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“Fantastic, Fabulous, Fair Isle” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Fair Isle Lodge & Bird Observatory

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Fair Isle Lodge & Bird Observatory
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Fair Isle Lodge and Bird Observatory | Shetland, ZE2 9JU, Scotland   |  
Hotel amenities
Wormit, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
111 reviews 111 reviews
53 hotel reviews
Reviews in 53 cities Reviews in 53 cities
54 helpful votes 54 helpful votes
“Fantastic, Fabulous, Fair Isle”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 1, 2012

First of all, let me tell you that we are neither keen walkers nor keen bird watchers, but we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Island and seeing the birds. It is possible to walk all round the Island in a coiple of hours. I did not realise the Fair Isle is a world famous site for birds. The Island is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and when you visit, you can see why: it's a real gem. The tourist brochures, leaflets and websites do not do it justice.

The Bird Observatory and Lodge is not a luxury hotel, but it is a five star experience. The staff pick you up from the airport or ferry and transport you to the Lodge, which is ideally situated with fabulous views over the harbour and cliffs. Lounge, dining room and bedrooms all have fantastic views. The rooms are spotlessly clean and furnished with modern furniture. All have ensuite facilities with a good shower and complimentary shower gel/shampoo soap and body lotion. There are also bathrooms available if you prefer a bath. These have hairdriers fitted.
Mealtimes are informal. You line up and are served your food canteen style, and everyone (including the staff) sits at one long table. There is no choice of dishes, but they will cater for special diets (diabetic, gluten free, etc). The seating arrangements allow you to chat with other guests, discuss your day, and pick up tips for walks, etc. the food is good home cooking. As well as breakfast, lunch and dinner, home made cakes are served mid morning and suppertime. And all this for £60 per day! Tea and coffee are available on a self service basis, with an "honesty box". A similar system is used for snacks ( chocolate biscuits, crisps, etc). There is a well stocked bar, which is very reasonably priced.
The resident Rangers will invite you to join them on various bird- related activities. We saw him ringing a bird that had been caught in one of the traps, and were invited to watch them catch and ring storm petrels.
There is no need for a fitness centre, the walks can be tailored to your personal fitness level!
I can't praise the staff highly enough. This is the best weekend away I have had for ages , and I have been to Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris, Milan and Barcelona!

If you can make it, come to Shetland and visit Fair Isle.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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24 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (6)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Sheffield
Senior Contributor
32 reviews 32 reviews
23 hotel reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 19, 2012

I`ll be honest, I really can`t be doing with a bathroom down the hallway any more, so when we went to Fair Isle the FIBO (Fair Isle Bird Observatory) was the only choice for us. But as it happened for, what it is (it`s a hostel not a hotel), we were well satisfied. My ratings are for a hostel and as such it gets 5 stars.
FIBO has only just been built, so everything is lovely and new.
The room was reasonably large and comfortable, and it was en suite !
The meals are eaten altogether in one sitting, so there won`t be any romantic candle lit dinners here and there isn`t really a choice of dish either, but bearing in mind it`s mass catering and everything has to come by ferry, the food was actually pretty good. My wife doesn`t eat meat but she was also happy, which obviously makes me the husband happy too !
We found everyone to be pretty friendly, everyone gets on no problem.
Ever since we decided we`d like to go to Fair Isle we felt we should go by ferry, though it`s a pretty small one (see photo) and the sea can get a bit rough, but surprisingly I felt fine on the Good Shepherd, despite sick on the large ferry to Lerwick on a rough crossing a few days before (the other times we`ve been on the latter it was fine though). We flew back (to Tingwall) though, partly because the weather forecast was bad and partly because the flight on a little Britten Norman Islander sounded interesting (see photo), and it was, great views of the west side of Shetland from 1000ft. The plane is a bit more expensive than the ferry though, about £4 v £35 each, and, theoretically, there`s a 15Kg baggage limit on the plane. FIBO will pick you up and drop you off at either the ferry terminal or the airfield.
Fair Isle is a fasinating place to go, even for a non "birder", though at 3m x 2m there`s only so much to see. I`d have thought that a non birder would find 2 or 3 days the kind of stay to aim for. Make sure you see the Puffins, everyone thinks they`re cute, except the fish, obviously.
Go to Fair Isle, not many people have, so it`s always a conversation starter !

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
53 reviews 53 reviews
21 hotel reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
69 helpful votes 69 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 16, 2012

Other reviewers had mentioned the warmth and comfort of the FIBO but I wasn't sure that I would agree with them. They did not however exaggerate...excellent beds, fresh decor, ensuite showers and warm radiators/towel rails. A must if you have been outside all day. We flew from Tingwall (the council operated airport in Lerwick ) and stayed for two nights (family of 5 with three teenagers). The days were packed with activity if you wanted it; a 7am trap run and ringing session, an evening archaeology walk with the v nice lady (Pat) from the museum, puffin watching, walks to the north and south lighthouses, visits to the fair isle knitwear ladies whose star for us is the hugely talented Mati Ventrillon. We had clear blue skies for all three days and felt very lucky. A quiet time (July ) for migratory birds but we were happy with the range of birds that we did see and watching the puffins at close range was probably the highlight for us.
FOOD-
as previously mentioned..really tip top and I am a fussy vegetarian. Lots of meat for those who want it but interesting and delicious alternatives. Breakfast- (always porridge and cereals)one morning I had a delicious, delicately spiced oatmeal and onion patty with egg, supper some tiny squashes and courgette in batter with a reduced tomato sauce and new potatoes and choice of three veg. Final evening was Chinese. I'd let them know if advance that I had special dietary requirements. We had a nice packed lunch (cheese and pickle sandwiches, apple juice, piece of fruit and a kit Kat) provided by the bird obs (included in price). People who had gone back for lunch had macaroni cheese. My daughters enjoyed the cocoa and cake at 9pm!

Staff-you have to remember that it is a hostel and that the staff who work there, live there and share facilities. These people are generally volunteers or working for the rspb so there is a certain amount of Them and Us which can be rather disconcerting. This comment does not apply to the warden and his wife who are rather more solicitous and friendly.

Flight information-
We flew back on the Saturday at 11.30am which flies back into sumburgh rather than Tingwall. This is worth noting as it makes life easier with connecting flights. If you have time to kill go to Jarlshoff next to the sumburgh hotel (all walking distance from airport). Allow plenty of time at check in at sumburgh. A quiet airport but the check in staff were painfully slow and the security also. I had the same clothes on that I'd flown up in and the same rucksack and belongings and yet everything seemed to set off their alarms. It took us over an hour to check in & clear security for a Flybe plane taking about twenty people with three people on check in. We might have just had a bad experience but I thought it worth mentioning as similar airports like Kirkwall are the opposite.

Room Tip: I would avoid the downstairs room (16?)as it is off a busy hallway and is rather chilly. All the oth...
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Stroud, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
32 reviews 32 reviews
15 hotel reviews
Reviews in 26 cities Reviews in 26 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 9, 2012

You don't have to be a birdaholic to stay here, though it's impossible not to be bowled over by the puffins. Others came as knitters, painters and plain old seekers of peace and quiet. Plus there's a collection of researchers and volunteers alongside you.As someone else writes, you can be as involved or not as you want. We stayed six days.We came prepared for something fairly spartan so were a little unprepared for spacious rooms, ensuite shower, decent heating, lovely beds. A newspaper review talked of "death by home baking" and you'll certainly not go hungry. My wife is veggie, I'm not-we were both kept more than happy at breakfast (with proper wake-up coffee), lunch, dinner and supper. There's even a large bowl of fruit around to pick at.
Could write loads more but other reviewers have already done it. Faultless.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 22, 2011

The Fair Isle bird observatory is a fantastic place to stay when on Fair Isle. The people are friendly and always going out of their way to help you. The facility is purposely built for bird watchers and there is a nightly count of what has been seen during the day. Hot chocolate is served together with a selection of cakes for this nightly ritual. It seems a little strange at first to a non-bird watcher such as myself, but I found myself wanting to get involved and spent the rest of my trip actively looking for wildlife and birds so I could contribute.

The no television in the en suite rooms is also great as it meant that you could get a book from the extensive library and chill in the bar.

This together with the fantastically picturesque Fair Isle makes for a superb short break.

  • Stayed August 2011
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 19, 2011

Spent 4 nights there and had a wonderful time. The accomodation is spacious and clean with everything you could ask for. The food is good and all diets are catered for. Susannah and David make great hosts. It is very friendly with all the staff eager to help and give information about the island. You can be as involved or not as you wish.
There are ranger walks and activities posted on a board each day and all are welcome to participate, you just turn up when and where it is posted you meet. You don't need to be a twitcher to go but helpful to be interested in nature. The Puffins are brilliant and so close to the observatory, you don't need to venture far to see lots.
I would highly recommend a visit to Fair Isle and a stay at the Observatory, it's a custom built eco building. The staff are very hard working as it's not easy to cater on such a remote island.
A great experinence, not to be missed.

  • Stayed July 2011, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Birmingham
Senior Contributor
31 reviews 31 reviews
13 hotel reviews
Reviews in 26 cities Reviews in 26 cities
43 helpful votes 43 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 3, 2011

Just returned from ten days on Shetland, and spent two days on Fair Isle (not long enough) as part of the trip. Fair Isle itself is spectacular, and if you've ever thought of going I can't recommend it highly enough. But staying at the Bird Observatory *made* the trip to to Fair Isle - it's far more than just somewhere to stay.

The accommodation itself is clean and comfortable - all very new as the new building has not long been opened. Good size rooms which are ensuite shower room (great shower!). There are also bathrooms on each corridor for those who like a soak, which also contain hair driers. A comfortable bed, fluffy towels and extra soft fleecy blankets if you're feeling the Fair Isle chill. No TV in the room, but if you're on Fair Isle you'll have something better to do. Tea and coffee making facilities either downstairs in the lounge or at the end of the upstairs corridor rather than in room.

Downstairs if the (cash only) bar / lounge, the visitor centre, library and the dining room. These are open for everyone, and if you're not staying at the lodge you can book meals. The communal areas have fantastic large windows with wonderful views. For those staying, it's fully catered - with the option of lunch at the observatory or a packed lunch. Meals are set, with a vegetarian option. However dietary requests are catered for. I'm vegan and had great meals.

Other than the comfortable accommodation, great food, and fantastic hospitality, what makes this place *the* place to stay on Fair Isle is the Ranger Service, and the chance to get involved in activities. Again, these are open to everyone, but staying at the observatory makes it more convenient, and easier to keep in touch with what's happening (stuff is posted on a noticeboard in the lounge area) Whilst there, we went on a puffin walk, and observed storm petrels being ringed - and were allowed to release them, which was a fantastic experience.

We were planning a return trip before we were on the Good Shepherd heading back to mainland! As a previous reviewer said, FIBO isn't 5 star luxury accommodation. But I think it's possibly the best place I've ever stayed. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

  • Stayed July 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Fair Isle Lodge & Bird Observatory

Address: Fair Isle Lodge and Bird Observatory | Shetland, ZE2 9JU, Scotland
Location: United Kingdom > Scotland > Shetland Islands > Fair Isle
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Specialty Lodging in Fair Isle
Number of rooms: 16
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Observatory Guest House provides a great base for exploring the stunning coastal scenery and fascinating history of Fair Isle, with comfortable en-suite full-board accommodation and wonderful views from the lounge-bar out over the sea to Fair Isle's iconic Sheep Rock. As part of Fair Isle Bird Observatory the Guest House also provides visitors with unique opportunities to see bird ringing with the wardens, learn about the wildlife of the isle and perhaps find a rare bird or two passing through on migration. ... more   less 

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