Newest Review: ... surrounding the islands, the most famous story being that of Grace Darling, the Victorian girl who helped to rescue stricken sailors who ha... more
Fantastic Farne Islands
Farne Islands (England)
Member Name: collingwood21
Farne Islands (England)
Date: 19/10/01, updated on 19/10/01 (175 review reads)
Advantages: Amazing scenery, Guided wildlife tours, Plenty of castles
Disadvantages: Remote location - may be hard for some people to get to it, Access is difficult if you are disabled, Bad weather may cancel boat trips
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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