Community / Plans submitted for new Fair Isle bird observatory

Hopes for the building to be completed by summer next year

Original plans for the new building. Image: ICA

MOVES to build a new bird observatory in Fair Isle have reached another milestone after planning permission was submitted for the building.

It will be located on the same site where the old observatory and guesthouse burned down last year.

The proposals have been drawn up by mainland-based architects ICA, with the new build set to include 25 guest rooms.


ICA previously designed the Moorfield Hotel in Brae.

The replacement observatory is slated to be completed by summer 2021.

Its set-up will feature pair of gable-ended two-storey buildings connected by a single storey linking element.

Project lead architect Steven Byrne said: “I am privileged to work on such a unique project, and it is certainly in contrast to the large-scale hotel development project for citizenM hotels in Victoria, London, where I am also currently project architect.

“The nature of the Fair Isle project includes a community aspect, meaning that it will have a significant positive impact to the island as a whole – this makes it a real joy to be involved in.”

The previous observatory.

In an update earlier this month, the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust – which runs the facility – said that it consulted with a “large number of people” over how the new building could improve on the last one.

“We realised that with the previous Obs we had a very good building which we have sought to build upon enhance with a number of improvements across the board which we believe will achieve this,” the trust said.

“We consulted with a large number of people to seek their views on how we could achieve this. We are grateful to everyone for their contributions which have been extremely helpful. In particular, can we thank everyone on the Isle for their input.”

The destruction of the observatory last March caused a huge impact on the remote island – not least because it was a big draw for visitors. No-one was injured in the blaze.

The new building will be the fifth observatory in Fair Isle.

The first was opened in 1948, with new buildings then opened in 1969, 1989 and 2010.

Read Shetland News‘ feature last year on how life in Fair Isle was after the fire.