Stewart Johnson Jr, part of the amazingly musical Thompson Family, has been making straw-backed chairs for many years. Unfortunately he has developed severe arthritis in his hands and is no longer taking orders. He has a backlog of several years. Another member of the extended clan is most likely going to take over and continue this traditional craft on the island. The chairs are amazingly comfortable and they last forever. There are examples in the island's museum that are over a hundred years old and you are still allowed to sit in them.
There are the remains of a German fighter plane that went down in World War II, also sourtheast along the road from the Bird Observatory to the Post Office. The pilot survived and apparently visited the island to thank the residents for their care.
There is a series of old watermills (remains) that are along a creek between the Bird Observatory and the main settlement area of the island. The water moved from one mill to the next. You can still see several old milling stones that are lying about
It is not always the big things, the obvious ones, but rather the hidden beauties that are more delightful than anything else!
While exploring the cliffs and chasms of Fair Isle we came across this beautiful rosé colored sea urchin (?) which fascinated me a lot!
This and the little joys on Fair Isle that you can even read on their website - "today we spotted an Admiral butterfly" - are really what discovering the secrets of nature is all about!
The cliffs of Fair Isle rise up to 100 m and at some places even 200 m above sea level. If you get a chance, do try to take a boat tour around the islands, because those bird cliffs and chasms are really spectacular!
We saw lots of birdlife and even a few seals, apart from a breathtaking landscape!
It is not only birds that can be observed on Fair Isle, but also other wildlife.
When we visited in early June, we saw a couple of seals around the island and the kids told me that there is always a good chance to see whales and orcas off Fair Isle.
The bird observatory's homepage gives a very detailed account on what has been spotted recently, so you might want to have a look there.
Fair Isle is best known for its variety of birds, so it is a paradise for birdwatchers! They have a bird observatory right there on the island which offers tours and very good information.
I must admit that I am not that much a bird lover, but those cute puffins conquered my heart....
South Lighthouse is one of the famous Stevenson Lighthouses that are found throughout Scotland. It was strafed and bombed during WWII and you can still see bullet holes. The light was knocked out but the islanders had it up and running again in no time. I believe it was the last Scotish lighthouse to be automated. A fun walk in nice weather is to walk from North Light to South Light. It really isn't that far since the island is so small. It gives you a good feel for both the crofting lands and the shared grazing lands north of the Hill Dyke.
Go to any musical event or party (they are just about the same thing here) and enjoy the multi-talented islanders. The Thompson Family (father, children and grand children) entertained at The Fair Isle Evening party that was held at the Observatory while I was there. It was wonderful and not to be missed.
You can go out birding with the Warden. He takes a very high quality scope with him. Here he is holding two artcic tern chicks - one born that day and one born the previous day. The smile on his face says it all.
Another thing you can do is join the Ranger in a sweep of the Bonxie nests to identify newly hatched chicks which are then weighed, mearsured and ringed on the spot. The parents do not like this at all and will dive bomb you. Since the parents are pretty large 4-5 pounds with a nearly 5 foot wing span, you do not want to be hit by one of them. To the left is a picture of a Bonxie that came for me - I ducked about a second after this shot was taken. They have large, sharp beaks and major claws as well.
If you are up for it you can join the Ranger for an early morning check of the bird traps - don't worry, the birds are not injured. But you do have to get up early - about 6 AM. It is very interesting because any birds that are found are taken back to the Bird Observatory where they are weighed, measured and ringed. You can participate in some or all of this depending on the species.
Cemeteries can give you some idea of the life that was led by the locals. This is an interesting cemetery as you can see how devastated WWI left the island as several men went off to war and lost their lives. It also has memorials to several island fishermen who were lost at sea during the same sudden storm. When you are a small community of just a few hundred people, such losses have major impacts.
Fair Isle is a bird paradise: not only sea birds like gulls, fulmar, terns, puffins, shags, cormorants and the like, but also migratory birds who take a rest there on their trip south from Scandinavia.
Watch out for the bonxies who attack you!
Stewart Thompson Sr, the patriarch of the Thompson family, demonstrated spinning to us. It takes a lot of skill to keep the wool at just the right tension so it spins properly and does not snap.