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Farne Islands (England)

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      27.11.2012 22:12
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      We got lucky with the weather and fell in love with the puffins

      ~Puffin or Nuffin~

      When we started planning our trip to the North East of England for the end of June this year, the most northerly part of our itinerary was going to be Lindisfarne. Whilst hunting for somewhere to stay, we came across some information about the Farne Islands. I'm sure we should have known about them, but we didn't. It took just one word to convince us that a visit was compulsory; that word was PUFFIN!

      I would guess that almost everyone knows what a puffin looks like - especially if they've grown up in the UK - but hardly anyone has ever actually seen one. I put it down to Puffin being the brand name of the children's range of books from Penguin Books. Their logo made the little black and white bird one of the most recognizable of British birds, even though you'll never see one in your garden or on your bird table or round the local duck pond.

      I had seen a few puffins in the Oceanarium in Lisbon but never in the wild so as soon as we realised that it was possible to see puffins in the wild by taking a boat trip from the small coastal town of Seahouses, a trip went onto our must do list. I'll be honest that I wasn't actually that optimistic about seeing anything because I've been the bored victim of too many tiger-free tiger safaris, jeep tours in Africa looking for the Big Five (and finding most of them absent) and even going diving looking for manta rays and seeing little bigger than plankton. I'm not lucky with beasties but I was willing to give it a try.

      ~Choose your boat operator~

      The weather in June in England is always risky so we knew it would be best to have at least two days in the area to maximise the chances of getting good enough conditions for the boat journey. Actually we got very lucky with the weather when we turned up in Seahouses around noon on the first morning in the area. We parked up in the car park on the dock and then walked back to the row of small booths where different companies were offering boat trips to the Farne Islands. All seemed to have similar things on offer. Various lengths of journey were available and the main decision to make was whether to get off the boat and onto one of the islands or not. The main island which can be visited is controlled by the National Trust, and since we are members, we would get free entry to the island so it made perfect sense to take a trip with a landing.

      There was no particular reason why we chose Billy Shiels' tours rather than any of the other companies with booths on the dock. Perhaps it was something as random as it being the booth we were standing next to and there being nobody else in the queue. Also they had a chalk board that gave very clear information on the sailing times so we were confident that they'd be able to help us.

      The lady in the booth was very helpful, especially considering that we were very vague about what we wanted.

      "How can I help you?" she asked.
      "We don't know, we just want to see puffins." we told her. "And some seals would be nice too if that's not too much trouble."

      She calmly explained our options, checked if we were National Trust members and then told us that since we were, we should take a trip that gave us time on the island. She sold us two tickets for the Inner Farne Bird Sanctuary tour for £13 each. This trip is scheduled to last about two and a half hours and includes an hour on the island of Inner Farne. We were told to be at the end of the dock at one o'clock or ideally five to ten minutes beforehand. She reassured me that we would definitely see puffins.

      The boat was due to leave in about half an hour which was long enough to get something to eat but not long enough to be too choosy. We asked the lady who sold us our tickets where we could get something and she told us that the sandwich stand on the quay was as good as anywhere else. Two big stalls were standing next to each other - one selling sandwiches and snacks, and the other selling fish. I was eyeing up some dressed crab and wondering how on earth I could eat it when the 'fish lady' told us that the 'sandwich lady' would make up sandwiches for us if we bought something from the fish stall. Sure enough, that's what we did - getting the crab from the 'fish lady' and having the 'sandwich' lady make it up into two really lovely sandwiches. We bought some bottled water and then headed down the dock to wait for the boat to arrive.

      ~Glad Tidings of Great Joy~

      All the Billy Shiels boats are painted blue and white and seem to be called Glad Tidings followed by a number. They come in different sizes and ours was one of the larger boats, Glad Tidings IV. Some of the smaller boats have a small undercover area but Glad Tidings IV has no protection from the sun and rain so be sure to take sun-block and a rain coat and keep your fingers crossed. If the weather looks dodgy, you might want to check if any of the other operators offer boats with cover. We were very lucky to go when we did as the next two days were foggy and wet and the trip would not have been pleasant in the rain.

      The boats moor up at the bottom of a steep flight of steps and no more than two boats can load or offload at the same time which means at busy times you can wait quite a long time. Our boat arrived fully laden and took about ten minutes to offload all the passengers and another fifteen or so to get the new passengers on board. It's important to be aware of the steps as anyone with mobility issues is really going to struggle to get up and down and there was - as far as I could see - no alternative to the steps. A couple with a young baby in a push chair were the last to arrive after everyone was on board and settled and we cringed to watch them messing about with baby and buggy and keeping the whole boat waiting another five minutes. Logic would say you turn up early if you've got a baby in tow rather than waiting until everyone else is seated before you stroll up late.

      There's no luxury on board. Passengers sit on hard wooden benches. I would estimate the payload at something like fifty people per journey in Glad Tidings IV. Ironically another boat that was loading at the same time as ours left with about half a dozen passengers. I had asked the lady selling tickets if there was a loo on board but I saw no evidence of it so if you can't go up to an hour and a half without needing a pee, you might want to reconsider or double check the boat's facilities when booking.

      ~Puffin Pursuit~

      We set off on a clear sunny day and the crossing was not too rough at all. As someone who can get queasy in the bath, I didn't suffer at all so that tells you how calm it was. We were rather jammed in like sardines in the back of the boat but the sense of excitement was high. If there was a puffin out there, I wanted to see it. Little did I realise that I wasn't going to have to keep my eyes peeled as there would be puffins aplenty. The ship's captain took us around multiple islands, telling us about the differences between them, pointing out particular buildings and features of interest. When the first little puffins flew past I didn't know whether to cry at how cute they were or laugh at how silly they looked.

      Puffins are not elegant flyers - they look like very unaerodynamic clock work toys. The German word for puffin (here's a bit or real linguistic trivia for you) is Papageitaucher which means 'parrot diver' and it's an excellent word which - as so many German words do - perfectly describes what a puffin is and what it looks like. It's a diving parrot.

      There are several islands and whilst you only stop on one of them, there are plenty of things to see as you sail past the islands. There's an old ruined church and several light houses. The captain tells passengers about Grace Darling and her father and their work rescuing people from ship wrecks. He's full of interesting anecdotes and slightly worn jokes and the spirits on the boat are very high. But most people are there to see the animals and he knows that's where our focus will be. He sails up as close as is safe and non-disturbing for the animals so you can see seals basking on the rocks. Most look rather a lot like rocks themselves so you'll probably find you're looking at your photos afterwards and wondering what the big grey blobs are. A few seals were playing in the water, coming to have a look at the boat and all the funny animals on it.

      We circled around several islands until he came to a set of cliffs which were literally coated in birds and which - not surprisingly - stank of bird poop. The smell is overpowering even from a distance. The birds tend to gather by species - the puffins claiming one area of the cliff, the seagulls taking another and the guillemots claiming their own area too.

      ~Land Ahoy!~

      The highlight was still to come as we headed into the bay where boats land for Inner Farne island. The captain explained that we would have an hour on the island and that those without National Trust membership cards would need to pay for entry. As we pulled up at the jetty, a young NT volunteer came to tell us what we could expect to see and to warn us that the terns in particular were getting very territorial because their chicks had hatched. He warned us to wear hats if we had them to protect from poop and sharp beaks. The captain chipped in with the advice that if anyone didn't have a hat they should "stand next to someone taller than you". We should expect a serious aerial assault from protective adult terns.

      We showed our cards and headed onto the island. The terns lay their eggs on the ground, sometimes very close to the pathways and don't appreciate visitors getting too close. They do peck your head and I had totally the wrong type of hat to prevent attack. We saw one woman, who must have been before, walking around with a plastic mixing bowl on her head, kept on with a bungee cord. As we walked along the paths the terns took (pun entirely intended) turns to attack the heads of passers-by.

      Inner Farne is a small island of approximately 16 acres which it turns out is plenty of space for tens of thousands of birds to gather and lay their eggs. Keeping in mind that many of these birds spend most of the year on the wing or on the water, they seem somewhat out of their element when strutting around on land. After we'd run the gauntlet of the attacking terns, we soon found the cliffs on the far side of the island where the other birds were gathering. As on the previous cliffs, the zones for each bird tend to be quite clearly separated. The puffin pitch was in a different area to the cormorant community, the guillemot group, the kittiwake club and the shag pad. Spotting the puffins in the distance I worked up to a full on puffin frenzy by checking out all the equally cool but less funny looking birds first, saving the puffins as the icing on the avian cake.

      With the help of an ornithologist colleague who had a look at my photos earlier today, we were able to identify Arctic terns, razorbills and guillemots (which look very similar), shags and kittiwakes. The dress code of black and white seemed to be de rigeur for most of the birds on the island although the terns have bright red beaks and the puffins beaks are rather brightly coloured. I wished I'd taken my big lens for my camera as I was quite disappointed with how close I could get to some of the birds.

      ~Puffin Pomp~

      The puffins are the stars of Inner Farne. Nobody sells boat trips to go and see shags and kittiwakes - they're nice enough birdies but the big draw is the puffin colony. At the end of June the puffins were a little more relaxed than most of the birds on the island as their eggs hadn't yet hatched by that point. Puffins lay their eggs in burrows and tragically in the weeks that followed our visit horrendous rain storms caused the death of many of the puffin chicks who drowned in their burrows.

      The one thing funnier than watching a puffin fly is watching it land. As they approach their landing spot they move from flying horizontally to raising their heads and coming in feet first. It's hard not to be struck by the look of total panic as a not very aerodynamic chubby little bird tries to avoid performing a total wipe-out on the rocks. Impressively, many of the birds come back to land with their bills absolutely stuffed full of tiny fish. I asked the birding colleague how they gather so many without dropping them and he had to admit that he didn't actually know.

      We found a quiet bench where we could eat our crab sandwiches and were relieved to find that the birds were totally disinterested in our food. The waters around the islands are so rich in little fish that a crab sandwich was no attraction at all. We wandered all over the island, taking photos, cooing over the birds and generally feeling overwhelmed by the privilege of being able to hang out in birdworld for an hour. Yes, we laughed at some of the less elegant flyers but we couldn't help thinking they were eyeing us up and concluding that we'd be pretty rubbish if we jumped off a cliff.

      ~Homeward Bound~

      We headed back to the jetty to join the boat again and to head back to the harbour. If you recall that I mentioned that only two boats at a time can offload passengers, you'll not be surprised to hear that we spent more time just outside the harbour walls waiting to get in than we did in the crossing back from Inner Farne. The boats with fewer passengers had clearly decided to try to beat us back to the harbour and we were on the water for at least twenty to thirty minutes longer because of congestion. We far exceeded the two and a half hour target cruise time but nobody minded.

      ~Practical Stuff~

      Billy Shiels' boat tours to Inner Farne sail several times a day between April and October and the times vary according to the month. You can find full details on the website at www.farne-islands.com Adults pay £13 and children £9 and the entrance fee to Inner Farne island is paid on top of this and is £5.20 per adult in April, August, September and October and £6.20 in May, June or July. Kids landing fees are half as much as for adults and family groups can get discounts.

      Billy Shiels' boats also offer cruises to Staple Island and Holy Island as well as arranging all day bird spotting trips, seal cruises, pelagic cruises and SCUBA diving. Prices vary according to what you want to do but there's good information on the website. The Inner Farne tour is their basic and probably their most popular trip. At less than £20 including National Trust fees, I think it's an excellent way to see puffins without having to travel to really out of the way and inaccessible places. We got lucky with the weather but I can imagine it would have been a miserable trip if it had been raining.

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        13.09.2011 18:46
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        A beautiful range of small islands with loads of wildlife to see.

        We have had several holidays in Northumberland so know the county quite well. One of the best places to visit is the Farne Islands which are situated just off the Northumberland coast at Seahouses. The islands are all owned by the National Trust and are unihabited. Longstone lighthouse is on one of the islands and can be seen for miles.

        There is a lot of history surrounding the islands, the most famous story being that of Grace Darling, the Victorian girl who helped to rescue stricken sailors who had floundered on the Farne Island rocks in rough seas. She is buried in the churchyard at Bamburgh, a few miles up the coast from Seahouses.

        Today the islands are inhabited by thousands of seabirds. There is a thriving colony of puffins as well as many other birds such as cormorants, guillimots and terns. A grey seal colony also lives there and they are often seen basking in the sun whilst watching the boats sail round the islands.

        Visiting the islands is fairly easy, with regular boat-trips sailing out of Seahouses when the weather allows. You can either just have a trip to the islands and back, or stop off for half an hour on the main island. We have taken the round trip but not managed to set foot on Farne yet. I am told that a good hat is essential if you are lucky enough to stop off on the island, as the birds do tend to dive-bomb you and leave their calling cards on your head!!! The trips are well worth taking and the guides are usually very knowlegable. On one trip we even managed a glimpse of some porpoises, which was amazing!

        The cost of boat trips varies but they are well worth taking. If the sea is calm and the sun shining it is really relaxing sitting back and watching all the wildlife. Well worth a visit!

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        05.11.2009 17:30
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        One of the National Trust's greatest treasures.

        The Farne Islands are a group of beautiful and unique unpopulated islands that lie off the Northumberland coast, just opposite the village of Seahouses. They are owned by the National Trust, who bought them in 1925 when they were threatened by commercial exploitation due to the large numbers of holidaymakers. Today the Farnes are one of the most important nature reserves in the British Isles, with National Trust wardens living on the islands for part of the year, and disembarkations strictly monitored.

        The Islands lie between 2 and 5 miles out to sea, and although they are easily visible from the mainland, it is impossible to see their true extent and beauty from land. There are 16 islands at high tide, 30 at low tide and they are divided into two groups; the inner group consisting of Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the East and West Wideopens and the Megstone; the outer group consisting of Staple Island ,the Brownsman, North and South Wamses, Big Harcar and the Longstone. Once dusk falls they are a romantic sight, with the islands silhouetted against the sunset, and the atmospheric Longstone Lighthouse winking back to shore at night.

        ~History~~

        The islands are best known for two of their most famous inhabitants. Grace Darling was the 22 year old daughter of Longstone lighthouse keeper William, and in 1838, rowed out through a gale, and rescued nine survivors from the Forfarshire, a paddle steam ship which ran aground on Big Harcar. The story of the rescue attracted extraordinary attention throughout Britain and made Grace Darling a heroine who has gone down in British folklore.

        Famous for his spirituality and life as a holy hermit, St Cuthbert lived on Inner Farne from 676 to 684 and after two years as Bishop of Lindisfarne, returned to the island to die in 687. He built himself a small cell, he used half as an oratory (for praying) and half as his dwelling place. Sadly, there is no trace of this building today. Cuthbert is said to have been the first person in England to protect birds. He made special rules to safeguard the eider ducks, even allowing them to nest on the steps of his altar. Cuthbert was followed by other hermits, many of whom came from the Monastery of Durham. In 1255 they established the House of Farne, a small Benedictine monastery on the island.

        ~~Visiting the Farnes~~

        Today, a boat trip to the Farne Islands is on every holidaymaker's itinery. There are four companies selling tickets for a variety of trips, and boats leave Seahouses harbour once an hour from 10am to 3pm daily. A round trip, including island stop off, takes between 2½ to 3 hours. The cost of a round trip to Inner Farne (excluding landing charges) is £12 per adult and £8 per child. Perhaps the most renowned of the Seahouses boatmen is Billy Sheils MBE, who operates a fleet of 7 passenger boats, each named Glad Tidings. His grandfather started taking people over in 1918 and the family continue to provide an entertaining and enjoyable trip today.

        Boat trips to the islands take much longer than you would imagine. Chugging out to sea, the wind and spray blows into your face in an exhilarating way, and you can look back to see Northumberland's stunning coastline with its long sandy beaches and dramatic castles silhouetted on the horizon. I would advise you to prepare well for any of these trips, but especially the longer ones. There are no toilet facilities or refreshments on the islands, and the loud engine noise can often induce a headache or nausea, particularly in younger children, who often have to lie down on the benches on the return trip. This is no luxury cruise, but is well worth any minor discomfort.

        The shortest of the trips is the Grey Seal Cruise, which is a 1 ½ hour round trip which does not land on any of the islands. At the other end of the scale is the 5 ½ hour all day birdwatch; landing on both Inner Farne and Staple Island, this one is strictly for the enthusiast.

        ++The Inner Farne Trip++
        I visited in October- sadly too late to see the Puffins. The trip lasts 2 ½ hours, which includes 1 hour on the 16 acre Inner Farne Island. Landing on the island costs £4.60 per adult, but is free to National Trust members. As soon as we approached the islands, we started to see the bobbing heads of grey seals around our boat, but the excitement of this was soon overtaken by the thrill of seeing hundreds of fluffy seal pups lying on the rocks! In addition we saw Guillemots, Cormorants and Shags. The commentary by the skipper was very informative, and several times he came down from the cockpit to stand with us and make sure that we could see everything that he was pointing out. He seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the whole trip.

        Once we had landed on the island, we were taken to the National Trust information centre, where one of the wardens gave a very interesting talk. He told us about life as a warden, on a 9 month contract living and working on the tiny islands every day. A rather dangerous part of their job in the autumn is to go out and spray different coloured paint on every new born seal pup - this can easily identify how many there are, and when they were born. The warden recommended that we return at a different time of year, as the Puffins burrow all over the island and can easily be seen at close quarters in the spring and early summer. In addition, the Arctic Terns are extremely tame, and from April to July, tend to nest all around the visitor centre, seemingly unafraid of the visitors. Terns can be very defensive of their eggs or chicks. Expect to be dive-bombed and bring a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap to help protect yourself.

        We were then given time to walk around the island to look at the lighthouse, down from the steep cliffs, and around the tiny St Cuthbert's Chapel, built in 1300. The feeling of peace that comes over you in this distant location is exceptional: there is no sound of civilisation at all, just the cries of birds and the crashing of waves. Looking back to the beautiful coastline and further out to sea to where the lilac sea merged into the purple horizon, I could understand why Saint Cuthbert returned to the isolation and spirituality of the Farne Islands time after time.

        The circular boardwalk around this island makes it fully accessible to disabled visitors.

        ++Other trips++
        Two other trips allow the visitor to land, both lasting for 2 ½ hours. The Staple Island trip includes 1 hour on the island to look around the bird sanctuary, but the terrain is more rugged and a walk around it involves some clambering over rocks. It is not recommended for disabled visitors.

        The second trip visits Longstone Island and includes a 30 minute landing. Unlike the other 2 islands, there is no landing fee to pay on this trip.

        ~~Wildlife~~

        The casual visitor will have two things in mind when visiting the islands: the seals and the puffins. There are an estimated 6,000 grey seals at the Farne Islands, with several hundred pups born every year in September-November. The seals are apparently unafraid, and the adults frolic very close to the tourist boats, which moor just off the islands so that visitors can take photos.

        Puffins, with their white fronts, black backs, brightly coloured parrot shaped beaks and ungainly walk can only be seen from April to mid August, when they fly off to spend their winter at sea. The islands host the largest breeding colony in England, with around 35,000 pairs. Using their vicious bite, the Puffins evict rabbits from their burrows so that they can use them for nests. Although they stay in the nests until the eggs hatch, they can be easily viewed once the chicks are born and many people travel thousands of miles just to see the Puffins in their natural habitat The dedicated wardens have to put their hands down the burrows, encountering guano slime as well as sharp pecks, as they count the puffin population.

        For the keen birdwatcher, a day out on the Farnes is a real treat. The variety is huge and includes Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Shag, Arctic Tern, and Eider. A nice story around the Eider is that St Cuthbert had the eiders feeding from his hand, hence the affectionate name of "Cuddy's Duck", by which the eider is sometimes known.

        ~~Opening Times~~

        Opening times are strictly controlled in line with the breeding times of the birds, but when they are open, trips run 7 days a week.

        Both islands are open during April, from 10.30 - 6.00
        During May, June and July, Staple Island is open from 10.30-1.30, and Inner Farne from 1.30-5.00

        During August and September, both islands are open from 10.30-6.00.
        In addition, extra trips are run during October to see the seal pups.

        ~~~~~~~~

        Also posted on Helium.

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          19.10.2001 22:38
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          • "Bad weather may cancel boat trips"

          Last month, on my birthday, I was fortunate enough to take a trip from Newcastle (where I am a student) up into Northumbria, where among other things I visited the Farne Islands. I was very fortunate to have such excellent weather for this time of year, and I have to say the trip was pretty spectacular and an excellent way of celebrating. I have been meaning to put together this op ever since then, and finally now I have found the time to do it justice – I hope this is interesting and useful to you after this long wait! ● Location I imagine a good place to start would be describing where the Farne islands actually are, as I’m sure a lot of people will not have heard of them. They lie off the north Northumbrian coast between Alnwick and Berwick-upon Tweed, close to the more famous Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle. It takes a good hour to reach the area from Newcastle, but is also possible for a day trip from both the Durham area and the Scottish borders. As the Farnes are a National Trust property, you will find their location marked in the trust handbook, if any of you have access to it. ● A bit of history In 1924, Viscount Grey (the former Foreign Secretary and native of Northumbria) wrote to The Times in strong support of the local Natural History Society buying the Farne Islands and presenting them to the Trust to be kept in perpetuity for the nation. At this time, Grey had been blind for almost eight years so could no longer enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the islands, but understood the ornithological importance of them, as this was the northernmost breeding place of the Sandwich Tern – the society subsequently raised £2,200 and the Farne Islands were bought and presented to the National Trust in 1925. This, therefore, was one of the earliest nature reserve acquisitions of the Trust. Other than the obvious wildlife importance of the Farne Islands, they have another claim to fame &#
          8211; these were the islands where Grace Darling lived. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Grace Darling lived with her father who was the lighthouse keeper of Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands from 1826. On September 7th 1838 (when Grace was just 22 years old), she spotted the steamship Forfarshire striking rocks around the islands during a storm – she and her father rowed out to the stricken passengers and managed to rescue nine of them from the sea. As this was a time when women were seen as being weak and unadventurous, Grace’s actions made her a national heroine. Her memorial and a small museum dedicated to her can be visited at nearby Bamburgh. In addition to this, Saint Cuthbert (whose relics now lie in Durham cathedral) died on Inner Farne in 687 – the chapel built in his memory can be visited here. ● Access to the islands Boats sail to the Farne Islands from the village of Seahouses, near Bamburgh and Craster. Only Inner Farne and Staple Islands may be visited: - April, August, September: daily 10.30am to 6pm - May, June and July (breeding season): daily 10.30am to 1.30pm (Staple) and 1.30pm to 5pm (Inner Farne) Tickets for visiting the islands are available from the warden upon landing, or from the boatmen at Seahouses and cost £4 (May to July) and £3 at other times – these charges do not include the boatmen’s fee (prices vary), and landing is not guaranteed if the weather is bad. There is some wheelchair access on Inner Farne, but contact the property manger in advance (see contact details at end of op). ● My experience As I have mentioned before, I was very lucky with the weather for the time of year I went to the Farnes – this is essentially a good weather destination only, as rough seas make the trip dangerous and landing impossible. Make sure you check the weather forecast before you go to ensure that things will be calm eno
          ugh for you to take the boat trip. Also make sure that you take warm and waterproof clothing with you, as this is an exposed and windy area and things can bet quite bracing out there! I should warn anyone thinking of taking the trip that however good the weather is, that the sea is very choppy off the Northumbrian coast, so avoid eating rich food before you depart (especially greasy fish and chips – urgh!) and if you get travel or sea sick then take your tablets. A trip out the islands and back involves being in a small boat for a couple of hours, and if you feel ill then this will spoil the trip for you. When out on the boat, you have the chance of seeing many different sea birds (try not to snigger too much when your guides mentions shags though!), seals and puffins if you are lucky. From the boat you can also see the lighthouse and St Cuthbert’s church and Lindisfarne if the day is especially clear – landing is not compulsory, and you can have a perfectly good trip by just sailing around the islands. The scenery in this part of the world is very dramatic and can literally take your breath away – it still feels unspoilt and was virtually free of other tourists on the day I went. It is worthwhile avoiding school holidays and going midweek if you can, as this makes the area a lot quieter and your visit more enjoyable. Other things to visit in the area: - Bamburgh: the famous castle, grace Darling museum and the church - Craster: Dunstanburgh castle - Lindisfarne castle on Holy Island - A little further away near Alnwick is Cragside, on of the National Trust’s most famous houses ● Further Information Phone: (01665) 721099 for Seahouses Information Centre (01665) 720651 for Property Manager

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            27.08.2000 22:38
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            Islands in Northumberland

            When on a visit to Northumberland you must visit the Farne Islands. A variety of boat trips depart from the pier at Seahouses. Trips vary from just over 1 hour to 5 hours depending on what you want to see. Altogether there are twenty eight islands or fifteen if you count at high tide.


            The Inner Farne - Grace Darling's father was lighthouse keeper at Longstone. Today the island is the home to a colony of Grey Seals. The seals (and there are hundreds of them) swim up close to the boats so don't forget your camera!.

            Staple Island - During May to August you will find many nesting birds here and perhaps the biggest attraction is the large number of puffins, there are thousands of them. It is possible to land here in the mornings and see these wonderful birds in their natural habitat. Other birds nesting include pipits, eiders, kittiwakes, terns, shags, oyster catchers and cormorants.

            All in all the great dolerite rocks are home to seventeen species of birds, which perch on th cliff tops. With so many of them, the rocks are extremely noisy and the scene resembles something from Alfred Hitchcock. As the birds are higher than you, it is advisable to wear a hat!.

            Trips run from early April until late October. For most people this is their first chance to glance a puffin but please note that by mid August every one of them leaves the island on mass and fly out to sea.

            The hightlight of the season for me is around mid October when although the boats can no longer land, the seal pups are born. On my last visit some of the pups were just a couple of hours old. Another must for your camera!.

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