St. Cuthbert's House

northumbrian bed and breakfast

Visit the Farne Islands

Farne Islands seen from the back road to Bamburgh|The seal pups are cute|The Farnes are internationally important for migrating birds||| Farne Islands seen from the back road to Bamburgh|The seal pups are cute|The Farnes are internationally important for migrating birds||| |||||

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

There is a team of wardens looking after the islands - often 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 like to follow them on Twitter  because we find out what's happening out there, as it happens!  The National Trust's Farne Islands website is here.

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.

  • We're VisitEngland's 'Best B&B in England' for 2017!

    We're VisitEngland's 'Best B&B in England' for 2017!

    We were delighted to be shortlisted again, amongst the top 3 finalists from around the whole country, when we went to the VisitEngland 'Awards for Excellence 2017' ceremony at the Waldorf Hotel last week.

    But then we were absolutely thrilled to be awarded the top spot - the Gold Award, making us VisitEngland's 'Best B&B in England 2017' -  as we were in 2014 too.  To win this prestigious and highly-prized accolade a second time is very special indeed.

  • Saturday October 21 - Blue Rose Code

    Saturday October 21 - Blue Rose Code

    The music of Ross Wilson defies categorisation - but is always beautifully captivating, and often intensely moving in its searing honesty. The band’s gig here in April of 2016 was a very special occasion, and we’re so pleased to have them back.

    In the space of only a short few years Blue Rose Code, Edinburgh-born Ross Wilson, has gone from song-writing in the obscurity of an East London flat to being celebrated by the industry and fans alike. 

    'The Ballads Of Peckham Rye', Blue Rose Code’s second record, was nominated for the prestigious Scottish Album Of The Year Awards in 2014.  'Grateful', the first single from the more recent 'And Lo the Bird is On the Wing' was released at the end of 2015 and was playlisted on BBC Radio Scotland for a full five weeks. Truly remarkable for an act without the backing of a label or a heavy management deal.

    Further praise has come from the most unexpected of quarters - Hollywood A-lister Ewan McGregor said of The Ballads Of Peckham Rye: "It’s beautiful and I can’t stop listening to it.”

  • 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...

  • 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!

  • The Good Hotel Guide - we're listed

    The Good Hotel Guide - we're listed

    We're in the Good Hotel Guide!

    We are delighted once again to be included in the 2017 edition of the Good Hotel Guide, after being chosen as 'Editor's Choice' in the 'Sustainable Tourism' section of the Good Hotel Guide in the 2016 printed edition.

    The Good Hotel Guide is fiercely independent. A hotel cannot simply pay for an entry into the Guide - inclusion is by invitation only, and is rigorously monitored by a network of 'inspectors' who constantly report back on standards of service. To be included at all is great honour for us - but it's also a great recommendation for you - especially as the Editor considers us amongst his 'choices'!

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Sleep well...

OswaldBed400We 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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If you have any questions, please call us on 01665 720456 or send us an email or a booking enquiry.

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And if you'd like to keep in touch about upcoming house-concerts and be the first to know who's coming, then please tick that box too! We send a house-concerts newsletter most months to keep you up to date on the musical front.

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St Cuthbert's House, 192 Main St, Seahouses, Northumberland NE68 7UB (00 44) (0)1665 720456