned out to greet us with a riotous display of noise and bunting. In fact, our arrival coincided with a wedding and the guests, by now in jolly mood, helped us raft alongside the island’s tough little supply vessel, Good Shepherd. 

One of our more memorable arrivals!

Next morning we joined the warden on his round to empty the bird-traps and to record, ring and release the “catch”. His population records show that gannets and fulmars are holding up but puffins and guillemots reflect the decline of the sand-eel population on which they depend.

Just time for breakfast, a short cliff walk then set off into “The Hole” and onwards to Shetland (it was a great sail in brisk winds, clear skies and helpful tides).

- Main Fair Isle Image by Hallros