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The Farne Islands are one of the most exciting seabird colonies in England, with unrivalled views of seabirds, including 43,000 pairs of Atlantic Puffin.
From Seahouses it is a easy visit to the Farne Islands. Everyone visiting the Farnes needs to get on a boat at Seahouses harbour. There are 28 islands, of which 3 are accessible; Inner Farne, Staple (May-July only), and Longstone. As well as sailing around the islands, you can also go ashore and actually walk between the birds on the islands. A great experience and paradise for photographers. There are lots of B&Bs to stay the night and visit the islands early in the morning.
The best time to visit is May-June. At this time, you get great views of breeding Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Common Guillemot, European Shag, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Arctic Tern, Common Tern, and Common Eider. One or two pairs of Roseate Tern can also be seen.
Northern Gannet does not breed on the Farnes, but birds can frequently be seen passing by, as can more rarely species like Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger), Manx Shearwater, and Sooty Shearwater. Other rarer seabirds have included Brünnich's Guillemot, Lesser Crested Tern, Bridled Tern, and Europe's sole record of Aleutian Tern.
Passerines are normally few, but many pairs of Rock Pipit breed, and Barn Swallow nests in St Cuthbert's Chapel on Inner Farne. In east winds, a wide range of vagrants from Europe and Asia have occurred, including species such as Booted Warbler, White's Thrush, Bluethroat (up to 30 at a go!), Rustic Bunting, Yellow-breasted Bunting, and many others.
Although spring and summer trips are the norm, occasional winter trips are held, when species to be seen at sea can include Slavonian Grebe (Horned Grebe), Little Auk (exceptionally in tens of thousands!), Black Guillemot, Great Northern Diver (Common Loon), and seaduck like Common Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. Large numbers of Purple Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone also winter on the islands.
Go to Seahouses and park your car (see the P on the map) and book for one of the 4 or 5 boats in the harbour (also marked on the map). As a general rule, if you are visiting between May – July then there are sailings on the hour between 9.00 and 12.00 to Staple, while those between 13.00 and 15.00 are to Inner Farne. An all day ticket costs about £35; all day trip boats sailing May - July visit both islands but have limited capacity. An Inner Farne only ticket costs £12. Inner Farne is open all season (April-October) and Staple Island opens for the main breeding season from May-July. Both islands are subject to variable opening times dependent on the time of year, weather and other factors. See the link below for further information.
Note that for 2023, landings have been suspended due to the ongoing Avian Flu epidemic; boats will only sail around the islands.
When on the islands, you are advised to wear a padded hat, to protect yourself from injury by Arctic Terns defending their nests!