One of the best things about Seahouses (as well as excellent fish and chips) is it’s the gateway to the Farne Islands.
A short walk from any of our coastal cottages, you will find yourself in the harbour.
Boat trips run to the Islands each day in good weather. We made this visit in June and would recommend pre-booking your tickets where possible.
We’ve been lucky enough to visit the Farne Islands before, but for family staying with us, it was a first.
Due to covid regulations landing on the island has been restricted and at the time of visiting, only trips around the islands were allowed, so we wondered how the trip would compare. (Spoiler alert… it was just as great)
Now it’s good to pack a few things for your trip. It might be warm on the shore but can be much cooler at sea. So take a jumper, mac, bottle of water and binoculars if you have any, not that you’ll really need this last item as the boats generally take you pretty close to the abundance of seals lolling on the rocks. Look out for those who give you a wave!
Oh and maybe take a hat, the birds aren’t too particular where they go… after all you’re heading into their territory now.
So who to sail with? There are two main boat companies, Billy Shields and Serenity Boat Cruises. Both excellent and we booked with Billy Shield’s for this particular trip. Before you can board your vessel you will need your tickets and a National Trust (NT) ticket. This is available from the kiosk on the harbour wall. Since the 21st June 2021, visitors can now land on Inner Farne again and in addition to your ticket you will need to pay a ‘landing charge’ this is to allow you to get off the boat and to look around the island.
Billy Shields use mainly traditional open topped fishing boats which have great views whichever seat you find yourself in, but be prepared to get damp! Either by rain or sea spray!
Our Skipper for the morning compared around the Islands with great local knowledge, wildlife facts, history and stories. As you head out over the 3 miles of water, don’t forget to look back at the main land, you get a fantastic view along this stretch of coastline including Bamburgh Castle from the water.
You can see from Seahouses harbour, Bamburgh beach with its dominant Castle, down to Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle perched on its rock.
Nearing the Islands birds swoop and dip in the water, you’ll see the first sight of puffins, bobbing up and down and if anything like us, be really surprised at how tiny they are. How on earth can these cute little sea birds survive on the sea all winter? The gentle quiet trip out, then becomes a chorus of busyness. Puffins fly overhead bills full of fish to take back to their burrows.
Cormorants bob up and down on the sea and there is a slip stream of feathered air traffic in all directions, but it seems everyone knows where they are heading and there is no Gull with a mega phone keeping order!
We had entered another world. So instead of docking and alighting at Stable Island or Inner Farne on this trip. Our skipper got us up close to these outcrops teaming with life. The noise now a full on symphony of bird sounds.
With nests on every conceivable ledge and space its hard to comprehend how they all coexist in such close quarters. There are of course some challenges as your guide will tell you.
The Puffins congregate in areas more suited to burrows and peer over the cliff edge at us with their funny little clown like faces and big orange feet. They really are the cutest animals. Now that trips back onto Inner Farne are allowed, you can get even closer to them to appreciate all their tiny glory.
Did you know that puffins live on the sea all winter and they return to the same burrow every year when they fly back to the islands!
Carrying on to the next Island we slow right down and the engine turns off as we near a group of Grey Seals basking in the sun. With a lighthouse in the background, it makes for a pretty great photo opportunity and nature lovers and wildlife photographers won’t be disappointed.
These larger than life mammals groan and lollop around on the rocks, but when one slips off into the sea becomes graceful and gentle. Continuing around more of the Isles it truly is a great experience.
Whilst we didn’t see any dolphins this time, there are plenty around and you only need to ask the skippers how often the inquisitive creatures pop up. So keep an eye out for big schools of birds hovering on the water as this could mean dolphins are near by. The dolphins disturb the fish, which in turn leads to a mass of bird life in for a great picnic! It isn’t unusual for any of the boat trips to follow a pod of dolphins if they see one.
Whether it’s for the first time or as a returning visitor and we thoroughly recommend it during your stay with us. We will definitely be back again and hoping to book a sunset cruise on one of our next visits.
Ensure to check out @farne_islands and @billyshielboats on social media for some great island and wildlife information.
Do be prepared for all weathers! Whilst the best trips are the ones done in glorious weather, it is the North East and there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor choice in clothing.
Never the less, to see what happened later in the month and for some ‘out takes’ when our founder Rachel took a trip to the islands, check put our stories!