St. Cuthbert's House

northumbrian bed and breakfast

Visit the Farne Islands

Birds and boat trips, seals and stories...

The Farne Islands lie between two and five miles off the Northumberland coast, and are visible from many points along  the  coastline. There are about fourteen islands at high tide, and generally another fourteen or so poke their heads out of the water when the tide recedes. They are formed by the most seaward outcrops of the Great Whin Sill, a volcanic layer which can be traced from High Force waterfall in Teesdale, to the Farnes and the rocky outcrops on which Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles perch.

Early in 2013, Sir David Attenborough was being interviewed live on the BBC website, when he was asked about his favourite UK wildlife-watching experience. His reply: "The Farne Islands, during Spring". That's quite a recommendation, from a man who knows what he's looking at!

A visit to the Farne Islands is a very popular thing to do, and rightly so. Along with Sir David, many very keen birders say to us that it has been their best ever birdwatching experience, even when comparing it to trips to exotic far-flung birding hotspots like the Galapagos!

PuffinIt's the sheer mind-bending numbers of beautiful - and often uncommon - birds which ceates such an unforgettable experience. At some stages of the season you have to be careful not to stand on the chicks, so close are they. Most of the photographs on this page are from Andy Douglas. He runs trips to the Farnes aboard Serenity, and his passion for the birds and wildlife around the Farnes makes him our trip of choice.

The Farne Islands are also home to the UK's largest colony of grey seals, who are curious and photogenic too. And with common seals and dolphin, minke whale and basking shark out there too, it's a dreamland for wildlife-watchers. And - is there anything more cute than a baby seal?

But the Farne Islands also have other significance; St Cuthbert, who became a reluctant leader of the monastery on Lindisfane in the 6th Century came here to live as a hermit, and eventually died on Inner Farne in 687AD. The chapel constructed in his memory in 1370 is still standing. And of course Grace Darling was living with her family in the Longstone lighthouse when she rowed out with her father to rescue survivors from the shipwrecked Forfarshire in September 1838 - and became something of a reluctant and accidental herione and superstar.

If you are visiting the Farnes during the breeding season, which is about mid-May to end of July, you should bring a stout hat or put up your hood. When the tern chicks are on the nest, their parents get very defensive, and since you cannot avoid walking by their nests, they will dive-bomb you and perhaps pelt you with droppings, and peck your head. It's amusing at best - but they can draw blood! Do wear a hat, and don't wear your best jacket... Take some food too - there are no cafes. There are no public toilets out on the islands.

The way to visit the Farnes is to take a boat trip from Seahouses harbour, which is just a few minutes stroll from St Cuthbert's House. There are a number of different boat companies, (links are below) each of which has commentary and will explain what you're seeing.

In essence you need to choose between the different sorts of trips available; there is the 90-minute-or-so 'Sailaround', which gets you close in to the cliffs and gives you a good look at the nesting birds and those in flight around the islands, but without getting off the boat. Or you can choose a landing trip, which is basically the sailaround with one hour ashore, either on the rocky outcrop which is Staple Island (generally in the morning, tide permitting) or Inner Farne, where it is easier to disembark the boat, and which has a boardwalk to guide you (and which we think is the better island to land on.) Landing is always at the discretion of the Skipper - and if he thinks there is any risk involved, then who are we to doubt him?

Be aware that these islands are National Trust bird sanctuaries, and so you will need to pay an admission fee on landing, or flash your NT membership card.

Some companies offer an all-day trip which lands you on both of the National Trust islands, and another can land you on Longstone Island (made famous by the Grace Darling story - no landing fee on Longstone, but then again there are no birds there either.) You can get a lot of information about the various trips from their websites below.

Here are the various companies who can get you to the Farne Islands:

  • Serenity - We've already said that Andy Douglas is passionate and knowledgeable about the birds and wildlife of Farne Islands, as his blog and his twitter feed show. You can be sure of a great trip with him, and he is our go-to boat-trip. He also sails a catamaran, which is a bit more stable in the water.
  • Billy Shiel's Farne Island boat trips - William's family have been taking visitors to the Farnes since 1918, and have had several members of the Royal Family aboard.
  • Golden Gate for trips to Longstone Island and the lighthouse made famous by the Grace Darling story
  • MV St Cuthbert

David Steele has been the head warden on the Farne Islands for some years now; he heads up the team of volunteers and students who come to live in the medieval pele tower adjacent to the lighthouse on Inner Farne for nine months of the year to monitor, count and generally keep an eye on the wildlife. We find his blog very interesting and entertaining, and also follow him on Twitter because we find out what's happening out there, as it happens!

If you have any questions about a Farne Islands trip, then just ask!

There's an interesting site to waste a few minutes with here. It shows live shipping movements and information, and we like to see what ships are sailing by the Farne Islands. Maybe you will too. The red 'exclamation marks' are lighthouses, and the coloured arrows are ships. Click on them to see details.

  • Thursday April 13 (Maundy Thursday, Easter Weekend) Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman

    Thursday April 13 (Maundy Thursday, Easter Weekend) Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman

    BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Duo – 2016 & 2013

    Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman have established themselves, over a long period, as one of the UK folk scene’s most rewardingly enduring partnerships.

    Twice recent winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Duo – 2016 & 2013 – the couple’s intimacy and strength of passion on stage have won them many fans and an enviable reputation as ‘Songwriters par excellence’.

    We’re thrilled to be hosting them over the Easter weekend here at SCH, following on from their gig here in 2015 and two highly praised albums - ‘Hidden People’ & ‘Tomorrow Will Follow Today’. These two are fantastic musicians and wonderful live performers. This is going to be another special show. Get your name on the list quickly!  Tickets for this show are £12.50

    Here's their live performance at a packed Royal Albert Hall on the night of the 2016 'Best Duo' presentation:

  • Clare votes us her No 1!

    Clare votes us her No 1!

    We've been enjoying reading Clare Balding's new book recently. She stayed with us here at St Cuthbert's House a while ago, but we were really taken aback when folks began to call to tell us that she mentions her stay at St Cuthbert's House in the book! Here's what she says, on page 201:
    'St Cuthbert's House went instantly to the top of my 'best ever B&Bs' list. I would describe it as a luxury small hotel with a family feel, but that might not fit on the signs.' Aw, thanks Clare!

  • Want to see what's so special about Northumberland?

    Want to see what's so special about Northumberland?

    Some time ago, we began work with our local Tourism Association to produce a video showing some of the things which make this area so very special.  Now the video is complete, and we are deeply grateful to the remarkable young film-maker Cain Scrimgeour for working patiently with us across the seasons, to create something very, very beautiful. This is 7 minutes long, and we urge you to settle back and watch...

  • Visit England Awards 2016 - Guest Accommodation AND Sustainable Tourism!

    Visit England Awards 2016 - Guest Accommodation AND Sustainable Tourism!

    Visit England Awards 2016 - Guest Accommodation AND Sustainable Tourism!

    At the 2016 Visit England Awards - the 'Tourism Oscars' - we were honoured to be amongst the medals in TWO categories - both Guest Accommodation of the Year and also Sustainable Tourism Business of the Year.

    We want you to have a wonderful experience of this amazing area, but we also passionately believe that your visit should make our rural community a better place to live and work for local people, too.  We’re delighted that our determination to provide an unforgettable guest experience which also builds our local economy, has brought us these national Awards in two categories, and to be considered amongst the best in the whole country!

    Here's Jeff & Jill, together with daughters Hannah & Abi, pictured receiving their Awards at the glittering ceremony at the Winter gardens in Blackpool in March 2016.

  • Quite a haul in 2015!

    Quite a haul in 2015!

    2015 has been a very special year for us here at St Cuthbert's House. 

    We won a Silver Award at the National VisitEngland Awards ceremony, and TWO Gold Awards at the North-East Tourism Awards! 

    We were also honoured with a special 'RoSE' Award from VisitEngland in 'Recognition of Service Excellence', and the 'Editor's Choice' Award from the Good Hotel Guide.  Quite a haul!

    The main reason we put SCH forward for these VisitEngland Awards in particular, is to assure you that we are serious about striving for the very highest standards, to ensure you enoy your stay. 

  • Peter & Kathy recommend St Cuthbert's House

    Peter & Kathy recommend St Cuthbert's House

    Peter & Kathy told us that they'd really enjoyed their first stay at SCH, and so we asked them to tell you why...

    Reassure yourself - watch their one-minute video..

  • Check out our Tripadvisor Reviews

    Check out our Tripadvisor Reviews

    Check out our Tripadvisor Reviews, to find out what other guests have said about their stay.  But please - always book direct via our Book Online page to avoid fees.

    We're pleased to be included as founder members of the Tripadvisor 'Hall of Fame' - where entry is only available to businesses which have won Tripadvisor's coveted 'Certificate of Excellence' for five consecutive years.

  • Our Price Guarantee

    Our Price Guarantee

    You will ALWAYS receive the best possible price by booking direct with us - either by calling us on 01665 720456 or by following the Book Now menu item!  Beware that some large agencies charge you more - and they also take a large slice of commission from small independents like us.  Show your support for small businesses by booking DIRECT!


Sleep well...

Your BedWe think you won't ever have slept in a bigger or more comfortable bed, than the one that's waiting for you at St Cuthbert's House. See why here.

Eat well...

St-Cuthberts-House-FoodEnjoying lovely food is part of your special time away. Get excited about your breakfast here, and choose where to eat out here.

Fancy a drink?

SCH BeerLabel 400Well, if you do, you're spoiled for choice, with so many delicious Northumbrian craft beers, and good quality wines available.  We have our own House Beer too. Check out Our Bar!


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Copyright © 2017 St Cuthberts House. All Rights Reserved.
St Cuthbert's House, 192 Main St, Seahouses, Northumberland NE68 7UB (00 44) (0)1665 720456