A short distance off the Northumberland coast, you will find the collection of islands known as the Farne Islands. Teaming with wildlife, there are many boat trips departing from Seahouses that offer you the chance to get as close as possible to the islands. This guide to the Farne Islands will help you plan your trip and make sure you are visiting at the best time of year.
If you are making a visit to Northumberland, then you’re going to want to schedule in time to visit the Farne Islands. But don’t just take our word for it, Sir David Attenborough himself has claimed it is his favourite place to see nature in the UK.
Around 23 different species of birds colonise the Farne Islands, including the colourful puffin. The pretty village of Seahouses takes pride in being home to this small seabird, running ‘Puffin Cruises’ and selling puffin souvenirs in the local toy shop.
As well as puffins and other seabirds, you can expect to see cheeky seals dipping in and out the water, or laying lazily on the rocks. Porpoises may escort you on your journey over to the Islands if you are really lucky, or you may decide to go a step further and go diving to experience more of the sea life under the water.
Whatever you are hoping to get from your trip, we have put together this guide to the Farne Islands, with all the need-to-know information and tips for your trip.
Your Guide to the Farne Islands
*Note: at the time of writing, landing access to the Farne Islands has been restricted in efforts to protect precious seabird colonies.
The National Trust has announced that visitors won’t be able to land on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, at the start of the 2023 season due to fears that Avian Influenza (bird flu) will rip through the seabird colonies once more.
Check the National Trust website for updates at the time of your visit to see if they have allowed visitors to land again on the Islands. Despite this, there are still a number of boat trips that take you out to the Islands and you are still able to see the vast variety of wildlife from a safe distance on the boat.
How to get to the Farne Islands
To start your journey to the Farne Islands, you will need to head to the harbour village of Seahouses. From here you can hop on one of the many boat trips that take you out to see the wildlife living just off Northumberland’s shores.
Seahouses is located 16 miles from Alnwick, along the Northumberland coast. Many visitors come to Seahouses as a stop-off on their way to the iconic Bamburgh with its castle and stretches of beautiful beaches. Another big attraction here are the number of fish and chips shops, selling locally sourced fish and an option of both indoor and outdoor seating.
We recommend grabbing some fish and chips, and taking them to the row of benches that overlook the harbour to take in the view of the Farne Islands from afar. (It is perhaps best to do this after you have been on your boat trip!)
There are a number of car parks in the Seahouses, where you can leave your car for the day while you explore the area and take a boat trip out to the Farne Islands. Car parking charges apply, and you cannot use your Northumberland parking disc in Seahouses. You’ll also find public toilets, independent shops and a crazy golf course here, meaning you can combine a trip out to the Farne Islands with a full day out in Seahouses.
To get to the Farne Islands, head down towards the harbour where you will find a row of wooden kiosks. It is from these you can book your trip. Various boat trips offer different experiences and you can book the one which suits you best. We have listed them below in this guide, so you can have a browse before your trip to see which boat company offers the best value for money.
Which Farne Islands boat trip to choose?
Which Farne Islands boat trip you go for completely depends on who you are travelling with (the length of the trips can vary from short 90-minute cruises to all-day expeditions).
It also depends on whether you are wanting to see mostly seals or have you come to do a spot of bird watching?
From sunset cruises to trips up the coast to Holy Island, there is something for everyone wishing to explore this little corner of Northumberland more thoroughly. Here’s a quick guide to the Farne Islands boat trips.
The shortest of the trips out, and a perfect one for families with young children, is the 90-minute grey seal cruise. In the Winter months from late October until January there are fantastic views of the baby seals to be had during the seal pupping season.
If you want to combine seeing the seals and seabirds, then you may enjoy the slightly longer, two hour puffin and seabird cruise. This trip operates during the breeding season May-July when the Puffins and other seabirds are nesting.
This trip spends 2 hours sailing around the Farne Islands without landing and offers ample opportunities to view the prolific bird life which nests on these magnificent islands during the breeding season from May till the end of July.
Or for something really special, you will want to book onto The Sunset Cruise. During the breeding season from May to the end of July there are thousands of nesting birds at the Farne Islands which include Puffins, Guillemots, Terns, Kittiwakes, Shags and Cormorants, all of which you will be able to see during the sunset cruise.
There are also an estimated 3-4000 Grey Seals on the Farne Islands and large numbers can be counted basking on the rocks, especially at low water when more of the Islands are exposed.
Prices here start at £25pp and would make for a perfect gift for a loved one. Gift vouchers are available for all cruises.
Serenity Farne Islands boat tours sail all year round to the Farne Islands. Two of their vessels are winter coded so they are able to sail all year long.
As well as the boat trips you would expect to find, Puffin and Seal cruises etc, you also have the option of taking a cruise up to Holy Island. Departing from Seahouses harbour, this trip will take you past the Farne Islands, so you can still see the wildlife that inhabits the islands, before making its way up to Holy Island.
The length of the cruise is 4.5 hours long, so not one to do with young children. When you arrive at Holy Island the tide will be high and the island is cut off from the mainland so the true peace and tranquillity of island life can be experienced.
You’ll then get two hours to explore the island and grab something to eat before heading back down the coast towards Seahouses.
If you’re interested in diving off the Farne Islands, then you will want to visit the sister company to Serenity Boat Tours, called Sovereign Diving. Diving around the Farne Islands is one of the best places in England to go scuba diving, thanks to the clear waters offering superb diving, from wrecks to scenic excursions.
Note: Dogs are welcome on a few of the trips, so check before you book if you are bringing along your canine friend.
Your Guide to the Farne Islands: Important information for visitors
Remember to check relevant websites listed in this Farne Island guide before visiting, to make sure you can make the most of your trip. For example, if you are hoping to land on the islands, make sure they are allowing visitors to do so.
Book your tickets in advance, to avoid disappointment.
As well as the many species of birds and seals, you may also be lucky enough to see:
- Harbour porpoises, which are present in Northumberland’s waters all year round.
- Bottlenose dolphins and white-beaked dolphins which are regular visitors to the waters.
- Minke whales and basking sharks which have often been spotted when the waters are calm.
A trip out to the stunning Farne Islands is a must for any wildlife enthusiast, or simply someone who loves to be by the coast and enjoys boat trips. This guide to the Farne Islands has covered everything you will need to know to help you plan your trip. Save for future reference and start planning your trip to this magical part of Northumberland.
Helpful links for visiting Seahouses and the Farne Islands:
Use this guide to the Farne Islands to plan your trip, and let us know if you do visit!
You may also be interested in the 15 best days out in Northumberland for all the family, or the 9 best beaches in Northumberland you need to visit.