The building shown here and described below was demolished in 2009 and was replaced by a new observatory which opened in Spring 2010. This was sadly destroyed by fire in March 2019. This page will be more fully updated as soon as possible, and further information is available on the Observatory's website.
There's been a bird observatory on Fair Isle since 1948. Today's Observatory was built in 1970 and occupies a superb location overlooking Bu Ness and Fair Isle's main harbour, which is the terminus for the ferry service to Shetland. It is also convenient for Fair Isle's airfield, from which a regular service is operated to Tingwall on Mainland Shetland.
The accommodation at the observatory is designed to make the best of its superb location. Both the lounge and the dining room have large picture windows allowing residents to take in the wonderful views. With its bar and its library the observatory provides a remarkable home from home and an unbeatable base from which to explore Fair Isle.
The Fair Isle Bird Observatory is open from late April until the end of October, and the accommodation tends to be booked well in advance for the spring and autumn migrations in May and September. At other times it is easier to make a booking at shorter notice, and there are sometimes special offers available for the Observatory's quietest period, during part of August.
Not that staying at the Observatory is expensive at any time. All accommodation is on a full board basis. Meals are at set times to a set menu and all visitors and staff eat together in the Observatory's dining room, giving a marvellous family atmosphere. Vegetarian and all special dietary requirements are also catered for, but need to be notified at the time of booking.
Guests stay in single, twin or dormitory rooms (with one dormitory converting into a family room). Most single rooms and all twin rooms have washbasins, with bathrooms and shower rooms conveniently situated nearby. The Observatory is obviously intended primarily to cater for ornithologists wanting the experience of a lifetime on an island on which over 345 species of bird have been recorded, more than anywhere else in the UK.
Plans are under way to built a replacement Observatory, and funds are currently being raised.
You can take part in many of the Observatory's day to day activities, including trapping and ringing migratory birds, or counting the size of the sea bird colonies. But those wishing to explore the beauty and tranquility of Fair Isle for other reasons are equally welcome, even if you don't know the difference between a gull and a guillemot!