One of the reasons that this holiday to ‘Northumberland’ has seen us detour to Scotland was because I wanted to make a return visit to the Isle of May to see the nesting seabirds, in particular the puffins. Last time we went the weather was truly appalling. It was raining, it was freezing; we were the only sailing that week, all others having been cancelled due to the conditions. This time, I decided I would not book months in advance but would wait until I had some idea of what might be expected from the weather. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, so when I went to book online a few days ago, they were already full. There was no chance on our first choice of day and the only other sailing whilst we were in the area was also full but we were invited to come along on on spec as first reserves.
The sailing is at 9.45 and you have to be there half an hour in advance. The harbour is half an hour away so, naturally, we leave the site at 8am – that is quite restrained for me. By 8.40am we are wandering round Anstruther. The fisherman of my acquaintance comments that, given the state of the tides, the boat looks unlikely to sail within the next couple of hours and indeed the harbour is almost dry. It nears 9am and we approach the booking office. What I have not thought to do is check the sailing times. 9.45am was sailing time on our first choice date. Now the tides have changed and today’s sailing isn’t until 11.30am! We could have had a lie in!
Anstruther is all very lovely, a typical fishing village that has been forced to also embrace tourism. It doesn’t have massive wandering round potential however. An additional problem is that I have believed the weather forecast, which stated that the maximum temperature would be 11 degrees (about 55 in old money). Despite this, people are sitting on the front at 9am in shorts and t-shirts. I however am wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, my thickest fleece, a waterproof coat and a body warner for good measure, accompanied by my fleecy lined trousers that were purchased for Finland’s minus 23 degree temperatures; I have drawn the line at the thermal long-johns. I am prepared for it being colder out on the ocean. It turns out that the weather forecast is wrong and there is glorious sunshine and despite the keenish wind, the temperature is approaching 20/70. I shed layer after layer. Eventually, the ferry operator arrives and tells us to return at 11.15am. We do as instructed (well, we are there for 11am) and wait with bated breath to see if all those who were booked will turn up to collect their tickets, which are they are supposed to do by 11am. It was close. The last party arrive at 11.27am, so there is no room for us. We are offered places on the rib but I really don’t do adrenaline and this looks a bit ‘adventurous’, so we decline. I am very sad until I realise that we might be able to substitute this trip for a visit to the Farne Islands on our way back through Northumberland.
So another day of plan B. I do have thinner clothes in the car and Mr Bean-like, I manage to wriggle my way into these as we set off for the RSPB reserve at Loch Levan. The Loch provided the water supply for local paper and flax industries but was later drained, so the reclaimed land could be used. More recently, the RSPB have restored the wetland habitat and also created the world’s first bee reserve. We walk round the waterside track and see nesting swallows, shelduck, greylag geese, mutes swans, many nesting black-headed gulls, an oyster catcher, a redshank, a grey heron, mallard, a coot and a wood pigeon but the stars of the show are the nesting lapwing, who have declined noticeably in recent years, so we rarely see them now. We watch three adult lapwing mobbing a stoat, to draw attention away from the nests. This causes consternation when we report back to the ranger as the stoat was inside the predator fence.
Despite some changes of plan, we have enjoyed our stay in Fife and look forward to moving on tomorrow. To top it all we have a booking for a boat to the Farne Islands!