The Bass Rock

Seabirds decorate this view of the Bass Rock, which is situated off the East Lothian coast.

King James I of Scotland had been imprisoned here in the 1400s. The rock was bought by the government in 1651. Slezer shows the fortress in use there at the time – an old one rebuilt as a prison for Covenanters. In 1691, it was seized by Jacobites, as part of the protest against the Protestant monarchs, William and Mary. It was demolished in 1701.

Slezer's view was apparently made from Tantallon Castle. It gives us another example of the distortion in some drawings. Compare the size of the rowing boats and the people in them with the sailing ships which are closer to us in the foreground! Today the Bass Rock is a bird sanctuary.

Image from Theatrum Scotiae by John Slezer, 1693.

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  Read what Robert Sibbald wrote in Theatrum Scotiae about Bass Rock

Bass Rock

The Basse

Is a little Island within the Forth, about a Mile distant from the South Shore. The Prospects of it sufficiently testifie how difficult the Access to it is.

Upon the Top of this Island there is a Spring, which sufficiently furnishes the Garrison with Water; and there is a Pasturage for Twenty or Thirty Sheep.

'Tis also famous for the great Flocks of Fowls, which resort thither in the Months of May and June, the Surface of it being almost covered with their Nests, Eggs and young Birds. The most delicious amongst these different Sorts of wild Fowl, is the Soaling Goose, and the Kittie Waicke. There is only one Island more in the West of Scotland, called Ailsey, where these Geese do breed; and from these two Places the Country is furnished with them, during the Months of July and August.

This Island of the Basse was an old Possession of the Family of Lauder, and in King Charles II's Reign it was bought and annexed to the Crown.

Who was Robert Sibbald?

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