Farne Islands, Inner Farne wildlife walk
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.
Plenty to discover whatever the season
For a unique wildlife experience, visit between April and July, or explore a more tranquil, historic island after the breeding season finishes.
Island jetty, grid ref: NU218359
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.
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.
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.
Look left this is the one spot on Inner Farne where sandwich terns cluster together to breed.
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.
Grey seal colonies
The Farnes are home to one of the biggest grey seal colonies in the British Isles. They've 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Return to the information centre, passing the monks' old vegetable garden on your left.
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