On day three of our stay at Feather Down, Northumberland, we woke up to discover that the weather was a little kinder to us and, with coats and wellies just incase, made the short drive to Seahouses where we planned to take a sight seeing boat out across to the Farne Islands. There are countless kiosks and ticket offices in Seahouses where you can purchase tickets and, whilst we waited for our time slot, there was just time for a quick chippy dinner at Neptunes, a chip shop I would definitely recommend!
Down at the harbour there are countless boats and crowds of people were already forming for the next tour. Although you can take a number of different routes, we chose to do the 90 minute tour of the islands with no stop off, so we could just sit back and enjoy the view.
The boats aren’t overly large, with outdoor only seating but for a small number of seats covered by a canopy. Luckily we were towards the front of the queue but those who came later were literally wedged in as and where they could fit so I definitely would recommend getting there early!
The Farne islands lie two to three miles off the Northumberland coast midway between Seahouses and the Castle of Bamburgh. As well as being the most famous Sea Bird Sanctuary in the British Isles they also have a large colony of Atlantic or Grey Seals and, if you’re very lucky, dolphins and whales are regularly spotted.
Obviously I was aware that being a bird colony there would be birds on the islands, but as we approached and I saw the sheer number, over 100,000 pairs of birds, I was completely lost for words! Literally every single part of rock was covered in birds and the noise that they made was deafening!
The Farne Islands are possibly the most exciting seabird colony in England with unrivalled views of 23 species, including around 43,000 pairs of puffin. Between April and late July, puffins return to the Farnes to breed and raise their young and I loved to learn that puffins mate for life, separating over winter and returning to the islands to pair up again in the spring.
For those wishing to land on the islands, several of the tours offer this service although the National Trust charge a landing fee for each visitor to the island. Members of the National Trust can of course visit free of charge.
The Farne Islands are also home to one of the top grey seal pupping sites in England, with more than 2,000 pups born every autumn. We were so excited to spot our first seal right infront of us on the rocks and, I think for all of us, seeing a seal in the wild for the first time was pretty special.
Despite our best efforts we didn’t spot any dolphins or whales, although the captain of our boat said he had seen a Mummy whale and her calf earlier that day, which must have been amazing! It would have been lovely to see dolphins, especially for Eva who was so desperate to spot even one, but hopefully on a return visit we would be a little luckier.
The boat tour is a great way to view Farne Island Lighthouse, built by Trinity House in 1673 to guide ships through the hazardous archipelago of islands situated in the main deep water coastal shipping lanes. Now open to the public you can go inside for guided tours and, should we return to the Farne Islands, I would love to do just that.
We loved our boat tour of the Farne Islands and would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Northumberland. It’s a great way to get up close to the wildlife and, if nothing else, the look on the children’s faces when we saw all of those birds for the first time is a memory I won’t ever forget.