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Sea Kayaking in the Northeast of England

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The Farne Islands

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Other Trips:- St Abbs Head to Pease Bay...... Berwick to Eyemouth...... River Tweed...... Circumnavigation of Holy Island...... Beadnell to Boulmer...... Boulmer to Amble...... Coquet Island......

Page Contents :- Introduction . . Description . . Access . . Tidal Info . . Natural History . .


Farnes from Bamburgh The Farne Islands consist of between 15 and 28 islands, depending upon the state of the tide.
They are made of whin sill, an igneous rock, and are wedge shaped with cliffs at the south west running down into the sea at the north east.
The islands are famous for the huge numbers of breeding birds nesting during April to July, and also for their large colony of Grey seals.
Also famous for St. Cuthbert, who lived on Inner Farne as a hermit between 676 and 684AD, and for Grace Darling, the daughter of the lighthouse keeper who with her father took part in a brave rescue during a shipwreck on Longstone.

Beautiful scenery, cliffs, sea stacks, fast tidal streams and overfalls, Bamburgh castle and a surfeit of birds and seals combine to make this a superb trip with something for everyone.

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Inner Farne lies about 2 km off the mainland, and is really made up of three rocky islands, Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the Wideopens all surrounding a sheltered water called the Kettle. Tides can run quite strongly between and around these islands.
They are made of whin sill and have high cliffs at the south west running down into the sea at the north east. The cliffs are towers, stacks and little narrow gullies.
Inner Farne is famous for St Cuthbert who lived as a hermit on the island from 676 till 684 and returned to die in 687.
The lighthouse dates from 1809 and was preceded by Prior Castell's tower, built in 1370, which had a warning beacon lit on it's roof in bad weather. The small chapel dates from the same time.
The island is famous for it's Arctic and Common terns nesting here from May to the end of July. Notorious for dive bombing visitors. Nesting on the rock cliffs are shags, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes. In the meadows on the island are puffins and eider ducks.

Megstone is a low lying island about 1.5 km north west of Inner Farne. It is almost two islands riven down the centre by a very narrow inlet.
It is well worth a visit as usually many seals are found here avoiding the incessant trip boats who rarely visit this island.

1.5 km across Staple Sound lie Staple and Brownsman Islands. The south east corner of Staple has some fine Stacks and cliffs and the whole shoreline is craggy and rocky. Landing is only allowed at one place and is extremely difficult especially with trip boats arriving all the time in spring and summer.
Kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, shags and fulmars nest on the cliffs while eiders and puffins nest on the top. There is a nature trail laid out around the island and wardens try to keep the tourists under control.
Both Staple and Brownstone have the ruined towers of ancient lighthouses.

Longstone Lighthouse The low craggy Wamses and Harcar group of islands between Brownstone and Longstone are great areas to wander and play in the fast tidal streams flowing between them.

Low lying rocky Longstone, topped with it's distinctive lighthouse always makes a good spot for lunch and stretching the legs.
The island is famous for Grace Darling who in September 1838 assisted her father to row from the lighthouse to Little Harcar to rescue 15 men when the S. S. Forfarshire was wrecked in a northerly storm. Full details can be found at the museum in Bamburgh.

Knivestone the outermost island is very low lying and often the sea conditions can be quite interesting, a great place for 5 star training but also on a calm day a lovely spot to watch seals.

Finally the Callers and Crumstone, low rocky skerries 1 km east of Staple Island.


There are four main launch sites for trips out to the Farnes, depending upon weather or tidal constraints.
The Pinnacles All the Islands are owned and run by the National Trust. Landing is prohibited during the breeding season except for on Longstone, Staple island and Inner Farne.
If you are planning to take a large party to land on the Farnes you should notify the National Trust Warden Tel. 01665 720651
There is NO camping allowed on any of the islands.

  1. Longstone. There is no charge for landing on Longstone, land immediately below the lighthouse on the south west side (stony beach) or up the narrow gut just to the north east of the lighthouse. The Lighthouse and piers are owned by Trinity House.
  2. Staple Island. There is a charge for landing on Staple Island (National Trust members exempted), collected on landing, but the landing is very difficult due to the steep cliffs and rocks, and also the constant stream of trip boats especially during the spring/summer.
  3. Inner Farne. There is also a charge for landing on Inner Farne (National Trust members exempted), collected IF YOU LEAVE the tide line to visit the visitor centre, loos and wander the island. Always wear a hat as the diving/mobbing terns are lethal. Also helps with projectile vomit if you get to close to cormorants and general bird droppings!

The landing on Inner Farne lies on the north east side of the island, land on the flat rocks just to the north of the little pier, NOT on the tempting beach just to the south as this is the main breeding area for the tern colony. In bad weather if you have to land on the south beach, Please only land BELOW the high water level.
There is NO charge if you stay on the rocks, only if you walk up onto the island. Obviously there is no charge anywhere if you are a National Trust member.

Occasionally you get an overly zealous warden telling you that you cannot land on Inner Farne. We DO have an agreement for landing as described negotiated due to grandfather rights.


National Trust access Info and Prices ; http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scripts/nthandbook.dll?ACTION=PROPERTY&PROPERTYID=180
Organised Boat trips ; http://www.farne-islands.com/

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Tidal Info