Update, July 6th: Isle of May has “closed for now”. SLurl links have therefore been removed from this article.
Isle of May, located on the north side of the outer Firth of Forth, is a tiny island – less than 2 kilometres long and under half a kilometre wide – sitting 8 km off the Scottish coast. A rugged finger-like uplift of basalt, it has no permanent human residents today but is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage as a National Nature Reserve, and home to over 285 bird species, including puffins, kittiwake, guillemots, razorbills, shags and fulmars, and from October through Easter, is a home for seal pups.
It is also now the inspiration for a new region design in Second Life. Called, appropriately enough, Isle of May. Designed by Jade Koltai and her partner, Serene Footman (of Furillen, Khodovarikha and La Digue du Braek fame), the region is a beautifully conceived and executed design.
Compressing something even as small as Isle of May into Second Life isn’t easy, but within this design, Jade and Footman have captured the essence of the island perfectly. As rugged as the original, it is similarly cut by deep gorges, and offers a hint of antiquity – the original had settlements dating back to the Bronze Age, and was the site of one of the earliest Christian churches in Scotland, was a site of pilgrimage and, in medieval times, home to a Benedictine community – through the ruins located on the north-western headland.
Some of the island’s famous landmarks are imaginatively represented. Its two lighthouses and unmistakeable fog horn, for example, have been combined into a single lighthouse and buildings on the north-eastern headland of the region (check the map of the island inside the building alongside the lighthouse). A little artistic license is also taken with the geography; this Isle of May is cut into three islands linked by wooden bridges. However, while the Rona peninsula of the original is almost separate from the rest, the physical Isle of May is but a single rocky mass.
This setting also has a lot of foliage in the form of trees and bushes than the original boasts (it being largely grassland atop its basalt rock plateaus). But the trees and bushes help to give the couple’s vision more of a unique look and feel – although at times, the foliage can make several of the paths winding down the cliffs a little hard to find when searching at avatar eye-level.
These paths offer multiple routes down to the islands’ rough coast. Some lead to shale and rock “beaches” and coves, others form paths down to shoreline buildings – here a cottage, there an old working hut on a pier, now converted into a cosy snug …
Jade and Serene note that while the original has no permanent human residents, they imaged their Isle of May to be home to a small community of artists and photographers – hence the large house dominating the main plateau, and the aforementioned cottage and converted pier hut. And it works perfectly.
Also well represented is the island’s avian communities are richly and diversely represented, from garden birds through to cormorants, guillemots and more, while the more usual seal pup population found on the island in winter months has been imaginatively substituted by the presence of sea otters, while dolphin and orca might be found off-shore, together with a passing trawler.
“What we were searching for is something holistic and organic,” Serene and Jade note of the build. “For visitors, an immersive experience of being ‘in nature’ that is powerful and evocative.” With its natural look and feel, wrapped in a delightful sound scape and suited to a wide range of windlight settings, it is absolutely clear that they’ve succeeded.
With thanks to Shakespeare from dropping me the LM!