Farne Islands, Inner Farne wildlife walk

North Sea, off Northumberland Coast between Bamburgh and Seahouses

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
A lone Tern on a rock in the Farne Islands © Joe Cornish

A lone Tern on a rock in the Farne Islands

Young female grey seal on the beach on the Farne Islands © Joe Cornish

Young female grey seal on the beach on the Farne Islands

Puffins on rocks in the Farne Islands, Northumbria © Joe Cornish

Puffins on rocks in the Farne Islands, Northumbria

Route overview

The Farne Islands are one of the natural highlights of the Northumbrian coast. Famed for providing sanctuary to St Cuthbert in the 7th century, Inner Farne is now renowned as a summer haven for nesting sea birds. For a unique wildlife experience, visit between April and July, or explore a more tranquil, historic island after the breeding season finishes.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Inner Farne wildlife walk map, Northumbria
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Island jetty, grid ref: NU230370

  1. Take care stepping off the boat onto the jetties and climb up the boardwalk. The small stone building on your left is the fishe house. It stands on the site of the medieval guest house where visiting monks would stay. From April to July this is the first place you meet breeding Arctic terns. They nest near the path and can be very defensive of their eggs or chicks. Expect to be dive-bombed, but don't panic; just slowly wave a hand above your head to discourage them.

    Show/HideBreeding seabirds

    There can be as many as 50,000 birds on Inner Farne during the breeding season, including three different types of tern, puffin, shag, guillemot, razorbill, fulmar, eider duck, and waders like oystercatcher and ringed plover. They arrive in spring, lay eggs, hatch chicks and care for them, before departing in late summer to spend the rest of the year out in the North Sea or on difficult journeys across Europe and Africa. The Arctic tern even travels down as far as the Antarctic.

    A lone Tern on a rock in the Farne Islands © Joe Cornish
  2. Visit St Cuthberts Chapel, see the Pele Tower and check out the Info Centre, or go left and start your circuit of the island. Again this is all Arctic tern nesting zone in early summer chicks could be dotted around the cobbles so watch where you step and never run.

  3. Look left this is the one spot on Inner Farne where sandwich terns cluster together to breed.

  4. Walk up the island to the lighthouse. Before it was built in 1825 a beacon used to get lit on top of the Pele Tower to warn off ships. Turn left to Lighthouse Cliff viewpoint; you can see Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance on a clear day. These are the tallest rock faces on the island and the cliff tops are home to thousands of breeding guillemots, shag and kittiwake in summer.

    Show/HideGrey seal colonies

    The Farnes are home to one of the biggest grey seal colonies in the British Isles. Theyve been here for at least 800 years, but were hunted for oil and skins for most of that time. Now they're protected and you can see them peaking out of the water or huddling together lazily on rocks.

    Young female grey seal on the beach on the Farne Islands © Joe Cornish
  5. Return to the lighthouse and turn left past the picnic area. There used to be two more cottages here where the lighthouse keepers and their families lived.

  6. Follow the boardwalk through an area filled with puffin burrows and take a quick detour left to the Quarry viewpoint. Bamburgh Castle is straight ahead of you on the mainland.

    Show/HidePuffins

    Puffins can be seen between April and early August. They dig burrows underground to lay their eggs in. You may spot adults, mouths filled with sand eels, ducking into holes to feed their chicks. You're unlikely to spot the young themselves as they stay well hidden to avoid being eaten by gulls.

    Puffins on rocks in the Farne Islands, Northumbria © Joe Cornish
  7. On your left is a large expanse of rocky foreshore. If there's a large sea swell, you might see the Churn blowhole spout out water up to 90ft (27m) in the air.

  8. Return to the information centre, passing the monks' old vegetable garden on your left.

End: Information Centre

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8km)
  • Time: 1 hour
  • OS Map: Landranger 75; Explorer 340
  • Terrain:

    A circular route, boardwalk slightly uneven and slippery when wet but suitable for most pushchairs. Take care on cobbles and near cliff top viewpoints.

  • How to get here:

    By boat: Seahouses harbour to Inner Farne, boat trips daily, April to September, weather permitting

    By bus: Arriva 501, Newcastle station to Alnwick station to Berwick, alight Seahouses, 1.5 miles (2.4km)

    By bike: Seahouses is just off National Cycle Network Route 1 (scenic Coast & Castles route)

    By car: car park (non-NT) in Seahouses, close to harbour

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