One of the UK's best wildlife experiences is just a boat ride away - the Farne Islands lying off the coast of North Northumberland.
In summer the Farne Islands are 'home' for over 100,000 pairs of breeding seabirds, including 55,000+ pairs of puffins. When the birds leave in late summer the Islands become the pupping grounds for the second largest colony of grey seals in England.
Then there is the human story with St Cuthbert and Grace Darling taking centre stage, whilst the view from the Farne Islands back towards Bamburgh Castle rival any seen from the mainland.
The Farne Islands are open to visitors from 28th March to the 1st Nov.
The best time to visit, for the breeding seabirds that is, being mid-April through to late July, when landing is possible on Inner Farne, Staple Island, and Longstone.
The seal pups can be viewed from visitor boats from late October until mid-December.
Car parking available
In Seahouses - Pay and Display, non National Trust
Film / TV location
Such a joy of a trip
I took the 2.5 - 3 hour trip on the Serenity boats landing on Inner Farne which is managed by The National Trust. You’ll need to show your NT card or pay the landing fee at the kiosk next to the various tour kiosks on the harbour at Seahouses. You’ll get a little wristband. The tours are popular and I recommend booking at least a day earlier to ensure that you get the trip you want as there is finite availability. After a sail around the islands with an enthusiastic and friendly crew who highlighted different colonies (including huge ganets) along the route and got us up close to cliffs of nesting birds and a large number of sunbathing seals we then had 1 hour on Inner Farne to get up close to the ridiculous number of nesting birds (puffins, guillemots, Arctic turns, kittiwakes, razorbills, shags etc). I only recognised puffins the crew identified all the others for us. National Trust rangers were available on the island to answer any questions. Due to the huge number of turns nesting in proximity of St Cuthbert’s Chapel a visit to the building is not possible. The turns are nesting and aimless little chicks are on the paths causing their outraged parents to dive bomb and peck you. Not harmful but a little disconcerting. I’m not a bird watcher but I absolutely loved this trip and will take it again if I’m in the area. There are other non landing options that are shorter in duration and there’s also an option to land on the island with the lighthouse that Grace Darling lived on.
richardford2017, Exeter, United Kingdom
There are serveral boat companies offering trips to the Farne Islands, some land on the island others do not. We being National trust members choose the trip that landed and gave us an hour with the birds. Not knowing the various operators we went with Billy Shiels and were not disapointed. Knowledgable crew, witty banter and the experience seemed nice, even though the crew do this trip 3 or 4 times a day. We like everyone on the boat saw puffins and seals and everything inbetween. It was breeding season and the Artic Terns were enjoying pecking the tourists heads as they left the boat and headed up to the middle of the island! The island was packed with birds, so a good photo was ensured. When the weather is fine this is a super trip and we were very lucky with the weather and had a great time and saw lots, highly recommended.
Mad cap puffins
LezliC, St. Neots, United Kingdom
Being totally uninterested in birds, I thought this trip would be boring. How wrong can you be. The white stained coastline of the Farne Islands is covered in seabirds noisily staking their claim to a tiny piece of land. Seals lollop about on the lower rocks. There are around 2,700 of them. We saw about ten! Grace Darlings former home and the two lighthouses can be seen quite close up. We travelled with Billy Sheils boats which can be booked in Seahouses, either in the centre of town or down the harbour.
Don't tern around
shaung547, Atherton, United Kingdom
Visited the national Trust bird sanctuary to see the bird colony. Artic terns were up to their usual tricks so wear a hat as they will dive bomb and peck if you hang around too long. Amazing to see the birds on the cliffs up close. Take a camera for brilliant photo opportunities
Great place for wildlife enthusiasts
srablair, Lytham St Anne's, United Kingdom
We visited these islands primarily as birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. As keen birdwatchers this is a must do at this time of year as the breeding birds are very active back and forth fetching fish and sand eels which is very exciting to watch. A wildlife photographer's heaven. Owned by the National Trust, Inner Farne and Staples Islands are accessible for a landing fee or ticket obtained by showing your NT membership. There are knowledgeable guides on the islands studying bird habits and population numbers and also guide you to minimise stress on the birds and eliminate changes to their behaviour. Always wear a good hat as you will be dive bombed by the breeding Terns. Take a picnic and whatever you need for the day including stout walking boots as the path is over rough rocks. There are limited facilities on the islands (there is a toilet on Inner Farne), but would advise taking plenty of water and sunscreen along with food for the day. A memorable day out.