Scottish Seabird Centre
The Scottish Seabird Centre is a conservation and education charity, and visitor attraction in North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland. Opened by Charles, Prince of Wales in 2000 and funded by the Millennium Commission, the showpiece of the centre is the interactive live cameras on the Firth of Forth islands. These are controlled by visitors to the Discovery Centre. The cameras are on islands including the Bass Rock, the world's largest colony of Northern gannets, and the Isle of May National Nature Reserve.
The site now occupied by the Scottish Seabird Centre once overlooked the North Berwick Outdoor Swimming Pool, a feature of the North Berwick Harbour area from the 19th century until its eventual closure in 1996. The old pool has been filled in and is now a boat and dinghy park for members of the East Lothian Yacht Club. The buildings housing the offices of the Seabird Centre were previously a sun room.
During the public consultation phase many locals objected to the construction of the Seabird Centre on the grounds that the harbour area would not be able to cope with the large number of visitors, and that the large-scale construction required could damage the historic area. These fears proved to be unfounded although parking in the surrounding area has, perhaps inevitably, become even more of a problem. The seasonal park-and-ride scheme and Seabird Centre's special discounted rail ticket from Edinburgh, offers some relief in the summer months. The Seabird Centre, a VisitScotland five star visitor attraction, has become extremely popular, winning many awards for environmental and sustainable tourism including the Green Tourism Gold Award and the Queen's Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2004, 2009 and 2013. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited the town in July 2009 to present the Seabird Centre with the award. It was an historic occasion, the first visit to the town by a reigning monarch in over 100 years. It also provides a local hub for the community and year-round festivals and events, such as the Fringe by the Sea and Puffin Fest.
The main attraction at the Seabird Centre is the network of cameras which allow visitors to experience a close encounter with gannets, puffins, shags, cormorants and the rich variety of marine wildlife in the area, including sightings of seals, dolphins and whales. The Seabird Centre is a leading example of sustainable tourism and a world leader in remote wildlife viewing. Solar powered cameras, sited on the islands and key sites around the Firth of Forth, broadcast live streaming images onto giant screens, all remotely controlled by visitors to the centre, allowing them to focus close up on the birds nesting, diving or feeding their young, without disturbing them in any way. The Discovery Centre also has a Wildlife Theatre, Kids' Zone with soft play and Kids' Corner, fish tanks, Scope Deck, Turtle & Ray Zone, gift shop and licensed cafe with an outdoor sun deck overlooking the sea. There are workshops and science shows for families during school holidays, and there is a year-round programme of events and festivals. The Centre also organises an extensive programme of walks, including a free guided early bird beach walk every month. The Seabird Centre runs Seabird Seafari boat trips, from North Berwick Harbour, to the islands from Easter to October. The Centre also has exclusive landing rights for Bass Rock, owned by Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, and home to the largest Northern gannet colony in the world. These 5 hour guided round trips, which leave from Dunbar Harbour in the fishing trawler Fisher Lassie, must be booked well in advance through the centre. Landing trips to the Isle of May are available departing from North Berwick, as well as hour-long trips around the Bass Rock on board the 55-seat catamaran and 12-seat RIBs.
The Scottish Seabird Centre was one of the flagship projects backed by the Millennium Commission which distributed cash from the UK National Lottery to cultural and heritage-related projects. A 64p stamp commemorating the opening of the Seabird Centre was released in 2000 as part of the "Above & Beyond" collection in the Millennium Series. Although the stamp features a colony of gannets, the featured picture was taken in South Africa, not (as many assume) on the Bass Rock.
As well as introducing visitors to some spectacular scenery and wildlife, the construction of the building is also in tune with nature. Materials used to construct the centre were, whenever possible, environmentally sustainable and locally sourced. The centre was designed by Edinburgh architects Simpson & Brown to make use of natural light and ventilation, and to offer panoramic views both to sea and inland towards North Berwick Law. Very little plastic was used in construction, with wood, stone and metal being preferred.
- "Bass Rock announced as the world's largest Northern gannet colony". Scottish Seabird Centre. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Scottish Seabird Centre.|
- Scottish Seabird Centre Official site
- Green Tourism - Review of the construction process
- Architects comments on the design of the centre
- Future extension of the Centre @ The Scotsman
- bbc.co.uk: "Nature in Scotland" page