The Farne Islands are a cluster of small outcrops and islands rising out of the North Sea off the coast of Northumberland. Some are so small that when the tide is high they do not appear above the waves, meaning that the total number of islands varies between 15 and 20 depending on the water level. The islands are roughly divided in two – the Inner and Outer Groups. The two groups are separated by Staple Sound and some of the islands are actually connected when the tide is low enough. The highest point can be found on Inner Farne where it reaches around 19 metres above the average sea level. The islands have a remote feel which makes them ideal for anyone who wants to escape the bustle of modern life, even if only for a few hours.
The Farne Islands are easily accessible for visitors, despite their small size and scattered and fairly isolated location. The nearby mainland town of Seahouses is a popular tourist spot with good road and public transport links. It also has many quaint winding streets and plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants where both traditional Northumbrian and more exotic, fare can be found. Seahouses is also the main base for boat trips out to the islands and plenty of information about the Farnes can be found there. The most spectacular views of the Farnes from the mainland and those most favoured by photographers, are offered from the harbour at Seahouses as well as northward along the coast and from the iconic Bamburgh Castle. They look especially dramatic rising above the crashing waves.
There is plenty to do on the Farne Islands and their location and landscape make them ideal for visitors, especially families, who are looking for a bit more adventure than the conventional holiday usually provides. Most importantly, perhaps, the islands are a very important site for ecology and are one of the most significant protected wildlife habitats in the UK. It is a real birdwatcher’s paradise due to the vast colonies of diverse seabirds that call the islands home; some of which you can see in very few other places in the UK. The wildlife on the Farnes is by no means restricted just to birds, there are also many rabbits as well as a sizeable colony of playful grey seals, who add new pups every autumn. The excellent ecosystem of the Farnes is protected by the National Trust, with bird wardens stationed there for some of the year – the only residents that the islands have. Boats can drop visitors at three of the islands in the group (the others are off-limits to protect the wildlife) and while exploring there is a chance to see many interesting species, including the colourful puffin and the feisty Arctic tern.
Other adventurous visitors to the area will be enticed by the unique diving opportunities offered by the waters around the islands. There are a variety of sites available, suitable for all levels of divers and the excellent range of natural shelter means that diving is possible regardless of the wind direction. There are many highlights for divers around the Farnes, including the ability to swim underwater with the grey seals, to watch guillemots diving and fishing and to explore a number of early 20th Century steamship wrecks in the area. The islands also have much history, including a series of now-defunct lighthouses, a 15th Century chapel and the enthralling story of British heroine Grace Darling, a lighthouse-keeper’s daughter who helped to rescue passengers from a stricken ship, the Forfarshire in 1838.
Overall, the Farne Islands have plenty to offer to all visitors, including adventurous families, birdwatchers and history enthusiasts. There is also a wide range of accommodation available on the mainland for those who wish to get the most out of the Farne Islands, including a number of well-equipped Park Resorts holiday sites that are dotted along the Northumberland coastline.