Wildlife on the Forth

The Firth of Forth is the access point to the sea of Scotland’s great capital, Edinburgh, via the Port of Leith. Nevertheless, it is teeming with wildlife and enjoys SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status. Extending on the North side from Alloa along the Fife Coast to Crail in the East Neuk, and on the South side along the Falkirk and Lothian coasts to Dunbar, there are many mud flats, reed beds and sand dunes that can be observed from on land. However, some unique habitats are only accessible by sea and three are listed here, all easily accessible from Burntisland.


Inchkeith island is located in the Forth, practically halfway between Burntisland and Edinburgh, and offers temporary anchorage in both easterly and westerly winds. As an uninhabited island, the puffins are king. However, it’s probably one of the easiest places to get up close to seals. In the water, they display little of the timidity that they show on land and, if at anchor, they will swim right up to take a look.

Bass Rock

The Bass Rock is the largest single rock gannetry in the world – 150,000 birds by some estimates. From a distance, the island looks totally white – the colour of the birds’ feathers and of their droppings, an unmistakeably pungent smell when up close (or even not so close). There is no official landing on the Bass Rock, but as it consists of one of the region’s ancient volcanic plugs (like Arthur’s Seat and North Berwick Law) a boat in calm conditions can practically touch the sides and still be in sufficient water. Needless to say, selection of an anchoring spot needs special care or else the anchor and all its chain will dangle uselessly from the boat without being anywhere near the seabed.

Isle of May

The Isle of May is twice the length of Inchkeith, but since it is low in the water it can sometimes be difficult to see from a distance. With its ancient chapel, it has a long medieval, celtic, christian history, but the birds, no doubt, care for none of that and more than 200,000 birds nest on the island during the breeding season including puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots, shags, fulmars, oystercatchers, Eider ducks, and various species of tern and gull.