Fidra is an uninhabited island in the Firth of Forth
Firth of Forth
The Firth of Forth is the estuary or firth of Scotland's River Forth, where it flows into the North Sea, between Fife to the north, and West Lothian, the City of Edinburgh and East Lothian to the south...

, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north-west of North Berwick
North Berwick
The Royal Burgh of North Berwick is a seaside town in East Lothian, Scotland. It is situated on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, approximately 25 miles east of Edinburgh. North Berwick became a fashionable holiday resort in the 19th century because of its two sandy bays, the East Bay and the...

, on the east coast of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...



Like the other islands
Islands of the Forth
The Islands of the Forth are a minor island group to the east of Scotland. The open waters of the Firth of Forth lie between Fife and the Lothians and contain most of the islands. The majority lie east of city of Edinburgh although two are to the west and two more lie in the estuary of the River...

 near North Berwick, Fidra is the result of volcanic activity around 335 million years ago. Fidra consists of three sections; a hill at one end with the lighthouse on it; a low lying section in the middle, effectively an isthmus
An isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas usually with waterforms on either side.Canals are often built through isthmuses where they may be particularly advantageous to create a shortcut for marine transportation...

; and a rocky stack
Stack (geology)
A stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, isolated by erosion. Stacks are formed through processes of coastal geomorphology, which are entirely natural. Time, wind and water are the only factors involved in the...

 at the other end.


Its name is believed to be Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 in origin, referring to the large number of bird feathers found there. Like the nearby Bass Rock
Bass Rock
The Bass Rock, or simply The Bass, , is an island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland. It is approximately offshore, and north-east of North Berwick. It is a steep-sided volcanic rock, at its highest point, and is home to a large colony of gannets...

, it has a substantial seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

 population, and is now an RSPB reserve. The village of Gullane
Gullane is a town on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth in East Lothian on the east coast of Scotland. There has been a church in the village since the 9th century. The ruins of the Old Church of St...

 lies to the south-west, and the nature reserve of Yellowcraigs
Yellowcraigs, less commonly known as Broad Sands Bay, is a coastal area of forest, beach and grassland in East Lothian, south-east Scotland. Yellowcraigs is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest...

 and village of Dirleton
Dirleton is a village and parish in East Lothian, Scotland approximately east of Edinburgh on the A198. It contains . Dirleton lies between North Berwick , Gullane , Fenton Barns and the Yellowcraigs nature reserve, Archerfield Estate and the Firth of Forth...

, to which parish Fidra belongs, are to the south. Remotely-operated cameras on the island send live pictures to the watching visitors at the Scottish Seabird Centre
Scottish Seabird Centre
The Scottish Seabird Centre is a visitor attraction in North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland. Opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2000 and funded by the Millennium Commission, the showpiece of the centre is the network of cameras which beam back live pictures from the bird colonies on islands such...

 in North Berwick.

Upon the island are ruins of an old chapel, or lazaretto
A lazaretto or lazaret is a quarantine station for maritime travellers. Lazarets can be ships permanently at anchor, isolated islands, or mainland buildings. Until 1908, lazarets were also used for disinfecting postal items, usually by fumigation...

for the sick, which was dedicated in 1165 to St. Nicholas. In the 12th century, the island formed part of the barony of Dirleton, which was granted to the Anglo-Norman John de Vaux by King David I
David I of Scotland
David I or Dabíd mac Maíl Choluim was a 12th-century ruler who was Prince of the Cumbrians and later King of the Scots...

. The de Vaux family built a stronghold, known as Tarbet Castle, on the island, but in 1220, William de Vaux gifted Fidra to the monks of Dryburgh Abbey
Dryburgh Abbey
Dryburgh Abbey, near Dryburgh on the banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders, was nominally founded on 10 November 1150 in an agreement between Hugh de Morville, Lord of Lauderdale and Constable of Scotland, and the Premonstratensian canons regular from Alnwick Abbey in Northumberland...

, in the Borders. His successor built Dirleton Castle
Dirleton Castle
Dirleton Castle is a medieval fortress in the village of Dirleton, East Lothian, Scotland. It lies around west of North Berwick, and around east of Edinburgh...

, on the mainland, as a replacement dwelling.


The lighthouse, which was built in 1885 and automated in 1970, can be accessed via a primitive jetty on the east of the island. The light flashes 4 times every 30 seconds.

Cultural references

Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

 often visited the beaches at the area known today as Yellowcraigs and it is said that he based his map of Treasure Island
Treasure Island
Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "pirates and buried gold". First published as a book on May 23, 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island; or, the...

on the shape of Fidra. (This claim is also made about the island of Unst
Unst is one of the North Isles of the Shetland Islands, Scotland. It is the northernmost of the inhabited British Isles and is the third largest island in Shetland after the Mainland and Yell. It has an area of .Unst is largely grassland, with coastal cliffs...

 in Shetland.) He also mentioned Fidra in his novel Catriona
Catriona is a feminine given name in the English language. It is an Anglicisation of the Scottish Gaelic Caitrìona, and the Irish Caitríona. Both Caitríona and Caitríona are Gaelic forms of the English Katherine...

. Fidra Books
Fidra Books
Fidra Books is a publisher based in Edinburgh which specialises in reissuing forgotten children's books, especially those from the 1940s onwards....

 is a publishing house, named after the island, and which uses Fidra's outline as part of its logo. The progressive rock
Progressive rock
Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of...

 band Marillion
Marillion are a British rock band, formed in Aylesbury, England in 1979. Their recorded studio output comprises sixteen albums generally regarded in two distinct eras, delineated by the departure of original vocalist & frontman Fish in late 1988, and the subsequent arrival of replacement Steve...

also briefly mention Fidra in the song, Warm Wet Circles, which contains the line "She nervously undressed in the dancing beams of the Fidra Lighthouse", the coast nearby apparently being a well-known courting spot.

External links

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