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  • Writer's pictureTania Andreea

Farne Islands - the wild paradise of England

Updated: Feb 28

AN UNIQUE PLACE IN ENGLAND WHERE YOU CAN SEE PUFFINS AND MANY OTHER BIRDS


I was in England, visiting a museum that didn't promise much, but had free entry. I figured I didn't have much to lose by visiting. Well, I can say that it was a very good decision considering that from there I learned about one of the most beautiful places in England. At one of the exhibits, I saw a puffin. The beauty of the bird attracted me instantly, and the good part was that it was mentioned the place of origin, namely the Farne Islands. From there it wasn't long before I put together information about visiting the islands and planned a short walk in search of the famous Puffins.


I learned about the Farne Islands that they are the UK's largest nature reserve for birds and are actually a group of 15-28 islands off the Northumberland Coast of England. Their number varies according to the tide, so that five of them end up being completely covered by water during the flow.


For those who love to see animals or birds in their natural habitat, Farne Islands are the perfect place, home to seals, gulls, puffins, arctic terms and other migratory birds. The best part is that they can be seen up close and can even be photographed with your phone, without the need for massive camera lenses.


HOW TO GET TO FARNE ISLANDS:


If you come from outside the UK, the nearest airports are from Newcastle and Edinburgh. From there, it is best to rent a car. It can also be reached by public transport, but you have to make many changes.


The destination town is called Seahouses, being a fishing village, from where boat trips to the Farne Islands are organized. The islands are about 3 miles from the shore, and by boat is the only way to see them.


VISITING FARNE ISLANDS:


The visit involves, in addition to the boat ride, stopping on one of the islands, named Inner Farne. There are various companies that organize trips to these islands, and in addition to the price of the boat ticket, it is necessary to buy another ticket to visit the island. The islands are administered by the National Trust, so if you are a member, there is no need to buy a ticket for the island.


Both the tickets for the boat trip and the ones for visiting the island, can be purchased from the port of the village, from separate counters. The price for the boat is £ 30 / adult, and for the island £ 12.60.


Time on Inner Farne is limited to one hour, but it is enough to explore the island long and wide..



WHEN TO VISIT FARNE ISLANDS:


If a few years ago, the island could be visited from April to September, they recently changed the schedule, reducing both the visit period and the number of visitors, so that the island can be visited in June-July. These changes are aimed to protect birds nesting on the island. The program may differ and there may be either extensions or visitation restrictions. If it is not allowed to stop on the island, usually the boat trip is extended to 2.5 hours and stops will be made in areas where there are several birds and can be admired from the boat. The boat tour also includes a short guide with interesting information about the islands and the birds that choose to nest in this paradise in the north of England.


As a personal recommendation, do not go there after the end of July, the birds usually start migrating in August and you may not see them. To give you an idea, we only managed to see the Puffins on the third try.


Also, the weather must be taken into account, because when it is strong wind, no excursions will be organized, but also some pandemics that may occur. It is good to have a research about visiting this place even before a few days of going there. For example, in 2022 and 2023, access to the island was completely prohibited due to aviary flu, which killed a lot of birds. But even if you can't step on the islands, the boat cruise around them is pretty spectacular and worth getting here for that alone.



WHAT CAN YOU SEE ON FARNE ISLANDS?


Black gannets, medium-sized birds, but considered the largest birds living in the North Atlantic. If you arrive on the island at the beginning of July, you have the opportunity to see how their chicks learn to fly, it is a real show to watch them. Of the birds that visit the Farne Islands annually, most of them are black gannets.

Farne Islands England, black gannets colony

Cormorants, which can also be seen in the Danube Delta or other places in Europe. They are birds that adapt very easily to any climate and place that has water, either fresh or salty. They have their nest right on the rocks, very close to the footpath on which people walk.

Cormorants at Farne Islands, UK

Puffins, the stars of the island, who, although they look so cute, are some little thieves. Their nest in the ground is not built by them, but abusively taken from the rabbits. They use them a few months a year to lay their eggs and raise their chicks.


And they, in turn, have predators waiting to steal their food. The seagulls are waiting for them at the entrance to the nest, to attack them when they come with the fish. So they can stay for a few hours with the fish in their beaks, waiting to be sure to return to the nest and to feed their young ones.


They are migratory birds, living in the colonies and feeding on fish, which seems to be abundant in the Farne Islands.


These birds keep their mating partner for life, and more than 37,000 pairs of puffins return to the island each year.


Puffins at Farne Islands, UK

Grey seals, which are quite common in the UK, with more than 40% of the total number of seals on the planet living in this country. They can be seen resting in the sun on the rocks around the islands. These rocks are a refuge for them in case of an attack from the water. The main predators being sharks, but also whales. One of the guides on the boat told us that a shark had attacked a seal just the day before we got there. There is, therefore, a chance to see such things, if you are a little lucky.

Grey seals at Farne Islands, UK

Seagulls.

Various species of seagulls have also made their nests on the Farne Islands. I know, it wasn't really necessary to mention them, they are very common birds, but I was very happy to see a nest with chicks, which are very nice.

seagull nest with chicks at Farne Islands
seagull nest

Arctic terns, which can also be seen in the Danube Delta, are used to build their nest right on the ground and they can become very aggressive if you approach it. They defend their territory and the chicks at all costs, so it is recommended to wear a cap or a hat, because there is little chance of escaping these attacks. I can't say that I was angry with them, they had every right to be angry, after all, we invaded their territory.

arctic terns at Farne Islands UK

23 species of birds come to the Farne Islands annually for the egg-laying period. This is one of the few places on the planet where you can see at such a short distance and be photographed without necessarily having cameras with huge lenses. The advantage of this place is that you do not need special permits, as is the case with similar reservations.

birds colony at Farne Islands UK

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN ENGLAND - THE NORTH-EAST PART - Newcastle - a city that can be visited in one day; - Bamburgh Castle - located nearby, can be admired right from the Seahouses; You can opt for a day trip to this castle and to Alnwick Castle, departing from Edinburgh; - Lindisfarne - which is both an island and a peninsula, depending on the tide. - Durham- a small city, which is worth seeing; - York- one of my favorite cities in England; - Lake District - one of England's most spectacular national parks; You can opt for a trip departing from Manchester, details here; - Whitby and two other beautiful villages nearby that I talked about in the article. - Alnwick Castle - the filming location of some scenes from Harry Potter; - Raby Castle - one of the most interesting castles I have seen in England; - Hartlepool - Royal Navy Museum - one of the most interesting museums; - Leeds - it's worth dedicating a day to it, I also made a vlog (in English), you can find it on my YouTube channel; - Bass Rock - an island similar to Farne, but with fewer birds. It is the place where you can admire the White Gannets;

- Peak District - to which day trips from Manchester can be purchased; - Edinburgh - an absolutely gorgeous city, which should not be missed; You can opt for day trips to Holy Island and other areas in the north of England, details here.



WHERE TO STAY IN SEAHOUSES - THE CONNECTION VILLAGE TO FARNE ISLANDS:


- Dunelm Snug - accommodation unit that has double rooms in cottages with private bathroom. Parking and internet are included in the reservation price;

- Beach House Hotel - accommodation unit with double or family rooms. Parking and internet are included in the reservation price;

- The Olde Ship Inn - bungalow accommodation unit, rated at 4 stars. It has a private kitchenette, and the internet is included in the price of the reservation.


CONCLUSION ABOUT THE TRIP TO THE FARNE ISLANDS As a personal conclusion, being a huge wildlife enthusiast and lover of everything related to ornithology, it is the wildest and most beautiful place I have ever seen and I am convinced that there are few places in the world that can dethrone these islands. So, if you have the opportunity to reach this area during the summer, do not hesitate to put these islands on the list. England managed to surprise me in a very pleasant way, and if you don't have this country on your list to see, I recommend giving it a chance, it might surprise you too. What do you think? Have you visited them or would you visit them?


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