Puffins, terns, and guillemots… oh my!
TAKE A BOAT TOUR TO THE FARNE ISLANDS
If you hadn’t noticed by now, I am easily seduced by the scent of the sea. I truly adore a bitty seaside village that sits beside the shore. Salt air. Sand. Waves lapping. Salves for my soul. Come with me to Seahouses. This is different from a Danish summer house. This is the quirky little town known as Seahouses on the Northumberland Coast in Great Britain. Specifically, we’re talking northeastern England. It’s late spring, early summer. We recently visited at the beginning of May. And with us were seabirds and seals and so many other sea creatures.
START YOUR FARNE ISLAND TOUR FROM SEAHOUSES
Seahouses serves as the launch port for several operations offering day cruises to the Farne Islands – a nearby cluster of 15-20 little plops of land depending on where the tide stands. Mostly uninhabited by humans, the Farne Islands play host to seabirds who mate and court and nest here every year in the protected sites upon their shores. Hundreds of thousands of birds. The skies were full of them. Guillemots and Terns. Kittiwakes and Puffins. Eider Ducks and Shags. Cormorants and Razor Bill. The cacophony. The display. The poop. Wear a hat. It is absolutely worth a visit. Amazing to see.
TAKE A CATAMARAN TOUR
We chose a 2.5 hour round trip from Seahouses aboard the Serenity 2. From the port, on their stable catamaran, we cruised around the islands to end at Inner Farne, where we had an hour to explore and witness the nesting sites up close. There is a ranger station with a visitor center where you can watch the puffin den cameras. You can see bird skulls and feel feathers and artifacts up close. Start here before setting out on the boardwalk to the cliffs.
If you are not a member of the U.K. National Trust – you will need to purchase a day pass to land at Inner Farne or Staple Island. This can be done easily at port from the National Trust information booth. Keep your receipt as you will be required to show a ranger upon landing.
Day price during peak months of May, June & July – Adult: £7.40, Child £3.80, Family: £19.00
Boat tour prices vary between companies and offerings.
LEARN ABOUT THE DIFFERENT NESTING BIRDS AROUND FARNE ISLANDS
In early May, the Guillemots (pronounced “Gilly-mot” in these parts) are nesting along the rocks. And while they might not be the most spectacularly feathered species among the birds common here, they are graphic in their black and white and lay the most beautiful speckled blue-greenish eggs right on the rock face. We spotted a few amidst the chaos and were assured not to worry, that they won’t roll off their precarious perch due to a special shape. They wobble like a Weeble and don’t fall down.*
NATIONAL TRUST RANGERS HELP SPOT NEW BABY CHICKS
Overhead, terns were swooping and screeching and not quite yet nesting, beautiful and balletic. Our captain explained, in the thickest of accents, that the puffins were just starting to settle down in their burrows, having muscled out a resident rabbit who might have shared their den. On Inner Farne, around the boardwalk along the cliffs, rangers help identify birds and spot the first chicks of the season. The littlest Shags, only two days old, dared to peek from underneath mama’s warm belly. She, black and fancy, is easy to spot with her tufted feather pompadour, clinging to the cliffs, quite close the walk.
Eider duck mothers, the fastest of their kind, now calm and stoic rest upon flat nests on the ground. Puffins so busy – in and out, in and out of the sea or a new burrow. Not as many now as there will be, as it’s early in their season at the beginning of May. But by peak, nearly 90,000 available puffin burrows will fill around the islands. Their clowny yellow beaks and ungraceful flight make them a fowl favorite for sure.
Nearly 6,000 seals also make their homes on these rocks and they were plentiful playing in the shores of the outer islands. Porpoises are often seen following the boats but did not join us on our visit.
WHAT ELSE TO SEE NEAR SEAHOUSES
Back on shore, don’t miss the Royal National Lifeboat station nearby. The RNLI is a volunteer-run rescue operation with outposts around the UK. Here in Seahouses (and in Whitby), visitors get a chance to see the boat up close and learn of its history all for free. Need to get your land legs back? Head down the way to Bamburgh Castle. We missed the well-preserved museum, but enjoyed the view from the adjacent dunes and the huge swath of beach out front. Perfect for jumping and ball playing and digging.
WHERE TO STAY IN SEAHOUSES AREA
Want to stay in Seahouses? We can recommend the Bamburgh Castle Inn and Pub right on the harbor. Walk-in space for our family of five altogether in a wonderful room with a sea view. Full English breakfast included. For refreshments, try the kitschy but fun The Olde Ship Inn across the street for a pint. The people here are friendly and welcoming and accommodating.
Where are you reading from? Please say hej or ciao or hello or however you do wherever you are in the comments below – I would love to know! Cheers from Copenhagen! – Erin
*If you know what a Weeble is – raise your hand!