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Northern tip of Britain is top site for birds

Last modified: 27 May 2008

Dunnet Head

The RSPB is delighted to announce its newest nature reserve at the UK mainland's most northerly point.

The 27-hectare site at Dunnet Head in Caithness contains significant numbers of seabirds and will be managed for wider biodiversity goals, offering future visitors to the site some extreme northern exposure to wildlife. 

Even further north than John O'Groats, the cliffs at Dunnet Head are an important settlement for many different seabirds. Of national significance for kittiwakes and guillemots, other birds like puffins, fulmars, razorbills, shags and cormorants also breed there.  

'The seabird city at Dunnet Head is a few miles further north than John O'Groats'

Dunnet Head's location was of key strategic importance during World War II, used by both the airforce and the navy, and the reserve still houses some wartime buildings, as well as a lighthouse. The RSPB was approached by Ben Colson, the owner of Dunnet Head last year who now - no longer with family in the area - wished to share the management of this landmark destination. 

Ben Colson, said: 'Dunnet Head is an amazing place with which my family - and many others - feel a real bond. We're delighted to be able to pass the reins of managing such a special area over to an organisation which will ensure both wildlife and people are catered for. Dunnet is rich in wildlife and in history and we're happy to be able to work with an organisation whose ambitions for the site match our own.'  

The clifftop grassland in the past has been grazed by sheep, with other areas providing a kitchen garden for those that lived and worked at Dunnet Head during WWII. As part of their management of this site, the RSPB is considering establishing some arable crop and wildflowers to encourage insects and birdlife, such as twites, to the area. 

Pete Mayhew, RSPB North Scotland Senior Conservation Manager, said: 'The seabird city at Dunnet Head is a few miles further north than John O'Groats, and we're delighted to take over the management of the site. As well as the seabirds, we also hope to manage the land on top of the cliffs to provide habitat for corncrakes, great yellow bumblebees and twites. 

'There aren't really any facilities for visitors at the moment, but we're looking at how we might be able to provide these in the future, in which case we'd hope that Dunnet Head might become an important stop-off for visitors to the far north. It really is a lovely site for wildlife, and the geographical significance makes it even more special.'

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