Full of character, completely captivating and oh so cute, it’s no wonder the puffin is one of the country’s favourite birds! Getting up close to these rare creatures is actually easier than you might think as every year they return to the Farne Islands in Northumberland to breed.
The Farnes are easily accessible from Newcastle, it’s less than an hour’s drive to Seahouses with stunning scenery along the way. Once you arrive in Seahouses, head down to the harbour where there are several tickets booths for the boat trips that transport day-trippers across to Staple and the Inner Farne islands (generally there are sailings on the hour between 10.00 and 15.00 during puffin season but you could always contact your preferred boat company in advance to be sure).
The ‘Glad Tidings’ boats belonging to Billy Shiels and the ‘Serenity’ vessels that are operated by Farne Island Tours are regarded as the best. I have to confess, it’s been a while since our last trip but I think we sailed with Serenity and I do remember the staff being lovely.
I often see their Skipper Andrew posting beautiful photos on Instagram and sometimes videos of dolphins too! Sounds to me like he has the dream job and you can read more about it over on his blog…. https://thefarneislands.blogspot.co.uk/
From the moment I caught sight of the many puffins with their strinkigly coloured bills I was in love, if their beauty doesn’t win you over, their comedy walk definitely will! Some people refer to puffins as ‘sea parrots’ because of their unique features and for some reason (unknown to me) the locals in Northumberland, call them ‘Tommy noddy’.
Puffins aren’t the only birds to breed on the Farnes at this time of year, (although they are definitely the prettiest). You can spot lots of other interesting creatures too, including razor bills, eider ducks and guillemots.
If you are planning to visit the Farnes between May and July though I should probably offer a word of warning about the Arctic terns that hatch their young on the Inner Farne… they are rather protective and fond of dive-bombing the tourists so don’t be surprised if you get some rather viscous pecks to the head! A visit to Staple Island offers a tern free time though, for some reason they stay of this particular island.
As well as being the most famous Sea Bird Sanctuary in the British Isles the Farne Islands also have a large colony of seals, around three thousand on the last count! Their breeding season is in the winter so I’m hoping to make a return trip then and will hopefully report back with lots of cute pics of baby seals!
Wear a Hat – If your trip involves an encounter with those pesky Arctic terns you’ll need it to protect you from being dive-bombed!
Don’t Wear Anything You’d Mind Getting Bird Poo On – Sounds obvious but I heard lots of complaining and trying to clean their clothes with babywipes, a rain poncho might come in handy!
Take Snacks – The Farne Islands are remote and uninhabited and as such you won’t find any fancy tearooms or snack bars so it’s best to take your own.
Chat the National Trust team – The people who work on the island and monitor the birds are a font of knowledge and will happily answer your wildlife questions.
Bring a Camera (But Remember to Enjoy the View Without the Lens) – There are some incredible photo opportunities on the Farnes but my favorite memories are of watching the puffins waddle about to and from their burrows – far cuter than I could ever capture on camera.