Monday, 18 July 2011

Island of Gulls

Summer is the time for boat trips and islands. The premier trips in the Forth are to the Isle of May and to Bass Rock: I've tried a couple of times to book a trip to the Bass but the swell has always been too bad.

Closer to shore, and less affected by the weather, is Inchcolm. This island is named after St Columba (Colm Cille in Gaelic) who supposedly visited around 567. A now-ruined monastery was named after him. It was built in the 12th century after Alexander I's boat was blown onto the island and he was taken care of by a hermit.

Inchcolm monastery:

Inchcolm, although close to the Fife shore, is most easily reached by boat trip from the slipway at South Queensferry in Lothian. We boarded the Maid of the Forth, a holiday atmosphere prevailing despite the dull-ish weather (perhaps the pint in the 17th century Hawes Inn beforehand helped). First the boat sails under the gargantuan girders of the Forth Bridge, before passing a couple of rocks and ending up at Inchcolm, where an exploration of the monastery can be made.

Going under the bridge:

From the monastery:

I had thought the monastery would be the main attraction of this tiny island, but it isn't. Inchcolm is uninhabited and only occasionally visited by people. Except for the small area of the monastery precinct and landing pier it is given over entirely to herring gulls.

Who you looking at?

In the absence of rats on the island, the gulls nest on the ground and take great exception to intruders. I don't know if you have ever experienced the aggression of a bonxie attack in the Northern Isles? The gulls of Inchcolm are made from a similar mould.

Under attack!

The gulls make it plain, by divebombing your head, that excursions furth of the monastery are not welcome. The further you intrude into their territory, the more aggressive they become. Eventually you realise it is not worth trying to reach the western end of the island, although the path round the eastern end can be endured.

Farewell tae Inchcolm:

After the attacks of the gulls, it was a relief to reach the sanctuary of the monastery and get back on the boat. Another few pints in the Hawes Inn and the train back to Edinburgh completed the day trip!

1 comment:

blueskyscotland said...

Been out there a few years ago and my mate John had his hat pulled off by said gulls while another thumped his scalp.Liked the wartime tunnel up there though on the highest point.Very interesting island with great views over the firth.