Northeast England Tourist
Along with 30 fellow tourists, we're sailing on the first boat of the day out of Seahouses Harbour bound for the Farne Islands, a small group of islands managed by the National Trust as a bird sanctuary, about half an hour away.
Fresh sea air fills our nostrils, the crying of gulls deafening to the ears, and we're all filled with excitement and anticipation of the unique experiences we are about to enjoy.
The Farne Islands are perhaps best known as the venue of that great sea rescue in 1838 by Grace Darling and her Father. A museum in nearby Bamburgh is dedicated to them. But its birds and seals we're hoping to see.
The land is fast diminishing to the eye, bringing into view the rugged coastline, showing a spectacular view of Bamburgh Castle, Bamburg magnificent Beach and the Cheviot Hills as a backdrop on the skyline.
Flocks of seabirds pass overhead in increasing numbers as we near the first of the islands, with the captain giving a running commentary on the types of birds. A huge solitary bird passed overhead, which he said was an Albatross, rare in these parts, as they don't breed here but in Scotland.
Suddenly there was excitement up front, as grey seals were spotted both basking on some rocks and bobbing in the water. Time for a photo call, and the Captain turned the boat full circle so that everyone could get the shot. Everything on this trip is focussed on nature. When there is something to view, time is taken to make sure that all passengers get to see what they came for. This helps to explain why this outing can easily take two exciting hours or more.
It's early April, so really the breeding season is about a month away, but there are still a few thousand birds about. In June and July, there will be hundreds of thousands of sea birds nesting or rearing their young, and visitors at this time are advised to wear head gear to protect against being dive-bombed.
In the water to our left are a few hundred puffins, and shortly we came across another family of grey seals. There are about four thousand breeding seals here, producing their pups in August.
We pass huge granite stacks towering out of the water called The Pinnacles, covered in birds, and round the island to bring the Longstone Lighthouse (built in 1825) into view. This is painted a bright red and white, and we're told that the light shines out 24/7 and flashes every 20 seconds.
After taking shots of this stunning site, and view yet more seals, we head for Inner Farne where we can alight and visit the Chapel built in 1370 and visitor centre which is run by the National Trust. Toilet facilities are also provided here. This place has recorded history going back to the year 678 when it was home to St Cuthbert. A wide boardwalk has recently been constructed which starts at the dock and runs right around the island, opening up this fantastic experience to able bodied and handicapped alike. We were given the run of the place for the next hour, which wasn't nearly enough time to get up close to guillemots, terns, razorbills, kittiwakes, puffins, cormorants and eider ducks starting to build nests on precarious ledges on the cliff face.
They have no fear of man, so we could get right up to them to take our photos. Nobody is allowed to live on these islands, but the National Trust keeps a team of wardens here for the summer months to manage visitors and for maintenance.
Again, looking towards the land, we get fantastic views of this rugged coastline, with no fewer than 3 castles in sight, Lindisfarne Castle to the north, Dunstanburg Castle to the south and magnificent Bamburgh Castle and Bamburg Beach centre stage.
We arrive back at Seahouses within half an hour, to be greeted by several eider ducks looking for scraps of food from visitors. The place is busy now, with day trippers lining up by the dozen waiting to take the same trip as we had just completed.
For us though, it's time for some lunch. All that sea air makes you hungry. There are plenty of cafes to choose from, mostly all serving choice fish caught locally earlier in the day. How can you better an outing like this, and still have half of the day left for more adventures?
THE SEAHOUSES FESTIVAL FOR 2009 was on 19th 20th and 21st JUNE.
For more information about Northumberland, try http://www.northumberlandlife.org/admin/homepage.asp or http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/vg/powerhse_2.html
Sunderland is a City on the coast about a one hour drive South. Once the largest shipbuilding town in the world, the river is now stilled but for the leisure craft and fishing boats. Read all about what Sunderland has to offer the visitor on my Sunderland site.