Just a couple of miles from the Northumberland coast you’ll find a collection of 20 small islands that are home to an array of wildlife including seals, puffins and around 100,000 seabirds.
The Farne Islands are just off the coast of Seahouses and are really very special indeed - David Attenborough named the Farne Islands his favourite place to spot UK wildlife and we couldn’t agree more. As well as watching the young puffins (called pufflins) and seals on and around the islands, visitors to the Farne Islands are also rewarded with some spectacular views of Seahouses Harbour and Dunstanburgh Castle.
Take a look at our ultimate guide to the Farne Islands and start planning your next short break or holiday to Northumberland:
Seahouses - the gateway to the Farne Islands
A visit to the Farne Islands starts in the pretty Northumberland fishing village of Seahouses where you can watch an array of activity in the bustling harbour before catching a boat for your journey over.
As you would expect from a Northumberland fishing village, you’ll find plenty of fresh fish in Seahouses including a plethora of fish and chip shops and an excellent fishmongers called Swallowfish that even has its own traditional smokehouse.
For some family fun, head to the The Bunker crazy golf course, then grab a drink and watch the world go by from The Bamburgh Castle Inn which has a prime location on the seafront.
Find out more in our guide to Seahouses.
Boat Trips to the Farne Islands
The only way to get to the Farne Islands is by boat and there are a choice of providers and types of boat trip that you can take. These include:
- Sailing around the islands without landing to view the nesting bird and seal colonies
- A cruise to Inner Farne Bird Sanctuary
- A cruise to the Staple Island Bird Sanctuary
- A cruise to Longstone Island to see Grace Darling’s famous lighthouse
- All day bird-watching trips
- Sunset cruises
Boat trips are dog-friendly but dogs will not allowed onto the islands because of the nesting birds - you can however usually leave your dog with the skipper if you want to get off and have a look around. Prices are around £15 - £18 for a cruise around the islands and £18 - 20 for landing on one of the larger islands.
Boats to the Farne Islands include:
- Glad Tidings - also provides diving trips to the Farne Islands
- Golden Gate - the only boat that’s permitted to land on Longstone Island
- Serenity - offers photography workshops in addition to the standard Farne Island cruises
It’s best to pre-book your boat trip in advance, but if you prefer to be spontaneous, there are regular boats leaving Seahouses Harbour throughout the day so you should be able to hop on one.
Islands of the Farne Island
Though the majority of the Farne Islands are too small to land on (and some can’t be seen when the tide is high), there are three larger National Trust owned islands that you can visit at certain times of the year:
Inner Farne - best for families
The largest of the Farne Islands, Inner Farne is a haven for nesting seabirds during the summer months and a tranquil place to spend time spotting wildlife during the spring and autumn seasons. Visitors can follow a walking path around the island and call in at the beautiful St. Cuthbert’s Chapel.
Please note: Inner Farne is available to visit from April to October and a National Trust fee is charged on landing.
Staple Island - best for close encounters with seabirds
Staple Island has vast colonies of seabirds and because it’s typically quieter than Inner Farne, you can get up close to the wildlife and get some stunning photographs of the beautiful birds. The landscape of Staple Island is rockier than Inner Farne so it isn’t suitable for younger children or anyone with mobility issues.
Please note: Staple Island is only accessible between May and July, and a National Trust fee is charged on landing.
Longstone Island - best for history buffs
Longstone Island houses the famous Longstone Lighthouse, the scene of Grace Darling’s famous sea rescue in 1838. You can take a tour of the lighthouse including Grace’s bedroom where she spotted the shipwrecked Forfarshire before rowing out with her father to rescue survivors.
Please note: Longstone Island is open from April to October and can only be reached on the Golden Gate boat. There is no landing fee but there is a small charge to tour the lighthouse.
When to spot wildlife around the Farne Islands
The main draw of the Farne Islands, aside from their natural beauty and stunning views, is the abundance of wildlife to spot throughout the year. Find out the best time of year to spot the puffins, grey seals and seabirds that the Farne Islands are home to.
Puffins are synonymous with the Farne Islands and they start to arrive from the end of March. May, June and July are all prime months for puffins - they will typically start breeding in May and you can see the young pufflings from June. The older pufflings will start to head out to sea in July and by August most of the puffins have left for the year.
Seals and their pups can be spotted all year round and though Inner Farne is only available to land on from April to October, you can still take a boat cruise around the islands. October is the peak month for the arrival of new seal pups.
There’s a vast array of seabirds on the Farne Islands with most varieties starting to arrive from the middle of April (although you can see shags on and around the islands all year round). Birds to spot between April and August include fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and common terns. Eider ducks can be seen nesting in May and June but beware of the Arctic terns during these months - they are known for dive-bombing visitors to protect their young.
Farne Islands - where to stay
Seahouses is the closest village to the Farne Islands and is also where you can hop aboard the boats but Bamburgh and Beadnell are also both nearby so are good picks as a base for your Northumberland holiday.
Best for couples
2 Bamburgh Gate, Bamburgh
This cosy cottage for two is in a secluded spot that’s close to both Bamburgh and Seahouses. With lovely countryside views (you may even spot a red squirrel if you’re lucky), it’s the perfect mix of coast and country.
Kittiwake Cottage, Seahouses
One of only a few remaining original stone-built cottages in Seahouses, Kittiwake Cottage is chock full of character and charm. This one-bedroom romantic retreat is just a short walk to the harbour where you can catch a boat to the Farne Islands.
Best for families
This coastal cottage is right in the heart of Seahouses so there’s lots for families to see and do right from the front door. Seascape has been newly refurbished and is a light and airy holiday home for up to four people.
Salty Kisses Cottage, Seahouses
Enjoy fabulous sea views from this family-friendly property for up to six people. Salty Kisses Cottage is just a hop, skip and jump away from the seafront where you can watch the boats come and go before catching one over to the Farne Islands.
Best for dogs
Riley’s Retreat, Seahouses
This three-bedroom holiday home comes with a large enclosed garden that’s perfect for doggies (and children) to stretch their legs and run around. The property is located next to a coastal path that links Seahouses and Beadnell so you can easily go for walkies on both dog-friendly beaches.
Church Cottage, Beadnell
A traditional dog-friendly coastal cottage that’s just a short stroll from Beadnell’s beautiful sandy beach. Beadnell has a couple of great dog-friendly pubs where you can head for refreshments with Seahouses being less than 2 miles away.
Discovering the wildlife and natural beauty of the Farne Islands is just one of the many reasons to plan a short break and holiday to the Northumberland Coast this year. If you’ve been inspired to head to the region’s beautiful coastline, take a look at our guide to Northumberland’s best beaches and browse our range of coastal holiday cottages including options in Seahouses, Bamburgh, Beadnell, and Craster.