The Isle of May National Nature Reserve will open its doors to the public this weekend.

Boat operators will be sailing to the National Nature Reserve, managed by NatureScot, from Saturday.

NatureScot said staff are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the island, which closed last year for five weeks to help protect seabirds from a devastating outbreak of avian flu.

To allow access to islands, a series of biosecurity measures and ways to minimise disturbance to birds have been implemented, including disinfecting footwear and restricting access to certain areas when necessary. 

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Visitors to the Isle of May will be asked to use disinfectant foot baths on departing mainland harbours and arriving on the island, and to stay on designated paths as they enjoy their visit.

Throughout spring, the island is home to more than 80,000 pairs of birds nesting, including more than 40,000 puffins. The high west cliffs are home to guillemots, razorbills, shags and kittiwakes, while more than 1,200 female eider ducks nest across the reserve.

NatureScot reserve manager David Steel said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming people back to enjoy the Isle of May, which is a really magical place in spring as thousands of seabirds return to this important wildlife reserve.

“It was heart-breaking to see the impact that avian flu had on colonies around our coasts last year and while a difficult decision, closing the island was the right thing to do to protect our seabirds.

“While we don’t yet know what impact the virus has had on the birds that nest here, we hope that this will be a better year for them. We ask that visitors help us to help them by following the biosecurity measures that will be in place, and would like to thank boat operators for their support in implementing this.”

The Isle of May can be accessed from both the Fife and Lothian coasts and will remain open until the end of September. Access to the island is free, but there are boat charges to get there.