Fair Isle is the most isolated of Britain's inhabited islands. Only three miles long by 1 1/2 miles wide, the island has a population of around 70 and is best known for its intricately patterned knitwear, which is still produced by a co-operative, Fair Isle Crafts. Co-operative could be said to sum up the friendly islanders, whose lifestyle is based on mutual help and community effort.
Phone code: 01595 24 miles SW of Sumburgh and 27 miles NE of North Ronaldsay in Orkney
Local Sights & Activities for Fair IsleSightseeing
Fair Isle is a paradise for birdwatchers, and keen ornithologists form the majority of the island's visitors. Celebrity birdwatcher and former Goodie, Bill Oddie, has dubbed it the "the Hilton of the bird world". It stands in the flight path of many thousands of migrating birds, and over 340 species have been recorded here at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, which also offers accommodation and where visitors are welcome to take part. As well as the almost obscenely rich birdlife there are around 240 species of flowering plants, making the island an especially beautiful haven for naturalists. Fair Isle's coastline, especially in the north and west, also boasts some outstanding cliff scenery.
The bird observatory was the brainchild of George Waterston, an ornithologist who first visited in 1935 and then bought the island in 1948 to begin his task of building the observatory. The island was given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1954 and declared a National Scenic Area. It was recently designated a place of outstanding natural beauty and cultural heritage by the Council of Europe. The George Waterston Memorial Centre has exhibits and photographs detailing the island's natural history, as well as the history of crofting, fishing, archaeology and knitwear. Info - May to mid-Sep Mon and Fri 1400-1600, Wed 1030-1200. Donations welcome.
Fair Isle Hotels & Accommodation
There are a few places to stay on the island, but accommodation must be booked in advance and includes meals. The C - Fair Isle Lodge and Bird Observatory, Tel. 760258, Fair Isle Lodge offers full-board accommodation in private rooms or in a dormitory (E). Alternatively, there's full board at D - Schoolton, Tel. 760250; and D - Upper Leogh, Tel. 760248, , and D - Burkle 760350 Full Board [www.burklecrafts.co.uk]. There's also a self-catering cottage for 4 from £210 weekly (Tel. 760248). There are no hotels, pubs or restaurants.
Travel Directions to Fair Isle
Getting to Fair Isle requires patience, persistence and a strong stomach to survive the white-knuckle 4 1/2-hr ferry sailing. There are also flights from Tingwall Airport. See Transport below.
For more information on Fair Isle visit www.fairisle.org.uk, or call the National Trust for Scotland (Tel. 0141-616 2266, The National Trust for Scotland.
A day-return flight allows about 6 hrs on the island. You can also fly from Kirkwall on Orkney, which allows 2 1/2 hrs on the island, Tel. 01856-872420. Ferries should be booked with J W Stout, Tel. 760222.