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. These are the Farne Islands in Northumberland.
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 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. Fun fact: young puffins are called 'Pufflings'.
Carry on reading 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 your boat trip over to the islands. 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. You can enjoy the most delicious cream tea here which is a welcomed treat after days out exploring. You will enjoy the small and bustling town centre where there is a beach shop, convenience store and lots of places to grab refreshments.
Stay in the ideal location for boat trips to the Farne Islands. Our self-catering holiday cottages can offer the perfect base so start planning your stay in Seahouses and book your trips to the Farne Islands today.
Boat trips to the Farne Islands
Are you planning a Farne Islands holiday? 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. This makes for a lovely day out with friends and family, and being able to leave the entertainment to the experts you will get a lovely break with the kids whilst taking in lovely views and ample wildlife.
Types of boat trips to the Farne Islands
- 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 generally 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
- 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.
The islands of the Farne Islands
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. Read on to find out more about them.
Inner Farne Island - the best island 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. Why not pack up a picnic and find a nice spot to sit whilst you refuel with a delicious sandwhich and hot cup of tea. You might be surprised with who comes to say hello!
Please note: Inner Farne is available to visit from April to October and a National Trust fee is charged on landing.
Staple Island - the best island for close encounters with seabirds
If you are a keen twitcher, you will be in heaven when visiting Staple Island. It is the best island for seeing the many different species of 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 - the best island 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, and so accessible being just a short boat trip away from the mainland. Find out the best time of year to spot the puffins, grey seals and seabirds that the Farne Islands are home to. When visiting the islands, it's important to always be respectful of the bird population, particularly during breeding season, so keep a safe distance and avoid making loud noises and sudden movements if landing on the islands.
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.
Grey 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.
Where to stay when visiting the Farne Islands in Northumberland
Seahouses is the closest village to the Farne Islands and is the gateway to exploring them properly. We have over 200 self-catering holiday homes in and around Seahouses , each offering a great base to get out and explore from. Bamburgh and Beadnell are nearby also and are a short drive from all the boat trips that can take you over. View the collection and see what's suitable for your next Northumberland holiday.
Great cottages for couples
A cosy cottage for two close to both Seahouses and Bamburgh. With lovely countryside viewsit’s the perfect mix of coast and country. You may even spot a red squirrel! Sleeps two | two dogs welcome 🐕
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. Sleeps two.
Best cottages for families
A coastal cottage is right in the heart of Seahouses with 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.
Enjoy fabulous sea views from this family-friendly property for up to six people. Sea Grass 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 cottages for dog owners
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.
Sleeping six guests, Wits End is a charming self-catering property in Beadnell. The accommodation is perfect for a family keen to make the most of the nearby dog-friendly beaches. This delightful prospect is spacious, light and airy and located within very easy walking distance of Beadnell Bay’s golden sands.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.