A visit to the Farne Islands, Northumberland

A boat ride to the magical Farne Islands, where clownlike puffins potter about by your feet, grey seals loll lazily on the rocks and arctic terns try their best to beat you up.

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Rugged and windswept, the Farne Islands feel more like they belong in Game of Thrones than just off the Northumberland Coast, and a boat trip to this mini ecosystem, inhabited only by wild sea birds, seals, dolphins and a handful of rangers, is a journey into another world. Now cared for by the National Trust, the islands were once home to monks and hermits, including Saint Cuthbert, whose tiny little chapel still stands on Inner Farne. Now the small archipelago’s main draw is seabirds instead of salvation, but the islands are still almost as remote and untouched as they were in the 14th century.


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There are a few different boat companies that leave from Seahouses, the village on the mainland – we took Billy Shiel’s full day boat trip to travel the two nautical miles to Staple Island and Inner Farne, which allow visitors to walk around for a few months of the summer. The boat trip itself is a delight – you can spot seals bobbing about and sometimes dolphins swim up and keep pace with passing vessels.

Inner Farne, with its whitewashed lighthouse beaconing out to sea, is especially magical – we wandered around it in the afternoon sunshine, spotting puffins with mouthfuls of sandeels scurrying in and out of burrows hidden in the sea campion. Angry nesting arctic terns are less keen on visitors, and will agressively divebomb from above and peck you sharply on the head if you’re too close to their eggs, which adds an element of danger to proceedings.


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