Kings of the hill: Wise owls upgrade their home from barn to castle

During a major restoration project at Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland, the National Trust has discovered some very wise residents.

The conservation charity found barn owls nesting in an old latrine shoot in the castle wall.

In a bid not to disturb the nocturnal birds, the Trust created a 20-metre exclusion zone in the scaffolding. This enabled the charity to continue vital conservation work while protecting the owls.

The special treatment of the nesting pair has been a resounding success – four chicks are now just days from fledging.

Matthew Oates, nature specialist at the National Trust, said, “We need to allow nature to move in where it chooses, and give it the time and space it needs. This is not a problem, it’s something we appreciate and accept. As a conservation charity, we regularly adapt our work due to the opportunism of wildlife – it’s what we’re here for.”

A 2016 report collated by the Barn Owl Trust recorded over 6,000 potential barn owl nest sites and over 1,000 active nests across the UK. The report also suggested that climate change, intensively managed farmland and a lack of prey-rich habitats have contributed to low barn owl population density.

Lindisfarne Castle, a Grade 1 listed building situated on top of a volcanic mound, is currently undergoing a £3 million restoration project, and is closed to the public until spring 2018. The project includes repairing deteriorating stonework and pointing, re-waterproofing some of the windows and treating damp caused by the constant pressure of the elements. To find out more or to donate to help restore Lindisfarne Castle visit

The National Trust is working with its tenants and partners to reverse the alarming decline in UK wildlife, aiming to restore 25,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat by 2025.