Tiny Fair Isle is marooned in the sea halfway between Shetland and Orkney and very different from both. The weather reflects its isolated position. At one time Fair Isle's population was not far short of four hundred, but by the 1950s, the population had shrunk to just 44, a point at which evacuation and abandonment of the island was seriously considered. George Waterston, who'd bought the island and set up a bird observatory in 1948, passed it into the care of the National Trust for Scotland in 1954 and rejuvenation began. The croft land and the island's scattered houses are concentrated in the south, but the focus for many visitors is the Bird Observatory, built just above the sandy bay of North Haven where the ferry from Shetland Mainland arrives. It's one of the major European centres for ornithology and its work in watching, trapping, recording and ringing birds goes on all year. Fair Isle is a landfall for a huge number and range of migrant birds during the spring and autumn passages. Migration routes converge here and more than 345 species, including many rarities, have been noted. Fair Isle is, of course, even better known for its knitting patterns, still produced with great skill by the local knitwear cooperative. There are a few samples on display at the island's museum , situated next door to the island's Methodist Chapel. The passenger ferry (tel 01595/760222) connects Fair Isle with either Lerwick or Grutness in Sumburgh. Flights go from Tingwall or Sumburgh. There is full-board accommodation at the Fair Isle Lodge & Bird Observatory.