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The Farne Islands seal pups. A boat trip from Northumberland coast.

Updated on September 21, 2017

Our first sight of the seals.

The Northumberland coast.

If you are ever lucky enough to visit the Northumberland coast of England make sure not to miss out on a boat trip to the Farne Islands.

Wonderful to visit at any time of year, the sea birds are a huge draw in the summer months, but of particular interest to animal lovers are the Atlantic grey seal pubs born in the autumn.

The rocks are literally covered in fluffy white baby seal pups and the sea boils with adults seeking food in the chilly water.

As many as a thousand pups are born each year in late October and November. So you are pretty much guaranteed to see at least some pups.

The Farne Islands. Northumberland.

Our boat for the trip - The Glad Tidings.

There are a variety of different companies offering trips to the islands - we chose Billy Shiel.
There are a variety of different companies offering trips to the islands - we chose Billy Shiel.

Chose comfort.

Many different types of boats offer trips to the islands from nearby Seahouses but if you are looking for comfort then pick a boat with cover and on board toilet facilities, a two hour trip can seem a lot longer if it rains or you need the loo!

The larger boats have better stabilisers which are a great help if the sea turns rough - as it often does.

The boats do all sail from the end of the harbour wall and the steps down to them are quite steep and can be wet and slippery, so take care. Good shoes are essential as are warm clothes and a good waterproof jacket.

The weather on the north east coast can be very unpredictable at any time of year and it is always colder out at sea than on land.

Our boat was comfortable with toilet facilities on board and plenty of indoor seating.

Don't forget your camera of course and a pair of binoculars if you have them. A good tip for getting a clear picture on a moving boat is to steady your camera arm on the edge of the boat and breath in just before you take the picture.

The seals on the rocks.

Seals on the Farne Island rocks.
Seals on the Farne Island rocks.

Dolphins, sharks and whales.

If you are really lucky you might catch sight of a pod of dolphins that are occasional visitors to the islands and in 2007 a pair of huge basking sharks were also spotted near the Farne islands.

Locals believe that the increase in seal numbers will result in the return of the killer whales that used to hunt in these waters. Our boatman informed us that he had last seen a killer whale in the seventies but in his opinion it is only a matter of time before they return.

The house where the wardens live when they are working on the Islands.

The National Trust.

A small group of dedicated National Trust wardens live and work on the islands, they mark the new born seal pups on a daily basis to help them keep track of numbers, a different colour for each day.

This method means that they can easily count the seal pups and identify the ones that have been born overnight or earlier that day.

The National Trust wardens checking for new born seal pubs.

The sea churns as the seals take to the water as the wardens approach.
The sea churns as the seals take to the water as the wardens approach.
When they find a pup they mark them with spray paint.
When they find a pup they mark them with spray paint.

If you look closely you can see at least two seal pups marked with red paint in this picture.

Plenty to see.

Even without the seals and the pups the Farne Islands are a beautiful place to visit, and you can land on one of the National Trust islands and walk around, the ground is very uneven and it is quite hard to get on and off the boat here, so it is not for anyone with mobility problems. There is a landing fee of around six pounds depending on the time of year you visit but it is free to members of the trust. As a general rule there are no toilet facilities on the islands but there is a disabled loo on Inner Farne.

Landing on the islands is dependant on the weather conditions and at the discretion of the boat captain.

The Longstone lighthouse with seals in the foreground.

Once home to the famous Grace Darling the Lonstone lighthouse can be seen for miles.
Once home to the famous Grace Darling the Lonstone lighthouse can be seen for miles.
A local fishing boat.
A local fishing boat.
More seals.
More seals.
One of the Farne Islands.
One of the Farne Islands.
One of the lifeboats.
One of the lifeboats.

Continued protection.

The Farne Islands are a must see if you do get the chance to visit them. Northumberland is a beautiful county with some outstanding wildlife and the people are very open and friendly too. I hope that the seals continue to enjoy the protection given to them and that the Islands remain in the hands of the National Trust and remain an asset for everyone to enjoy.

Please take the time to answer this quick poll.

Do you think that the seals should continue to be protected?

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