Birdwatching and photography

A visitor taking photographs of terns on the Farne Islands

It's hard not to watch birds when visiting the Farne Islands - they're everywhere. And there are great photo opportunities: you can get really close to the birds.

Whether you're an expert or a novice, everyone loves a puffin. We advise you to bring binoculars - if you don't already have some, they can be picked up from under £20 - as well as a bird book. If you don't bring them with you, pop into our shop at Seahouses: they have wildlife guides specific to the Farne Islands on sale. There are some information panels and displays at the visitor information centre on Inner Farne, and the rangers are around to answer questions or give you tips on identifying birds too.
Even if you're just bringing your smart phone or device with you, it's hard not to take a good photo or video. You can get really close to the seabirds - they are used to the humans on the Farnes - and can catch the seals either popping their heads out of the sea or lounging around on the rocks. If you've got a better camera, we think it's worth bringing - though remember it can be wet and windy out there. We only allow amateur photography - please see the bottom of this page if you'd like to take images for commercial use. We do not allow the use of drones, either over the Farne Islands or at any other National Trust sites. We outline why below.    

The use of UAVs (drones)

The use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones as they are more commonly known, is not permitted on or over National Trust land as part of our byelaws without the necessary required qualifications and a licence granted by us. We are experiencing increasing issues with drones on our sites on the Northumberland Coast and we expect this to continue as the technology becomes more available.
  • The use of drones is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority and it is a developing area which is coming under greater scrutiny. Few non-commercial users have the correct training or permission to operate drones, which creates a serious risk to our staff, volunteers, visitors, property and wildlife. We have therefore adopted a strict blanket policy banning the use of drones at our sites.
  • The use of aerial vehicles is also prohibited by the Trust “byelaws”. The byelaws reflect the charitable core purposes of the Trust to enable us to preserve special places for the nation. 
  • Should a drone cause damage or harm, pilots generally do not have the correct insurances to compensate the Trust for remedial actions. 
  • Drones should not be flown over people; as much of our land is open access we cannot guarantee an area, even if remote, is completely empty. 
  • Drones should not flown near property; the special nature of our properties makes the risk of damage more severe.  
  • The Northumberland Coast is an important area for wildlife and is covered by many national and international conservation designations. Much of the wildlife use our sites for breeding and are sensitive to disturbance and some species are given additonal protection that can result in prosecution if photographed in certain situations. Many birds see drones as a threat and may abandon nests. 
  • Many drones have cameras attached and these could infringe data protection laws (filming people without permission) and potentially could contravene National Trust rules on photography and filming.
  • The presence of drones can be detrimental to the enjoyment of our sites by other visitors. 
We therefore do not allow drone flying from or over National Trust land. The only exception being contractors or staff who satisfy stringent CAA criteria, have specific insurances and have been commissioned or authorised by the Trust for a specific purpose – and in these cases the activity is strictly controlled. 
The regulatory environment regarding drones is rapidly developing. We will continue to monitor this development and keep our position under constant review. 
In addition to this, anyone wishing to carry out commercial activity on National Trust land, such as photography needs to contact us first to obtain permission. For Northumberland Coast enquuiries please email us or call 01665 576874