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“The best hostel you could ever stay in!!”

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Fair Isle Lodge & Bird Observatory
Reviewed 16 July 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, travelled with family
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7  Thank HONORIA1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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33 - 39 of 42 reviews

Reviewed 9 July 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, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank cribmaker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 August 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
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4  Thank Yattering82
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 August 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, travelled solo
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7  Thank Con42
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 August 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, travelled as a couple
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6  Thank janeywoo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 July 2011

Re the previous review, it's more of a high class hostel than a hotel. It does specialise in keen ornotholgists but as walkers with a vague interest in the birdlife, we were made very welcome as well.

We didn't actually stay there (it was full) but found it a convenient base to have our meals (you must book) and to relax if the weather was too bad. The food is a simple set meal but very good and varied during our visit to the island - allowing for that, I've given it four stars but don't expect haute cuisine! There's also a bar and coffee lounge.

Facilities include a terrific reference library and a study room to learn more about the birds and the locality. There are friendly staff who patiently answer even the silliest questions (ours), plus occasional talks and trips to craftspeople on the island and sudden exoduses when reports of a rare bird sighting come in - all of which we were invited to join in even though we weren't residents.

All in all, it helped make our trip to Fair Isle a smooth and enjoyable experience.

  • Stayed: June 2011, travelled as a couple
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6  Thank greygapper
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 May 2011

Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited island in the UK. It is approx 25 miles from the north coast of Scotland and 25 miles south of mainland Shetland.
There are about 60 full time residents and it’s main attraction to outsiders is the diverse bird population.
There are about three places to stay on Fair Isle and by far the largest is the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. We stayed there for three nights and it was a wonderful place to stay and by far the largest place (by any measurement) on the island.
The original building was replaced in 2009 and finally opened in June 2010. It has room for about 40 guests and about 10 staff that include researchers, rangers and staff to run the place.
It is a pleasant mixture between a hostel, a B&B and a hotel, and they do it all very well. They depend to some extent upon volunteer support and if you are looking for luxury it is not the place for you.
All the rooms have their own shower and toilet and there are baths available down the hall. There are no room keys (or any need for them) and you do not have to be a birder to be made welcome and to enjoy the facilities. There are rooms with double beds, twin beds and family rooms so they can accommodate most needs.
Meals are included in the room price and we paid 50 pounds a night and had 3 good meals a day albeit with limited choices, but accommodations are made for dietary limitations. All of our meals were extremely good and Chris the chef serves the creative and substantial meals personally.
There is a cash bar from 6 to 11 each evening and open availability of tea, coffee and an honor system snack bar and Internet access.
The facility is located on the northerly part of the island (only 3.5 miles long) but they will pick you up at the airstrip (flights mostly from Lerwick rather than Sumburgh LSI) but you can generally get a ride or easily walk down to the more populated (a relative term) southern end of the island.
Be warned that the weather is fickle and the Observatory is only open March until October. We were delayed a day getting off the island by fog and the only alternative is the ferry that runs three times a week in the summer and takes 2 ½ hours. It can be a rough ride. Plan flexibility in to your trip and enjoy Fair Isle. It is a fantastic place and the Observatory is w wonderful place to stay with friendly and helpful staff, volunteers and Rangers.
If you like to get away from it all this is a great place even if you are not a birder. You will be made most welcome

  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled with family
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6  Thank cruicad
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
Region: United Kingdom > Scotland > Shetland Islands > Fair Isle
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Speciality 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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