Birds of Fair Isle

See some of Britain’s rarest winged wildlife

Birds of Fair Isle

Region: Arctic

Destinations: Fair Isle

Fair Isle: best known for the birds

Of the many great birdwatching locations we endeavor to visit, Fair Isle is among the most popular. The island is located roughly halfway between the Orkney Islands and the Mainland of Shetland, and apart from its traditional knitting style is perhaps best known for its bird life. On Fair Isle you might even see a few rare species of bird, including Pallas’s grasshopper warbler, Pechora pipit, lanceola warbler, Caspian plover, and calandra lark. From April to August, the cliffs that surround Fair Isle are packed with seabirds such as razorbills, storm petrels, northern fulmars, kittiwakes, and guillemots.

The Fair Isle Bird Observatory and Guesthouse

The avian life of Fair Isle is so noteworthy that the island supports its own fully functional bird observatory and guesthouse. Built in 1948, the thoroughly outfitted observatory is a fantastic place to watch bird migration, providing an unusually comfortable level of lodging for such a place. Many record sightings of rare birds have been made either at the observatory or on Fair Isle in general, supporting claims that the island is perhaps the best location in Britain to view rare birds.

Knitting, the Norse, and other Fair Isle facts

Another feature for which Fair Isle is known is its traditional style of knitting, which can be identified by its “stranded colorwork” pattern. Named after the island itself, Fair Isle knitting uses a pallet of around five colors, two colors per row. Long before such Scottish innovations, another group of inhabitants claimed Fair Isle: the Norse. Many of the island’s place names, in fact, come from Norse settlements dating as far back as the 800s. Fair Island has also been the site of two shipwrecks, one of them a 16th century Spanish Armada flagship and the other a 19th century Canadian sailing vessel.

Related cruises

Arctic Ocean - Aberdeen, Fair Isle, Jan Mayen, Ice edge, Spitsbergen, Birding

Sail the East Greenland ice edge north of Spitsbergen in search for whales, and other Arctic wildlife

PLA01a24 Search for whales, and other Arctic wildlife of the land, sea, and air on an adventurous voyage from our home port of Vlissingen to our favorite Arctic island group.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

26 May - 6 Jun, 2024

Berths start from:

4200 USD

Arctic Ocean - Fair Isle, Jan Mayen, Ice edge, Spitsbergen, Birding

Sail the East Greenland ice edge north of Spitsbergen in search for whales, and other Arctic wildlife

PLA01b24 Search for whales, and other Arctic wildlife of the land, sea, and air on an adventurous voyage from the Scottish port of Aberdeen to our favorite Arctic island group.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

28 May - 6 Jun, 2024

Berths start from:

3900 USD

Arctic Ocean - Fair Isle, Jan Mayen, Ice edge, Spitsbergen, Birding

Sail the East Greenland ice edge north of Spitsbergen in search for whales, and other Arctic wildlife

PLA01b25 Search for whales, and other Arctic wildlife of the land, sea, and air on an adventurous voyage from the Scottish port of Aberdeen to our favorite Arctic island group.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Cruise date:

25 May - 3 Jun, 2025

Berths start from:

on request

Arctic Ocean - Fair Isle, Jan Mayen, Ice edge, Spitsbergen, Birding

Sail from the North Sea into the Arctic Ocean, visiting the distinct islands of Fair Isle and Jan Mayen

HDS01b25 Venture into the Arctic Ocean on your way to Fair Isle and Jan Mayen, the first known for its knitwear and the second for its stark volcanic scenery. Wildlife sightings may include grey seals, various seabirds, and whales such as minke, fin, orca, and...

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Cruise date:

31 May - 9 Jun, 2025

Berths start from:

2900 USD

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