Bass Rock

Bass Rock
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Bass Rock

A precipitous island lying 1½ miles (2.5 km) off the East Lothian coast, 3½ miles (5.5 km) northeast of North Berwick. The Bass Rock rises sharply to 107m (350 feet). Geologically, the Rock is a volcanic plug of Lower Carboniferous age and thus similar to the other notable physiographic features of Edinburgh and East Lothian, such as the North Berwick Law. James Hutton (1726 - 97) first recognised the Rock as an igneous intrusion and Hugh Miller (1802 - 56) wrote an extensive monograph on the geology of the Rock, having visited in 1847.

St Baldred lived on the Rock in the 8th Century and a chapel, now ruined, was built on the site of his cell. Owned by the Lauder family from 1316, it was sold in 1671 to the government, which rebuilt an older fortress as a prison to confine first Covenanters - including Alexander Peden (c.1626 - 1686) and John Blackadder (1615 - 1686) - and then Jacobites. In 1691 Jacobite prisoners seized the fortress in the name of the exiled King James VII while their captors were unloading a delivery of coal. Reinforced and supplied by the French and provided with a ship with which they plundered passing boats, the Jacobites held out until 1694. They finally surrendered having secured 'most honourable terms', and the fort was subsequently demolished in 1701 although some remnants can still be seen. In 1706, ownership of the Bass Rock passed to Sir Hew Dalrymple of North Berwick.

Today, the Bass Rock supports a lighthouse and sustains approx. 80,000 gannets which form the largest single-rock gannetry in the world. Indeed, the North Atlantic Gannet is more formally named Morus Bassana after the Rock. The colony can be studied by remotely-controlled cameras at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

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