259. Holy Island (Lindisfarne)

May 2012

At the end of the last walk I wrote up I had walked south from the start of the causeway to Holy Island (also known as Lindisfarne). This time I was crossing the causeway to make a visit to this very interesting and beautiful tidal island, and to walk around it’s coastline.

I was doing this as a day trip from home, which took some planning, as I had to find a date at the weekend when I was free, the trains were running to the normal schedule (no engineering works or bus replacements) and when the times of the trains coincided well with the bus times.

Having found a suitable date, I booked train tickets a few months earlier from London to Berwick-upon-Tweed for £16.50 each way. I took the 8am train from London Kings Cross (bound for Edinburgh, but stopping at Berwick-upon-Tweed on the way).

I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo, then two tube trains to reach London Kings Cross. I had actually arrived a little earlier than expected, as I caught an earlier train from my local station, which gave me a few minutes to head outside and admire the beautiful St Pancras station next door (although technically I think this is the Midland Hotel).

St Pancras Station, London

St Pancras Station, London

I headed back into Kings Cross station in time for the train. The northern half of this journey especially is wonderful. I always make sure to book a window seat on the right hand side of the train so I can get the best views. First the tops of York Minster as the train reaches York. Then Durham Cathedral and castle. Then crossing the Tyne in Newcastle.

Soon after that the train passed the beautiful village of Alnmouth where I have previously walked, and you get a good view of it from the train (this particular train did not stop there).

A short while later I could spot my destination for the day – the top of Lindisfarne Castle, poking up from above the fields.

Finally, the train arrived at Berwick-upon-Tweed on-time, a little after 11:30am. This left me around 45 minutes before the bus to Holy Island was due to leave, so I walked from the station into the town centre.

Berwick-upon-Tweed station

Berwick-upon-Tweed

The bus timetable for the bus to Holy Island is very complicated. This is because the causeway is only passable when the tide is low and of course the times of low tide vary each day. This means so too do the times the bus operates (I think it might be the only bus in the UK to have to run at different times each day due to the tides, I certainly can’t think of any other bus that does).

(Note – the below is from 2012, don’t use it to plan a journey now, as it’s well out of date).

IMG_4157

So first you have to work out if the bus runs on the date you want from the bottom. If it does, this shows the lettered services that run each day from the top. So on the date I did this walk (12th May) it was services C and F running.

The bus arrived on time and soon we were crossing the causeway to Holy Island. Near the end of this video below you can see as the bus passes the refuge, where you can shelter if you get cut off by the tides when crossing and wait for the tide to go back out.

Crossing the Holy Island causeway

Holy Island is one of the Farne islands (hence the “farne” in Lindisfarne) and unlike the others, there is a permanent year-round population that lives on the island, in the village at south east corner of the island, which has all the usual facilities you might expect, such as a pub and shops. This is where the bus stops so this is where I began my walk around the island.

It must be an interesting place to live but must be tricky if you work on the mainland and have to commute to work and the tide is in.

I decided to do my walk around the island anti-clockwise. Holy Island has much history and at the south edge of the village is the remains of Lindisfarne Priory, which is almost 1400 years old.

Lindisfarne Priory remains

It is now in the care of English Heritage and you can visit (for an admission fee), however I didn’t visit as I felt the price was very high given it was in ruins, all of which you can easily see from outside.

The path then soon brings me down to the shore, where there are good views back to the fairly sizeable village.

Holy Island village

Ahead is the main bay and harbour with the famous view of Lindisfarne Castle behind it.

Holy Island village

Lindisfarne Castle

From here I can look south over to the beach at Ross Links that I visited on my previous walk the north end of which is only about half a mile from where I was standing.

The south coast of Holy Island

Looking further south along the coast I can also clearly see Bamburgh Castle once more, right in the distance. (It’s that blob just right of centre on the horizon below).

The south coast of Holy Island

The south coast of Holy Island

Behind the beach all sorts of boats are resting on the grass, I guess these must be pulled out over the beach as there isn’t much of a harbour.

The south coast of Holy Island

The south coast of Holy Island

At the far end of this little headland were some more ruins, presumably once part of the priory.

Lindisfarne Priory remains

A few boats were also moored up in the bay, but now mostly resting on the sand, as the tide was out. I guess this bay, only open to the sea at once side is quite sheltered and a good place to moor boats.

Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

I followed the tarmac path behind the beach that then heads out to the castle. I think this is actually a private road and there is a shuttle bus that operates along this road between the village centre and the castle (for those unable or unwilling to walk the half a mile or so).

Lindisfarne Castle

The coast of Holy Island

View from Holy Island

The castle is very dramatic located on the top of a steep and narrow hill overlooking the bay. I planned to visit it later, but wanted to complete my walk first.

Lindisfarne Castle

The path goes along the coast side of the castle and at the end leads to the entrance, but I continued ahead now on the grass to the little bay beyond it, where there are some old lime-kilns, hinting at past industry along this shore.

Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

Old Lime Kilns on Holy Island

I made my way along the pebble beach and then rounded the corner and now reached the east coast of Holy Island. Out to sea I could make out the other Farne Islands in the distance.

Lindisfarne Castle

The East coast of Holy Island

Stones from the beach had been piled up on the grass behind, something which seems to be becoming increasingly popular.

The East coast of Holy Island

The east coast of the island was almost entirely made up of this pebble beach sometimes backed immediately by grass and in other places low soft looking cliffs.

The East coast of Holy Island

The East coast of Holy Island

Behind me, there were fine views back to the castle.

Lindisfarne Castle

I soon reached the north east corner of the island, known as Emmanuel Head, where there was a white-painted stone pyramid, presumably some sort of navigation aid for boats.

Emmanuel Head

I now rounded the corner onto the north coast of the island. This was really beautiful with a huge, unspoilt and largely empty sandy beach (known as The Links).

The North coast of Holy Island

The North coast of Holy Island

The beach was initially a mixture of sand and pebbles but as I headed west along it, soon became a beautiful white-sand beach backed by dunes.

The North coast of Holy Island

The North coast of Holy Island

It was a lovely, remote and wild feeling beach and I seemed to be the only person on it! I do find this quite surprising. The village centre was packed with tourists and yet here was this beautiful beach and not a single person on it (myself excepted). It always surprises me so few people are prepared to walk more than 5 minutes from their car to reach places like this.

Looking inland you can see across to the other side of the island and the castle and see how flat the vast majority of the island is.

The North coast of Holy Island

View over Holy Island

I continued along the beach which stretched for a quite considerable distance to the west.

The North coast of Holy Island

The North coast of Holy Island

The North coast of Holy Island

The south coast of Holy Island

Rounding the corner at the far end I was now alongside the tidal road that links the island to the main land at low tide.

Holy Island causeway

It’s worth noting too that the road is not the only way to reach the island, since there is also a separate low-tide walking route out to the island. This is marked by the wooden posts you can see on the photo below, which go all the way to the mainland.

Holy Island footpath

Curiously, a long distance walking trail, St Oswald’s Way ends at Holy Island but the route over to the island follows the road rather than the walking path which seems rather odd to me. This path is the way you are meant to walk (I found out that it can be dangerous to try to cross at other points – but not until I had already done so).

I now followed the road, or just alongside it, back to the village.

Holy Island

Holy Island

Whilst the village is quite pretty a lot of it is also tourist shops and the like so I didn’t want to linger there particularly, my interest was more in visiting the castle.

So I had allowed time to do that and walked back around to the castle and climbed the steps up to the entrance. The castle is open to the public and owned by the National Trust. As I’m not a member of the National Trust I had to pay for admission. Whilst taking my postcode for the Gift Aid donation they can reclaim the tax from the lady commented I was “a long way from home”. I didn’t dare tell her I’d only come here for the day from there either! I had a rucksack with me and so had to leave that in the admission building but there was no charge to do so (though I think the poor lady was rather shocked at how heavy it was when I handed it over, despite my warning!)

View from Lindisfarne Castle

From the top of the castle I had a much better view over the island First looking north, back to Emmanuel Head and the white pyramid you can just see in the distance.

Holy Island

Clearly most of the island is used for the grazing of sheep!

Now it was time to look inside the castle. Inside it was more a home now than a defensive castle. It was originally a 16th Century castle. It was built around the same time the priory went out of use and so some of the stones from the priory were used in building the castle.

It later largely fell out of use and was bought in 1901 by Edward Hudson who converted it to a residence. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1944.

Inside the castle is fairly simply furnished, it was very much a family home rather than a stately home and there was around a half-dozen rooms accessible.

Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

Outside the old gun emplacements and so on were also very visible.

Lindisfarne Castle

I enjoyed the views from here over the island, with the elevated position of the castle meaning you could see most of it.

Lindisfarne Castle

Holy Island from Lindisfarne Castle

Holy Island from Lindisfarne Castle

It was a very interesting (though small castle) and well worth exploring. Having done so I retrieved my rucksack and descended from the castle again.

Lindisfarne Castle

Now it was time to head back to the village.

Lindisfarne Castle and harbour

Lindisfarne Castle

Holy Island village

Holy Island village

Holy Island village

Holy Island village

I had a quick look at the outside of the Abbey and was satisfied I could see all I wanted to from the outside.

Lindisfarne Priory

Lindisfarne Priory ruins

Lindisfarne Priory ruins

Lindisfarne Priory ruins

Now it was time to get the bus back.

Holy Island

I headed back to the bus stop and was pleased to find the bus was already there and waiting. This took me back to Berwick-upon-Tweed station, via a scenic drive back over the tidal road. Here I had half an hour to wait for my train and was pleased to find it was on-time.

Interesting the station itself also stands on the site of Berwick castle, as the sign explained.

Berwick-upon-Tweed station

I enjoyed the view over the roof tops of Berwick-upon-Tweed as I began the long journey back south to home.

Departing Berwick-upon-Tweed

I loved this walk as Holy Island had turned out to be both very interesting and very beautiful. The view of the castle with the boats in front of it is one of the icons of Northumberland so it was nice to see it for myself, and in such good weather. However the coast had also been lovely, especially the beautiful sandy beach on the north coast. I had also really enjoyed the visit to the castle, it must have been a very interesting place to live.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Borders Buses route 477 : Berwick-upon-Tweed (station and town centre) – Scremerston – Haggerston – Beal (Holy Island Causeway)Holy Island. Twice per day on Wednesday and Saturday only for most of the year. Increased to runs Monday – Saturday during the school summer holidays. There are typically two services per day on days when the bus operates but the times vary each day due to the tides. Consult the table on pages 2 and 3 of the timetable to see which times the buses will run at on which day.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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258. Beal to Budle Bay (and on to Bamburgh)

July 2015

For this walk I was staying at the Newcastle Airport Premier Inn on a “gap filling” trip to do the various parts of the Northumberland coast I had not previously done as day trips from home.

For my first three days I had hired a car, due to the limited transport I needed up to the Northumberland coast and the very expensive train fares to Berwick-upon-Tweed from Newcastle. This was my last day with the hire car and as I mentioned in a previous post I had booked it on line and specified a return time of 8pm which was listed on the website as an acceptable drop off time (it says 24-hour drop off was available). However I had been told when I collected it, the office closed at 6pm so I needed to return it before then. After some discussion I reached an agreement that if I could not get it back to the branch I had rented from in central Newcastle by 6pm then I could drop it off at the airport branch instead for no extra charge. However I still had my doubts that if I did that I wouldn’t be charged extra and have to get into an argument. So I was keen to try to get back by 6pm anyway.

This meant I had to make an early start and I was keen to avoid the rush hour traffic in Newcastle. So I set off before breakfast at the hotel (since breakfast was not included anyway) for the drive up the A1 to Beal. This went well with no hold ups and took a little over an hour. As I’d missed breakfast, I stopped at the petrol station at the end of the road to Holy Island. They had a fairly limited choice so I ended up with an egg sandwich and a cereal bar as breakfast. I also bought lunch whilst I was there because I suspected (correctly) there would be little chance of getting food on the way.

I then drove on along the road to Holy Island to the little car park marked on the map just before the road becomes a tidal causeway out to the island. I was irritated to find half of the car park had been blocked of with concrete blocks so it could not be used. Of the spaces left half of them had been blocked by a huge Belgium camper-van that had parked sideways across several spaces, filling up half the car park. So there was just a single space free meaning I had got the last place in the car park – and it was only 8:30am – I hadn’t expected the car park to be full at that time and it was lucky i had not left any later.

I stopped to eat my breakfast in the car, watching the tide on the causeway which was still partly underwater.

Beal and the Holy Island Causeway

I suspected many of the people in the car park were waiting for the tide to go out. In addition several tradesman were waiting right at the start of the causeway rather than the car park and as I stopped to eat my breakfast sandwich I saw some start to drive out, stopping each time they came to water. I think the official clear crossing time was not for an hour or more, it must be frustrating if you have a job to do there or even deliver the mail! There is a refuge too, part way along in case you get caught out by the tide and have to wait it out.

To begin the walk I could follow St Oswalds Way and the Northumberland coast path, which followed the same route at this point. This was initially a pleasant path between some old World War II tank traps.

Tank traps near Beal

The long grass was wet, as it had been raining on my way up and very soon my feet were wet through as were the bottom of my trousers from all the moisture still on the wet grass.

Unfortunately the route along the coast did not last long. Indeed, the Northumberland Coast Path heads miles inland here (at times 3 miles or more) so is not really a coastal path at all here and also misses out the beach of Ross Links, which I was keen to visit, so I was planning my own route instead.

Initially I stuck to the coast path as it then turned inland after the first field and ran along the edge of the field, where there was more wet grass. At the end it turned left onto a track which was easy going but soon emerged into a grassy field. The field had sheep grazing and the path headed diagonally over it. At the end there was a little bridge over a stream (Beal Cast) and here there were two paths, on the map, at least.

Near Fenham

The Northumberland Coast Path now took the one that headed more inland but I had spotted another path marked on the map keeping closer to the coast, which I intended to follow to Fenham. The field I entered was being used as a campsite for “a private rally” but the path was easy to find, but reached by climbing over a fence. The path was soon overgrown and very tricky to follow. I know other coastal walkers had had problems with the path, so I was not surprised by this. In fact I soon realised I was on the wrong side of a fence. I think I was meant to be north side of it . Over to my right, trains passed on the nearby railway line.

Near Fenham

At the end of a couple of fields I could see the building marked on the map and this confirmed I was on the wrong side of the fence, but there did not seem to be a path on the other side either, so I continued along the field edge on the side I was on and turned right at the end, the path now visible the other side of the fence, as it follows a track into Fenham. I soon startled a deer, which made for a nice sight as it ran away.

Deer near Fenham

At the end I climbed over a gate onto the road at the village (hamlet, really) of Fenham. I think the building here is a bed and breakfast.

On reaching the road I turned right and followed the road around the corner to some woodland where the I could leave the road onto a footpath marked on the map, crossing the railway line and heading for the hamlet of Fenwick Stead. I was expecting another difficult and overgrown path, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a well maintained (and well signed) path around the field edge to the railway line. The railway had been a regular companion on this walk with the land very flat and the tracks running close to the coast. I would watch the view again from the train the next day, when returning home. On reaching the railway I crossed the track taking care, as the sign warned that the track was used by 100mph+ trains. I checked I couldn’t see any train coming and so crossed.

Crossing the East Coast Main Line near Fenham

On the other side there were more arrow markets on posts, but they didn’t match the route of the footpath – I think there were some additional paths here as a result of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. I tried to follow the official right of way which crossed a little stream on a bridge and was then overgrown up to above waste height with long grass and various other plants. I was soon soaking wet almost up to my shoulders, from all the moisture on the plants. I was tempted to go back and try and follow minor roads, but I was already going to have to walk beside the A1 for a time and if I went back on the minor roads, that would mean even greater distance to cover on the A1. So I stuck to the “path” such as it was.

The path on the map is shown as crossing two fields and then heading diagonally south east. In fact the first two fields are one large field, and reaching the point the path was meant to cross into the next field and head diagonally over that field to Fenwick Stead, there was a hedge all the way along and no gate or stile – so no way across. I instead turned left and followed alongside the hedge to pick up a farm track and then the public road. I passed the farm house on the right and continued on the road until it turned half right to head for the A1. A couple of hundred meters before it reached the A1, there was a footpath signed off to the left. Despite my bad experiences with the paths so far, this was a wide track, wide enough for a car and firm underfoot, so I decided to follow it, as it meant less walking on the A1. Sadly about half way along this wide track turned to the left, but the route of the footpath was ahead. It was, once again, an overgrown field. So just as I was beginning to dry out I was soon soaking wet again.

I could see I was approaching the A1, but there was no obvious route to the road. Thankfully as I neared the road I spotted an overgrown style. I stopped on it to put on some sun screen (the sun having now made an appearance) and have a drink, before I braved the A1. The A1 of course being the main trunk road linking London and Edinburgh, so I knew it was likely to be very busy with traffic, particularly as the sections of the A1 in Northumberland are mostly single carriageway when most of the rest of the road is dual carriageway (or more), making it something of a bottleneck.

Soon I could put it off no longer, I crossed the stile to the A1. I was hoping for a pavement, but I was out of luck. But for the most part there was a wide grass verge and in places the road had a white line painted along the edge, but more tarmac beyond it, so I could walk along this a bit away from the traffic. It wasn’t pleasant but the traffic was not as heavy as I had expected. At times, it was even peaceful, as the traffic seemed to catch up with something slow, then a row of vehicles behind it, then a brief respite before the next convoy. I only had around 500 metres along the A1 as I planed to take the turn off on the left to Fenham-le-Moor, a dead-end road.

I soon saw the sign for it and could thankfully leave the main road again and follow the quiet lane to Fenham-le-Moor. Here I hoped to follow the bridlepath marked on the map from just before the farm, which turns east and then south, it being the nearest route to the coast I can follow.

I headed along the road towards the old crossing keepers cottage at the railway line. When I was about 10 metres from the railway line, the beeping of the level crossing started so I had to wait for the barriers to come down and then the train to pass. The barriers were down for a while before it came, but it soon whizzed past and the barriers lifted again. The road turned slightly to the left after a while and then I could see the farm house at Fenham-le-Moor ahead and a man wandering about beside it. As I neared the house I could see the man, the farmer I presume, had his tractor on the bridleway. You can never tell with farmers. Some are rather unfriendly to walkers and begrudge footpaths on their land, often trying to make things difficult by blocking paths or removing signs. Others are pleasant. So I was a bit apprehensive as I approached, not knowing if I’d be welcomed or not, given he seemed to be working in the field where the path went. I decided to ask him as I approached if the way I wanted to go was indeed the path (I knew it was from the map), but I was more wondering if he was about to drive along it and wanted me to wait. As it turned out, he was very friendly, confirmed it was and asked me where I was going and showed me the route of the path.

The path I planned to follow briefly reaches the coast, but then turns inland away from the coast. A mile or so further south another dead-end bridleway runs from Elwick to the coast. I wondered about these and if it would be possible to walk along the shore between them so I asked the farmer.  He said it was and also said there was a bridge there (not marked on my map) but he pointed to it’s location on my map, and wished me a pleasant walk. What a nice chap!

So I soon set off along the path and was pleased to find that it was a pleasant mowed grass path, plenty wide enough. What a change from the bad, overgrown paths I had come across before this point. At last, I was back at the coast with a lovely view of Holy Island (Lindisfarne) ahead.

Holy Island near Fenham

Soon I reached the bridge, not marked on the map, exactly where he had told me it was. I wondered why it was here, but it soon became obvious – it crossed a drainage channel but then headed out onto the mud and sand of Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.

Near Fenham

Near Fenham

Where the north coast of Lindisfarne is exposed to the sea, the area behind is sheltered and the land between it and the mainland  is a mixture of sand and mud flats (and sinking sand too, I’m told). It is also a nature reserve. I was pleased to see that as well as a path ahead, there were steps down to a feint path along the shoreline. I figured if someone had built steps down from the bridge, it must be meant to be walked. So I stopped on the steps of the bridge for a drink, then set off. It was a mixture of shingle (and brick) beach, mud and salt marsh.

Near Fenham

The salt marsh was the most problematic, with water channels between the area of marsh making it hard going and with the grass high it was hard to see where you were putting your feet. The places where there was a beach were easy going, but much of it was on thick grass and salt marsh, making for hard going. I was also glad the tide was out (and still going out), so I didn’t need to worry about getting wet from the tide.

Near Fenham

Near Fenham

I passed the little metal mill marked on the map at Whitelee Letch and then just ahead I could make out a building which I suspected was the end of the bridlepath I had seen on the map. The “path” I had been following was quite hard to spot and not really a path at all, but as I approached it became a more obvious path and then I realised the structure was a bird-hide, which would explain why the public bridleway from the road simply ends at the beach, as it must be there to provide access to the hide. I was pleased to see this, as it would mean I wouldn’t need to turn back now being at one end of a legal right of way again – always a relief! On reaching the bird hide I went and sat in it to have lunch, mainly because I could sit down and it was somewhere dry to sit, all the ground nearby being wet. There was no one else inside. Once I’d had lunch (and battled with a wasp) I formed a plan for the rest of the walk.

My original plan was to follow the bridleway south to Elwick then the road out to Ross Links, but this would involve quite a lot of extra distance and doubling back inland. Buoyed by my success of trying to get along the shore, I thought I might see if I could continue to Ross Links along the shore instead, there seemed to be another feint path and the signs only said no dogs, not that you couldn’t walk (and I didn’t have a dog, so that was OK).

In fact east of here there was a low sea wall. I decided to try and follow it which although it did not have a footpath marked on it, had short grass and looked to be well walked. This went well for a while, but it soon had gorse etc over it and got higher, so I dropped down to the shoreline below it once more. Back to the salt marsh now then, but after a while it began to get a little sandier and easier underfoot. I started to get bracken and heather on the right and soon I was walking on sand. Eventually I reached sand, and a few footprints visible in it, too. I continued along the shore soon coming to a sign. The sign was facing the other way. Once up to it, I looked back to see what it said.

Fenham Nature Reserve

It said that the area I had just walked though had been designated a wildlife refuge and not to pass this point. Ah. Well I wouldn’t have done if I’d have known this, but really there should be such a sign at both ends to inform you (strictly speaking it is always legally permitted to walk along the shore if below the mean high water line, as I had been, so I don’t think I was technically trespassing, except for the brief stint on the sea wall).

Still I was pleased because it meant I had an easy route ahead to the sands (or so I thought), as there was no such sign for anyone turning right, as I was. I was following an area of sand which I think is covered at high tide, meaning the area to my left is an island at low tide called Old Law Dunes leading to Guile Point at it’s northern end. Here there are two tall chimneys or at least that is what they look like. I remember seeing them from Lindisfarne and I’m told they are to aid navigation. The problem was all of this area of sand dunes seemed to be roped off (perhaps they were also part of the nature reserve, though there were no signs). I couldn’t see a way to the beach without going through the roped area, so I’m afraid that is what I did, but at the coastal end part of the ropes had already been trampled down onto the ground, so I suspect I wasn’t the only one to have come this way.

Having now reached the open sea again I now had the gorgeous sands of Ross Links ahead of me.

Ross Links, Northumberland

It had been a challenging walk to say the least so far, so I felt this was just rewards, a beautiful sandy beach backed by huge dunes and not a person in sight.

Ross Links, Northumberland

Ross Links, Northumberland

It was quite windy here however but I didn’t mind I was so glad to be on a beach! The views too were stunning, with Lindisfarne Castle (and the village) visible at the end of the beach looking like it was attached, rather than an island whilst to the south, the mighty Bamburgh Castle was visible. It was lovely.

Ross Links, Northumberland

Ross Links, Northumberland

I walked south for a while on the beach and soon stopped for a rest in the dunes to take in the view. I could see a few people ahead, who I suspected had walked here along the road and would probably help me find the path if I needed it (there is a footpath leading to the beach from the end of the road, but I was not sure where to find it from the beach).

Ross Links, Northumberland

At the south end of Ross Links is Budle Bay which is crossed by a river (Budle Water) and forms a sort of estuary, the landward end of which is all marked as mud on the map. The south end of the bay was a little over half a mile away as the crow flies, but to walk around via the one short bit of path and the roads was 5 miles! Just beyond the south edge of the bay is Bamburgh, my destination for the day.

But heading south, as Bamburgh got closer, I wondered if it might be possible to walk over Budle Bay and ford Budle Water. It would save me a lot of miles along roads, inland from the coast, if I could. I had read reports of others doing so and it was now more or less low tide. I decided to investigate so I continued south passing dunes, as I could see the area closer to the coast became salt marsh and the beach underfoot became a little softer. I took my shoes off and soon saw some water ahead. It was not deep and I was able to walk through it easily, only ankle deep.

I was initially pleased thinking I had done it and already made it across and so the rest of the way was easy. The beach was still sand rather than mud but soon I could see more water ahead, which had been out of sight before. It looked to be similarly deep, but as I got closer, I could see it was actually quite a bit deeper and really, a proper river, so I hadn’t made it across at all. Although it was fairly deep for most of it I could clearly see the bottom. It looked about 1-2ft deep enough I could ford it – I hoped. I rolled my trousers up, carried my shoes and having put my camera in my bag to keep it safe, took a few steps towards the water. As I did so, the sand began to gave way, I was sinking up to my ankles in the sand before I even reached the water! I hoped the sand under the water might be firmer though. I took a few steps into the water. It was not that cold, but it was deeper than expected and no matter which way I headed, I kept hitting more areas where I began to sink into the sand. I could see the water was deeper ahead. If I continued I would be at least waist deep. That was bad enough, with the force of the water likely to make it a struggle to cross, but any sinking sands would send me deeper still and if that happened the current might be too strong and I was at risk of getting washed away. I was also at risk of my rucksack getting full of water too!

I came out of the water and walked up and down a bit to see if I could see any places where the river got wider and hence shallower, but I couldn’t. In addition as I headed further towards the shore the sand gave way to mud (as the map showed) and I was worried about sinking sands and I could also see streams inland. The tide was now at it’s lowest and so was about to start coming in and it could fill up this shallow bay very rapidly meaning I could also potentially get cut off if the streams inland began to fill. It was not safe to try to cross, so it was time for Plan B – I had to head back and do the 5 mile walk around on roads, no matter how much I’d have liked to avoid it.

So I turned directly back to the closest land behind me. The beach was a bit wet mud in places, but thankfully not sinking and I was pleased to reach the grass and then head north to the dunes of the beach, via a few shallow streams and back to safety.

I stopped for a drink then headed back inland from the beach. The path where the footpath went was well worn and turned out to be easy to find and indeed there were other people walking it. I was quite surprised how many people were here because the road ends more than half a mile from the coast, with the route onwards being a footpath and usually you don’t see many people if they have to walk that far from a car – so I wondered if the footpath might also be a private toll road or something like that.

Either way, the path was easy to follow, initially over sand and large dunes. Soon it became grassy underfoot, albeit sandy in places. The path went through a couple of gates (well signed) and then became a private road through the village of Ross. It was tarmac now and after passing the village (or hamlet, really) there was then public road. There was only room to park about 15 cars and even on this windy weekday it was almost full. I imagine this must be a lovely peaceful beach in the summer, because of the difficult access – I’m pleasantly surprised so many people had made the more than half mile walk to the beach – most people seem to regard more than 100 metres from the car as a long walk!

It was now a fairly tedious walk along the road for about a mile to the junction with the Elwick Road.

Budle Bay

It started to rain lightly, I hoped it would not get heavier. Only a few cars passed me on the way. At the junction with the Elwick Road I turned left. Whilst it was a but busier, it was a wider road and part of the cycle network. More cyclists passed me than cars initially. I now followed the road south for a little over a mile to the junction near Cragmill Hill. This was still cycle route 1, but close to the A1 and I was disappointing to see it was much busier (the road is unclassified) and I frequently had to head onto the grass verge to avoid the traffic. Thankfully the rain had stopped, but it was unpleasant and there was no refuge from the road.

After about 1 mile there was oddly a car park marked on the map. I say oddly because it didn’t seem to serve anything – not even any footpaths. This turned out to be a grubby layby with a few seats and a bin and not much else. But I could follow this to briefly get off the road. As I did so I spotted a footpath sign for a permissive path off to the left (perhaps that is why the car park is there). I hoped this would avoid the road down to Budle Bay, so I followed it, parallel to the car park but it soon became overgrown. At the end of the field there was a hedge, and no way through ahead. So I had to turn back and return to the road as this path had turned out to be a waste of time.

Back on the the road, it climbed for a while and then I had the view down to Budle Bay ahead. I was aiming for the bus from Budle Bay at 15:18. With the shortcuts I had made along the shore I had made good time and realised I might be able to make the 14:18, which would give me more time. It went only to Belford and arrived at the exact same time the next bus (X15) would take me to Beal. It is a shame the buses don’t connect but I hoped I might be lucky and make the connection. In any case if I didn’t I could pick up the bus I originally planned at Belford and I could have a look around the town whilst waiting. I hurried along, keeping an eye on the main road for the bus coming, but did not see it. I made it down to the road at Warren Mill at around 14:20, 2 minutes after the bus was due. It must be late – I had not seen it come along the road, which I had been able to see for some time. As I did so I was distracted by a couple of walkers on the other side of the road. They were looking for the coastal path but had got last and wondered if I was following it. Sadly not – I showed them on the map that they needed to head inland to Warren Mill and pick up the path from there. They thanked me and went on. By now, still no bus so I assumed either I had missed it, or it didn’t run.

It was a pleasant spot, with a low wall overlooking Budle Bay.

I was ending my walk here, as I had walked from Bamburgh to Budle Bay the previous day, I was now back where I had walked yesterday and as a result had now completed walking all the coast of Northumberland (though not written it all up yes, as I’m writing it up in order, even if I did not walk it in order).

Budle Bay

Budle Bay

So back to the bus to get me back – I could not see a bus stop. I checked Google Maps on my phone, which showed a stop, but there was nothing marked on the ground where it was supposed to be. I needed to catch that bus and didn’t want to find I was standing somewhere it wouldn’t stop.  Just north of the bay I spotted a footpath heading inland to a minor road and a second path just past it down to the road near Bamburgh. I could then walk into Bamburgh and pick the bus up from there. This route was shorter than the route via the coast (which I had already done) and I reckoned it would take about 45 minutes. I had 50. I decided to do that, I could always head back if the path was difficult, and then I would have the certainty of catching the bus somewhere I knew it would stop.

The path was easy to find and a clear path over fields. It went uphill giving fine views over the bay.

Budle Bay

At the minor road I could easily pick up the next path ahead, which was also easy to follow and I made good progress to the main road. I was slowing down now, getting tired, it was a long walk and I got up early. On reaching the road I had a little under a mile into Bamburgh. But there was a grass verge I could walk on rather than the busy road. I was soon pleased to see beautiful Bamburgh approach ahead and the imposing castle. It was lovely. In the end I reached the bus stop 10 minutes before the bus was due and the bus was 10 minutes late, so had a 20 minute wait.

Once on the bus it was a pleasant enough journey via Belford and soon to the A1. My walk wasn’t done though. As we approached Beal I became a little concerned as I didn’t remember a bus stop on the north side of the road and this was the A1. I rang the bell as I saw the petrol station where I had turned off the A1 in the morning hoping the driver would be able to stop close by (I was sat upstairs). Thankfully there was a bus stop and the bus did stop.

I now had to make a rather hazardous crossing of the A1 back to the petrol station on the other side of the road and had nearly 2 miles to walk back to my car at the causeway. I stopped at the petrol station to buy a warm pasty and a sandwich, I was very hungry after the long walk. I ate the pasty in the bus stop on the east side of the road and then followed the road. I didn’t notice when driving it this morning if it had a pavement but there was one, soon passing a pub on the right. The pavement continued all the way to the railway line where there were a few houses. Bang on cue, as I neared the railway line, the bell started and the gates came down, I was not having much luck with level crossings today and so once again, I had to wait. Once it passed I could follow the road into Beal, but I was pleased to see rather than the road, a new (I think) path had been made parallel to the road into the edge of fields, so I didn’t have to walk all the way on the road, there was a pavement all the way, or a path in fields.

I reached my car about 40 minutes after getting off the bus, I stopped to eat my sandwich, not wanting to get crumbs in the hire car and a bill for cleaning it. I then had to drive back to Newcastle. It was about 16:20 when I set off. It had taken me a little over an hour to drive here, so I was hoping to make it to Newcastle for 6pm to return the car. It all went well until on the edge of Newcastle on the A1, it all ground to a halt. It was stop start traffic for a mile or so, taking about 15 minutes to do 1 mile, before I reached my exit. I then followed the road but managed to turn off too early by mistake. This worked out well because I ended up by a Morrisons, so I could fill the car up (a requirement that I returned it with a full tank, or I would be charged more than £2 a litre by the hire company instead). Getting out of the Morrisons and back onto the main road was a little tricky but this time I managed to find the right road. I pulled into the hire car companies car park as the clock showed 17:57. Result! I handed it back and I think the lady on duty just wanted to go (she looked like she was locking up as I arrived). She gave it a quick glance, asked me for the keys and I took my stuff out the boot. I asked if she wanted to go over and check it but left with a breezy “no I can see it’s fine”.

I then headed to the station and took the Metro back to my hotel. I had not been on the metro this trip, it had been a bus replacement from the stop nearest my hotel at the weekend (another of the reasons for hiring the car), but now it was a weekday and the service was the usual train again. I managed to get the seat at the front where you can look ahead over the track and pretend to be the driver. It was good fun.

Overall it had been a good day and I was pleased to get to Ross Links and find a more coastal path than the coast path even though it had been tricky. This is not a classic walk by any means, with a lot of road walking, but what bits are on the coast are lovely, it was just a shame there was so much on road.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. Route X18 runs direct, but it is also possible to use route 418 and connect onto route X15 in Belford, if they are both running to time:-

Arriva buses route X18 : Berwick-upon-Tweed – Scremerston – Haggerston – Beal (A1) – BelfordBudle Bay – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – Embleton – Craster – Longhoughton – Boulmer – Alnwick – Alnmouth Station (only some buses) – Alnmouth – Warkworth – Amble – Broomhill – Red Row – Widdrington Station – Pegswood – Morpeth – Regent Centre (Tyne & Wear Metro) – Newcastle (Haymarket Bus Station). Between Beal and Budle Bay/Bamburgh the bus runs roughly once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday and 3 times on a Sunday. It takes a little under 20 minutes to travel between Budle Bay and Beal (A1).

Travelsure service 418 : Belford – Warnemill – Budle Bay – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – High Newton – Embleton – Dunstan – Craster – Howick – Longhoughton – Denwick – Alnwick. Some buses continue to Alnmouth Station, Alnmouth village and Alnwick. This bus runs once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday (no service on Sundays). It takes a little under 10 minutes to reach Belford, where it can be possible to connect with service X15 (below).

Arriva bus route X15 : Newcastle – Regent Centre (Metro station) – Morpeth – Felton – Shilbottle – Alnwick – Warenford – Belford – Beal (A1) – Haggerston – Scremerston – Berwick-upon-Tweed – Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station. Roughly once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday. There is no service north of Alnwick on Sundays (the bus does run between Newcastle and Alnwick on Sundays). It takes around 10 minutes to travel between Belford and Beal.

Finally if you are lucky with the timings it is possible to avoid the walk on the road from Beal on the A1 back to the start of the Holy Island causeway by using this bus, but it has a very complicated timetable because it varies with the tide, due to travelling along the causeway to Holy Island, which is only passable when the tide is out. Generally on days the bus operates there are two departures each day.

Borders Buses route 477 : Berwick-upon-Tweed station – Berwick-upon-Tweed – Scremerston – Haggerston – Beal (A1)Holy Island Causeway – Holy Island. Generally runs twice per day each way on Wednesday and Saturday only during the winter months. During the peak summer months the bus generally runs daily except for Sundays.  It will take about 5 minutes from Beal to the start of the causeway.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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257. Bamburgh to Budle Bay (Bamburgh Circular)

July 2015

This was the second day of a 4-day trip to complete the coast of Northumberland. I had visited Staple Island in the morning and had intended to visit Longstone Island in the afternoon. However as I wrote up in my post about Staple Island my boat trip to Longstone Island for the afternoon was cancelled. Originally I had planned for my next days walk to be from the land end of the Holy Island Causeway at Beal to Bamburgh, but that was going to be a very long walk and with an uncertain route, but likely much of it on roads.

So I now found myself in Seahouses with much of an afternoon to kill. I decided therefore to try and cut the next days walk short by walking as far as Budle Bay today.

I had had a slight headache in the morning, which had now got much worse during the day and was throbbing so I was not feeling particularly good but decided to press on anyway, keen not to waste the rest of the day. So I drove the short distance up the coast to Bamburgh (having already walked the coast from Seahouses to Bamburgh on a previous occasion).

I love Bamburgh. The wonderful castle perched on the rocks behind miles of glorious undeveloped beach and with views out to sea of the Farne Islands, it is beautiful.

The beach at Bamburgh

I parked in the car park near the castle which had the bonus of being free! I couldn’t resist taking many photos of this amazing castle again, either.

The beach at Bamburgh

I headed down to the beach and took more photos of the castle from the beach. The tide had gone out now so there was plenty of hard sand to walk on, making for easy walking.

The beach at Bamburgh

As I headed north I soon came to an area marked as Blackrocks Point. There were indeed black rocks, now forming a line behind the beach. I am not sure what is the reason – they look natural so I presume there is a line of coal which is exposed onto the beach here.

The beach at Bamburgh

On the cliffs ahead was the low Blackrocks Point lighthouse and looking back I took another view of that wonderful castle.

To avoid having to walk over the rocks I then climbed through the dunes to the minor road behind and followed this behind the lighthouse. The lighthouse was not as pretty as many lighthouse, being so short.

Lighthouse near Bamburgh

Just beyond it was what looked like it might have been some sort of old breakwater or harbour wall but if it was, it wasn’t being used as a harbour now.

The coast at Bamburgh

The extra height gained had also given me a great view back to Bamburgh once more.

The coast at Bamburgh

Onwards the coast now was low gently sloping grass banks with grey rocks at the bottom, but I could see the fine sands of Budle Bay ahead.

The coast at Bamburgh

I passed one of the helpful Northumberland coast path signs which said it was ¾ of a mile to Budle Point.

Out to sea I could see a bird of prey (a Kestrel I think) hovering and beyond the island of Lindisfarne, more commonly known as Holy Island. You can see it just above the horizon in the photo below.

Holy Island

Rabbits were bouncing about in the fields to my left too.

Near Bamburgh

At this point the road ended and I could follow the coastal footpath along the landward side of a golf course. I was now passing some sandy little bays again between the rocks, as the tide was now coming in.

Near Bamburgh

Near Bamburgh

Ahead I soon reached Budle Bay. I could see the main sands ahead and Budle Water crossing it in front.

Budle Bay

For my long walk tomorrow  I had hoped that I might be able to get across Budle Bay and ford the river (there isn’t a bridge, and it would save many miles of road walking if I could do so) so this was partly useful to help me check that for the next day. It was clearly far too deep to try to get across at this state of the tide but I wondered if it might still be possible at low tide.

Budle Bay

I then headed back through the dunes down to the beach now more of an estuary than open coast.

Budle Bay

The path followed down to Heather Cottages, where there were a few cottages, as you might expect. Here the Northumberland coast path headed inland ending up over a mile inland. The B1342 however was closer to the coast so to stick within my rules I’d follow that rather than the coast path, but I was not especially looking forward to it because I didn’t think it had a pavement so I decided to see if I could continue along the shoreline. Things started easily enough, with a beach lined with sand at the back and coal dust nearer the shoreline.

Budle Bay

Soon the beach such as it was turned to rock and pebbles and it became tricky to make my way on the shoreline over this.

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Thankfully I did make it around Kiln Point and here I could continue along the shoreline with the road now close by inland.

Budle BayBudle Bay

Budle Bay

I knew that I would be able to climb up to if, if needed. As I continued further south the road became lower and I was able to make my way up to the road by a layby where there was also an information sign. As I thought, the road here (the B1342) was pretty busy.

Budle Bay

Budle Bay

However I joined the road briefly into the village at Budle Bay itself. I think the village is actually called Warren Mill, the village of Budle itself being a mile or so east along the road. However the bus does stop here so I initially thought i’d take the bus back to Bamburgh – but  having checked the bus times I had around an hour before the next bus. However from the map I worked out it was 3km back to Bamburgh if I took a more direct inland route, which should be doable in about 40-45 minutes and would be quicker than waiting for the next bus.

I took the minor road leading inland to the Warren House Hotel and soon passed the hotel. The road then soon headed into a wooded valley and after around 1km from the shore I reached the Northumberland coast path official route, which I would follow back to Bamburgh. This headed up through a rocky path below Spindlestone Heughs. It was a pleasant walk and the trees were welcome, as it had now started to drizzle.

Near Budle

On reaching the minor road I turned left and followed it around the edge of a campsite, which was both busy and noisy – it being the summer holidays, I was glad not to be staying there, it was noisy enough from the road. At the T-junction I turned left and then shortly right now following St Oswald’s Way. The path headed across the edge of fields. I was soon passing old earthworks which are marked on the map, but unnamed.

Budle

I could also look across Budle Bay inland to where I would be walking tomorrow.

Budle Bay

The path soon became a wide mowed track which gave me fine views back to Bamburgh.

Looking down on Bamburgh

Sadly this soon deposited me back on the B1342 and there seemed little alternative but to walk along the road.

The road to Bamburgh

Having said that the grass verge was quite well walked so for most of the time I could walk on that rather than in the road. Soon I reached the edge of Bamburgh where the speed limit dropped to 30mph and the traffic became less intrusive, and soon after I got a pavement as I returned to the village. I passed the church and headed down to the main village.

Bamburgh Church

Bamburgh

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

It had been a lovely walk. I headed back to the car park, where I stopped for a drink and then drove back to my hotel near Newcastle Airport.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. There are two buses routes which between them provide a broadly hourly service, except on Sundays, when it is much less frequent:-

Arriva buses route X18 : Berwick-upon-Tweed – Scremerston – Haggerston – Beal – Belford – Budle Bay – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – Embleton – Craster – Longhoughton – Boulmer – Alnwick – Alnmouth Station (only some buses) – Alnmouth – Warkworth – Amble – Broomhill – Red Row – Widdrington Station – Pegswood – Morpeth – Regent Centre (Tyne & Wear Metro) – Newcastle (Haymarket Bus Station). Between Bamburgh and Budle Bay the bus runs roughly once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday and 3 times on a Sunday. It takes 7 minutes to travel between Budle Bay and Bamburgh.

Travelsure service 418 : Belford – Warnemill – Budle Bay – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – High Newton – Embleton – Dunstan – Craster – Howick – Longhoughton – Denwick – Alnwick. Some buses continue to Alnmouth Station, Alnmouth village and Alnwick. This bus runs once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday (no service on Sundays) and combined with the X18 above provides a roughly hourly service between Budle Bay and Bamburgh, Monday – Saturday.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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256. Bamburgh Castle & Bamburgh to Seahouses

April 2014

Having visited all the Farne Islands it was possible to visit it was time to continue actually walking the coast. The boats to the Farne Islands depart from Seahouses and the next town along the coast north from there is Bamburgh and I’ve commented (and photographed) the views of the wonderful castle at Bamburgh from these boats several times before.

However I also wanted to visit the castle and see it at closer quarters, so that is what I did, first visiting the castle and then walking south along the coast to Seahouses. I actually continued on to Beadnell (so walking that part of the coast twice), but I’ve already written up that part.

I was doing this walk as a day trip from home. A few months earlier I had booked train tickets from London to Berwick-upon-Tweed and returning the same day, at a cost of £39 in total which wasn’t too bad a price. I always enjoy this journey, at least once north of York (south of there, the countryside is less interesting), where I enjoyed views of Durham Cathedral and castle

Durham Cathedral

Then the Angel of the North

The Angle of the North

The River Tyne and Tyne bridges and then the coastal village of Alnmouth.

Alnmouth

Alnmouth

Finally there were views to distant Lindisfarne and then crossing the Tweed itself as the train reached Berwick-upon-Tweed (the most northerly town in England).

At Berwick-upon-Tweed I had about 20 minutes to wait for a bus to Bamburgh. Rather than just hang about at the rail station I noticed that there was a path just to the right headed down steps into pleasant gardens and down to the river Tweed, a short distance beyond. Here I could admire the magnificent Royal Border Bridge that carries the railway line over the river Tweed which I had travelled across a few minutes before.

The Royal Border Bridge

Despite the name it has never actually been the border between England and Scotland.

I soon headed back up the daffodil-lined path through the park to the station where I had a short wait for the bus. This crossed the Tweed again on the more modern road bridge, which runs alongside the older road bridge (which is still in use, but carries only a single lane of traffic so is insufficient for modern traffic). The top deck of the bus also gave me another good view of the Royal Border Bridge.

As the bus continued south I could soon see view of Holy Island (or Lindisfarne) in the distance and then the bay at Budle Bay and then onwards to Bamburgh just a short distance further along the coast.

The village of Bamburgh is small and quite pretty but really the view is dominated by the huge castle that towers over the village and is built into the rocks.

Bamburgh village

I followed the pavement ahead through the village to approach the castle. However the entrance is actually around the other side, so I followed the path below the castle walls.

Bamburgh Castle

The castle has a long history and deteriorated during the 17th Century. Some restoration was carried out in the 18th and 19th Century and the castle was then bought by William Armstrong during the Victorian period who completed the restoration. The castle is still owned by the Armstrong family today.

The approach to the castle is through the impressive gate house.

Bamburgh Castle entrance

Looking down over the coast there were extensive sand dunes and the beach beyond. Indeed from the coast it looks as if the castle is actually built into the dunes but it’s actually on a rocky outcrop just behind them.

The coast from Bamburgh Castle

I was pleased to find that you can walk along the top of the wall for much of the length, just as soldiers would have done when the castle was used for defensive purposes. The views too are wonderful with the beautiful sandy beaches that surround the castle, and the Farne Islands out to sea.

Bamburgh

Bamburgh

The keep is fully intact and glazed and the interior of the castle is more of a stately home than functioning defensive castle now. The interior contained a few unexpected artefacts too, a Water Accumulator (used to increase the water pressure) and various engines from aeroplanes that had been recovered from crashes in the area. It was not quite what I had expected to find!

Of course the castle towers over the village and this means that from the top of the castle views you also have fine views over the village and the countryside beyond.

Bamburgh

Bamburgh village

The castle walls still had numerous cannons in place and also a large bell. The sign informed me that the latter had been removed from the top of the tower at the request of the Fourth Lady Armstrong who found it it’s “constant chiming” an irritation (as did many in the village, too).

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Having explored the walls and the castle keep it was time to head inside to the house built within the castle walls, which I think dates from various periods having looking at the differing colours of the stone walls! I suspect the chapel part is the oldest.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Inside was a lovely wooden model of the castle and a lovely old map of the county of Northumberland when of course Newcastle was the county town and the administrative area of Tyne and Wear didn’t exist, so Northumberland bordered County Durham. The real show piece of the interior however must the be the glorious hall with it’s beautiful wooden ceiling.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Portraits of the family were on the walls and the castle had a real lived in feel, as the family still live here so it was nice to see it was still in use rather than just preserved.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Having explored the state rooms I also had a quick look in the now empty stable block and then I’d finished my visit to the castle. The castle is such an impressive and famous sight on the coast I couldn’t pass it by without visiting and was very glad I had made the time to do so.

Having enjoyed my visit to the castle, it was now time to begin my (short) coastal walk. From the north facing wall of the castle i followed a path down through the dunes to the lovely sandy beach beyond.

Bamburgh

For some reason the official Northumberland Coast Path follows the road past the castle before disappearing a half mile or so inland across fields. Why it does this I don’t know (it’s not really a coastal path here). The map showed the mostly sandy beaches along this part of the coast have lots of sand at low tide meaning it is easy to walk along the beach and if that proves difficult the B1340 runs right along the back of the beaches. This is not a particularly busy road because it only really serves the villages along the coast, most of the through traffic will use the more direct A1 which runs close by, so that is what I chose to do.

I had no problems following the beach initially because there was plenty of firm sand to walk on. The weather too was improving, with some blue sky appearing and the sun soon breaking through.

Bamburgh

Heading down to the shore line I could really enjoy the dramatic setting of the castle from the beach. It must have been an imposing and frightening site for any would-be invaders!

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh

I soon rounded the corner into the next little bay, which offers fine views to the Farne Islands the nearest of which are about 1.5 miles off-shore.

Bamburgh

The Farne Islands

The beach, which had not exactly been crowded soon became largely empty as I headed away from the car parks at Bamburgh.

Bamburgh

Ahead the dunes became almost cliffs, I don’t think I’d seen dunes as high as this for a long time (perhaps not since Saunton Sands back in Devon).

Bamburgh

As you can see the sand soon ended here and I considered trying to climb into the dunes, but it would be hard work climbing up a steep slope made of lose sand! Instead I found the rocks at the end had largely formed flat rocky shelves which were quite easy to walk along with the tide being out. Soon there was sand again and I could return to the beach.

Bamburgh

Redbarns Links

The rocks ended soon too so it was back to a glorious sandy beach, backed by dunes, as I was approaching Seahouses ahead. I had to cross the Clashope Burn on the way but it was easy enough just to step over on the beach.

Redbarns Links

Redbarns Links

Redbarns Links

Redbarns Links

St Aidan's Dunes

Here once again the sand ended with rocks ahead. Here though there was no easy route over the rocks ahead, as the waves were almost reaching the cliffs so I headed up to the cliff tops where there was a path through the dunes, which soon became a tarmac path I could follow all the way into Seahouses and the harbour (which, confusingly, is called North Sunderland harbour).

St Aidan's Dunes

Approaching Seahouses

The low cliffs offered me a view back to Bamburgh Castle where I had started my short walk, poking up above the dunes.

St Aidan's Dunes, Northumberland

View north from Seahouses

Seahouses Harbour

Seahouses Harbour

I didn’t actually finish my walk at the harbour. I had plenty of time before the bus I needed to catch home. It came up from Newcastle so I could continue south along the coast until the bus was due and get on it at more or less any point. As it was a nice afternoon and this is such a lovely stretch of coast I actually continued as far as Beadnell. I’ve walked (and written up) that part before so I won’t do it again but it was indeed a lovely walk again which I’ll just illustrate with a few of the photos I took!

Seahouses

Seahouses

Annstead Links

Annstead Links

Annstead Links

Annstead Links

Beadnell

The beach at Beadnell

At Beadnell I took the bus back to Berwick-upon-Tweed enjoying the views from the top-deck as it made it’s way north along this highly picturesque part of the coast and to the lovely walled town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh

Berwick Bridge

Berwick-upon-Tweed

I opted to get off the bus in the town centre so I could grab a bit of food and then walk on to the station to catch my train home.

I enjoyed the views of Alnmouth from the window of the train in the low sunshine as we headed south again.

Alnmouth

Overall it had been a really lovely day. I had enjoyed my visit to Bamburgh Castle very much as well as the short and very relaxed walk along the lovely sandy beaches of this part of Northumberland back to Seahouses. This really is a spectacular part of the coast and I didn’t want to rush through it.

Bamburgh castle is open to the public daily from February 9th 2019 to November 3rd 2019 and weekends only for the rest of the year. At the time of writing, adult admission costs £11.25.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk, there are two bus routes connecting Bamburgh and Seahouses:-

Arriva bus route X18 : Berwick-upon-Tweed – Scremerston – Haggerston – Beal – Belford – Budle Bay – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – Embleton – Craster – Longhoughton – Boulmer – Alnwick – Alnmouth Station (only some buses) – Alnmouth – Warkworth – Amble – Broomhill – Red Row – Widdrington Station – Pegswood – Morpeth – Regent Centre (Tyne & Wear Metro) – Newcastle (Haymarket Bus Station). Between Bamburgh and Seahouses the bus runs roughly once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday and 3 times on a Sunday. It takes 10 minutes to travel between Bamburgh and Seahouses.

Travelsure service 418 : Belford – Warnemill – Bamburgh – North Sunderland – Seahouses – Beadnell – High Newton – Embleton – Dunstan – Craster – Howick – Longhoughton – Denwick – Alnwick. Some buses continue to Alnmouth Station, Alnmouth village and Alnwick. This bus runs once every 2 hours Monday – Saturday (no service on Sundays) and combined with the X18 above provides a roughly hourly service between Bamburgh and Seahouses Monday – Saturday.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk: Main Link.

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255. Longstone Island

September 2018

The last of the Farne Islands that it is possible to visit and requires a boat to get to that I hadn’t yet visited was Longstone Island. My last attempt to get there was thwarted by the boat being cancelled, as I mentioned last time.

As I mentioned in a separate post, I’d ended up with two free 1st class tickets to anywhere on the Virgin Trains East Coast Network (which had, by then become LNER), valid for a year. I hadn’t used one of them because, as I also mentioned in that post, I’ve greatly reduced the amount of travelling I do by train, because of how unreliable it has become and the amount of disruption I’ve suffered.

However it seemed a pity to waste this ticket, given it was free. I had a rare Saturday when I had nothing planned. The weather was forecast to be fine. I decided to see if it might be possible to get to Longstone Island from home as a day trip by train (and bus and boat). I had by then already completed walking all the rest of the east coast of England and the east coast of Scotland so there was no need to stay overnight and I didn’t want the expense of booking another hotel with the risk I might not get there on time to complete my planned visit to Longstone Island anyway in the event the trains were delayed again.

I checked the train and bus times to see what time it would be possible to depart to from home to arrive at Seahouses, and what time I’d need to leave Seahouses in order to make the last train home. Having worked this out, I needed to find out if the boats were running to Longstone Island that day and if so at what time, because unfortunately the company does not publish the times of the trips on their website (which I believe vary daily due to tides and weather conditions), so I had to telephone instead. They told me trips would run at 11:30am and at 1:30pm. Well it turned out that the stars had all aligned in my favour! The earliest I could get to Seahouses from home without staying overnight was 12:58pm – not very early – but then it is around 350 miles away! That was half an hour before the 1:30pm boat. Then I’d need to be leaving on the 17:01 bus in order to get to Berwick-upon-Tweed station in time for the last train to London.

The boats were running and at a time that suited the train and bus timetables, so my plan was feasible if everything ran to time. So I had a plan and hoped I’d have better luck this time.

So I bought a ticket as from my local station as far as London (as my free ticket was only valid from stations on the route formerly served by Virgin Trains East Coast, of which the closest station to home is London Kings Cross). I took the train from my local station to London Waterloo (filling in the destination and scratching off the appropriate dates on my free ticket on the way). I then took the tube to London Kings Cross in order to use my free ticket onwards from there.

I had no seat reservation but whilst 1st class was quite busy, it was not full. I was well plied with (free) food and drink for the journey and got a seat on the right hand side of the train, so I could enjoy the fine views of Durham, The Angel of the North, the Tyne and Newcastle and then the wonderful Northumberland coast at Alnmouth and around Berwick-upon-Tweed. The train rolled into Berwick precisely on time. I headed outside for the bus. At the time the bus was due (it started it’s journey from the rail station) it hadn’t arrived. It arrived 5 minutes after it was due to depart, which had made me a bit nervous (having come this far, I didn’t want the plan to fail at this point!). However it soon departed and I took it to Seahouses, enjoying the views of the coast on the way and arriving only a few minutes late, and in enough time to make the 1:30pm boat.

The main street in Seahouses was decorated with Northumberland flags, which you see all over in Northumberland, it was rather attractive.

Seahouses

At Seahouses I found the correct kiosk and bought a ticket for the 1:30pm boat, relived it was running at that time and tickets were still available.

Seahouses Harbour

Glad Tidings V, Seahouses

I found a nice bench overlooking the harbour to eat lunch before heading down to the boat (not that I wanted much to eat since I’d been stuffing my face on the train). There were about 30 people this time and we had a pleasant trip out, passing Inner Farne, Staple Island and the numerous uninhabited islands and enjoying the views of Bamburgh once again.

Bamburgh Castle

Inner Farne

The wildlife was wonderful, with seals a plenty and numerous shags and cormorants.

Inner Farne

The Farne Islands

The Farne Islands

Sadly I was too late in the year for puffins, but otherwise it was wonderful. The boat captain took us right up to some rock stacks with the birds on top, and we stopped to watch the seals.

Shag on the Farne Islands

Shag on the Farne Islands

Staple Island

The Farne Islands really are wonderful and this is why I was keen to visit as many of them as possible.

We then headed out to Longstone Island with it’s lighthouse.

Longstone Lighthouse

The lighthouse is still in use. It was opened in 1826 and the lighthouse is perhaps best know for the story of Grace Darling.

Longstone Lighthouse

Grace Darling was the daughter of the then lighthouse keeper in 1838. They lived an isolated life out here, largely self sufficient only returning to the main land about once a month. During a storm Grace noticed, just as it began to get light, that a ship was wrecked on rocks nearby. This was the Forfarshire that had set out from Hull, heading for Dundee. Once it was light enough they looked at the wreck with telescopes and they could see there were survivors walking about on the rocks.

Grace and her father decided they had to try and do something. It was too bad for the lifeboat to get out from the mainland and they only had a small boat, with the two of them. They determined that if they could make it to the rocks, they would need the help of the survivors to get back. In the end they did make it and managed to rescue 9 survivors from the wreck, who they took to the lighthouse. Eventually the lifeboat did make it out from Seahouses, but by then they only found bodies rather than survivors. Without the help of Grace Darling it seems highly likely that there would have been no survivors.

However the lifeboat crew determined it was also then too dangerous for them to return to Seahouses (or North Sunderland, as it was then called) and so also had to row to the lighthouse and take refuge there, along with the Darlings and the survivors. They all remained at the lighthouse for a couple of days until the storm passed. Grace and her father became local heroes, and were well rewarded for their bravery. Sadly Grace died of tuberculosis just 4 years later aged just 26.

Today visitors to Longstone Island can visit this lighthouse and see the rooms in which Grace and her father then lived. In fact the lighthouse was still manned until 1990. Today it is automated and controlled remotely from Harwich with crew only visiting the lighthouse to carry out maintenance.

So back to my trip, the lighthouse soon loomed on the horizon getting ever closer. It was almost high tide and I was surprised at how small the island was. The lighthouse and it’s buildings around it occupied almost 50% of the island!

Admission to the lighthouse was not included in the boat trip, and cost an extra £2. The captain of the boat seems to have an agreement with Trinity House since he then came and unlocked the lighthouse and collected our fees, for those that wanted to go inside (I believe that whilst several companies offer boat trips to Longstone Island, the company I used, Golden Gate, are the only one with permission to bring people inside the lighthouse too).

Golden Gate at Longstone Island

Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

Inside the ground floor and 1st floor was a museum whilst the 2nd floor was Graces’ bedroom.

Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

It was very spartan now, with the only furniture a wooden chest of drawers – not even a bed.

Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

The chest of drawers was of rounded to fit against the round walls of the lighthouse.

Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

Facilities here were clearly basic and it must have been a lonely existence, especially during the winter months.

Sadly the top of the lighthouse, where the light is, is not open to the public, so we were not able to go right to the top which was a shame, as I was hoping to enjoy the views, but there was still a good view from the 2nd floor.

View from Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

View from Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

Still it was good to have got in the lighthouse. We had 30 minutes on the island and with 10 minutes left I walked around the coast of the island. This took about 5 minutes!

Longstone Island at high tide

Longstone Island at high tide

Longstone Island at high tide

The rest of the time I watched the curious seals swimming around the coast of the island – it is a real wildlife haven.

Seal at Longstone Island

Longstone Island at high tide

Longstone Island at high tide

Longstone Island at high tide

Longstone Island at high tide

We then returned back to Seahouses, in fact arriving about 15 minutes late, as we had got a slightly longer trip than expected, which was nice (and didn’t cause me a problem because I had enough plenty of time before I needed to catch the bus home).

Longstone Island at high tide

Staple Island

Inner Farne

Inner Farne

My plan for the rest of the day was to re-walk the coast to beautiful Bamburgh which I hoped I’d have enough time to do before the bus back, which I decided to catch from Bamburgh instead. I absolutely love this part of the coast. Loving the coast as I do, I also enjoy a good castle. Bamburgh has both combined, so it’s heaven for me! (I’ll be writing this part up in more detail next time, along with photos).

I followed the path along the cliffs by the road, then dropped down to the sandy beach and was able to follow this all the way until I was behind the castle.

I didn’t have time to visit the castle too, but at least I could see the outside again, and I had visited the castle before.

Now I headed for the bus stop, arriving in plenty of time, where I waited. I was getting a little stressed because 10 minutes after the bus was due, there was still no sign of it. It eventually arrived nearly 15 minutes late – by then I was beginning to doubt it would arrive at all! Thankfully it made up a bit of time, arriving back at Berwick-upon-Tweed station about 10 minutes late. However my train home was also 10 minutes late, so I still had 20 minutes to wait. Berwick-upon-Tweed however has a 1st class lounge and since I had a free 1st class ticket I went in there (I was the only person in there – and no one was there even to check I had a 1st class ticket, or indeed any ticket at all). Here I could help myself to copious quantities of biscuits, tea, crisps and muffins, which is exactly what I did, until my train arrived.

It was a good journey back and we arrived only 2 minutes late into London. By the time I’d transferred over to Waterloo and taken the train back to my local station, I got home around 23:20. It had been a long day, but a very enjoyable one. My ambitious plan to do a day trip from Surrey to the outer most of the Farne Islands had been a success!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Golden Gate boats run boat trips out to Longstone Island and also allowing admission to the lighthouse. You will need to contact them or go to the kiosk at Seahouses harbour to find if the trip is running and at what times. The trips take around 2 hours.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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How I ended up with two free first class tickets from Virgin Trains East Coast

Warning: This is a rant about trains and nothing to do with my coastal walk (other than I used the resulting free ticket for to get to one of my coastal walks). But rather then fill up my latest post on my coastal walk about it, I have created a separate post.

As well as walking the coast I also like to do some other walks too. I’ve done a few sections of the Pennine Way and in September 2017 I was heading back to Yorkshire to do another section.

Due to engineering works there were only around 50% of the usual number of trains into London Waterloo and those trains that were running were taking a longer and slower route too. As I resulted I had opted to drive to Morden Underground station instead and take the tube from there into London, rather than the train. I got to my destination without problem.

On my return journey I took a local train from Littleborough to Leeds and then was booked on another train from Leeds to London. The first problem was that on boarding the train at Leeds it was announced that “due to staff shortage” there was no catering service at all and the buffet car would be closed. This was a pain for me as I’d had a quick snack at Leeds station but hoped to buy more food and drink from the buffet on my way back. That wasn’t going to happen now.

Anyway without boring you all with the details the overhead electric wires had been pulled down further south near Peterborough blocking all the lines and causing our train to grind to a halt just north of Peterborough. We were due to transfer to a replacement diesel train to take another route to London. This eventually arrived late and then took the original route, rather than diverting as we had been told it would, getting caught in the disruption again, so we had to sit and wait for the wires to be repaired. The train eventually arrived at London Kings Cross at 3:30am, around 5 1/2 hours late. I’d had nothing to eat or drink since leaving Leeds, more than 7 hours earlier, since the buffet on both trains was closed.

Thankfully for me I had driven to Morden tube station and the tube runs all through the night on a Saturday night so I was at least able to get at tube train to my car and drive home, but I’d been up most of the night by the time I got home, meaning I had to cancel my plans for the following day.

I did get a refund of my ticket but my complaint about poor care, lack of food and drink fell on deaf ears. In fact the Virgin Trains East Coast (as the company was then) passengers charter says they will provide alternative transport or overnight accommodation if they were unable to get you to your destination at a “reasonable” time. I don’t consider 3:30am to be a reasonable time, but no accommodation was offered. I also complained that there was no food or drink available at all, given there was nothing available on the train and by the time we could off the train (at Grantham – it’s always Grantham where I get stuck!) all the station catering facilities were closed (as it was after 11pm by this time).

Unbelievably, to this latter point I received the following comment (eventually).

In times of disruption we may remove all catering facilities and this is purely down to health and safety. If we operate a crowded service due to disruption staff will not be able to navigate through the carriages safely with hot food and hot drinks.

I simply could not believe it! Passengers such as myself had been left without food or drink, or the ability to buy any, for over 7 hours and now Virgin Trains East Coast were now claiming that to have provided any food or drink during this time would be a “health and safety” issue! Surely the lack of drink for 7 hours really is a health issue? This is why I’m afraid when I hear the dreaded phrase “health and safety” I roll my eyes because it’s usually an excuse for a killjoy to stop something or to try to justify do nothing, as here. I even spoke to a manager who insisted the same.

Eventually I took my complaint to complaint to “Passenger Focus”. They negotiated for me to receive 2 free return 1st class tickets to anywhere on the Virgin Trains East Coast route as compensation in addition to the refund I had already received (and although I did get these tickets I never got a proper response to my complaint to Virgin Trains East Coast).

Virgin Trains East Coast of course later went complaining to the Government that they weren’t making as much money as they hoped and the Government gave into them (much to my disgust). Indeed to quote the BBC article “Mr Grayling said the franchise had failed because Stagecoach and Virgin Trains had “got their bid wrong”, overestimating the profitability of the line.”  and “Mr Grayling said the companies had overestimated growth in passenger numbers and revenues and were having to reach into their own pockets to fulfil the terms of the franchise.”.  So there we go. Private company not making money and our (then) transport secretary “Failing Grayling” decided that simply would not do and so allowing them to exit the franchiser early (which was later nationalised and renamed LNER, which of course means the trains must be painted in new logos, at further expense). Isn’t rail privatisation a complete mess? Because the view of the Government seems to be that if a private company makes money that’s great, but if it’s losing money, we must nationalise it, so as to avoid a private company losing money.

This was, unfortunately, just one of a number of problems I had experienced with the rail network in 2017 and 2018. Earlier the same year I’d had another problem with Virgin Trains where the journey I had booked was impossible because of a strike on Northern Rail. I ended up forking out for another nights hotel stay on the Friday night and travelling up a day earlier to avoid having to cancel my plans as a result of my strike, none of which I got back, and had a nightmare journey getting there on the Friday evening (another saga I shall bore you with in future).

Then during summer 2018 my local train company (which had become South Western Railway, after the previous franchise, South West Trains ended), there was a strike almost every single Saturday (the day when I usually travel), throwing other plans into further dis-array. Punctuality and reliability also plummeted, causing the company to issue a report of excuses. Then the window in which you can book Advance tickets dropped to less than 3 months (meaning cheap deals were not easily available) because Network Rail was unable to confirm the timetables even 3 months in advance. In many cases, the timetable for trains at weekend was only confirmed the day before, making it impossible to plan in advance (I mean if you try to book a hotel in most places the night before, you’ll have a job finding a room, and certainly at a good price). In short the whole network was in chaos. It was not possible to plan ahead, get cheap tickets in advance or rely on the service actually running. There were strikes on numerous different train companies (at least South Western Railway, Northern and Southern, probably others too) and timetables that didn’t work. Yet of course, the prices went up above inflation, as they have done every year for many years.

As a result I’ve greatly reduced the amount I travel by train, because I became so fed up of the number of problems I had and delays on almost every journey that I did make, and poor customer service in dealing with it. The disruption also left me out of pocket, having to book hotels etc in order to try to salvage my carefully made plans when disrupted by strikes, which also took a lot of my time. Instead of travelling by train so much, I’ve been travelling more by car and, when going to Scotland, by plane now rather than train. It might not be good for the environment, but it is faster, usually cheaper and a lot better for my sanity. As I also found earlier this year, the customer service at airlines is seems far better when something does go wrong even if outside the airlines control (as it was in my case) – they do  provide hotels – unlike Virgin Trains!

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254. Staple Island and the Outer Farne Islands

July 2015

Well there wasn’t really much walking involved on this “walk” it was more a nice boat trip and a wildlife watch!

Today I had planned to visit the remaining 2 of the Farne Islands that I had not visited and that are accessible to the public and possible to visit, Staple Island and Longstone Island. I was staying at the Newcastle Airport Premier Inn as this was a “gap filling” trip for a few bits of the Northumberland coast I’d not yet walked (both north and south).

I had hired a car for this trip, as not all that I had planned was possible by public transport in the time I had available, including this day, so I drove up the A1 to Seahouses, which took around 1 hour. This is the only place in Northumberland so far that I have had to pay to park, which was a shame but I did well because the car park I used near the ferries was small and soon filled up and was full later in the day.

I had a bit of a wander around Seahouses, but it is not the prettiest of villages in Northumberland so I didn’t linger long. I then headed down to the harbour.

Seahouses harbour

Staple Island is only accessible from 1st May to the end of July (you can check the opening times of Inner Farne and Staple Island on this part of the National Trust website). Last time I was in the area was outside these dates, so the only island I could visit was Inner Farne. But I enjoyed it and wanted to come back, so today I had an ambitious plan to visit two of the other islands, Staple Island and Longstone Island. I went to the various boat kiosk and booked a trip for Staple Island in the morning and to Longstone Island in the afternoon and had around half an hour to wander about and get lunch before the first boat departed, to Staple Island.

The boat was one of the Glad Tidings boats which I think is run by Billy Shiel. In fact although there are many kiosks on the harbour at Seahouses but I suspect many sell tickets for the same boats!

Anyway at the appointed time it turned out we were a group of around 25 which was a comfortable size for the boat we had, meaning there was room to move around to get the best of views. The captain of the boat was a bit of a fuss pot making a right fuss over the correct way to get off the boat we would have to follow when we docked. However he seemed to relax once we were out to sea and initially took us to Inner Farne, which I had seen before, where we got fine views along the coast to Bamburgh Castle.

Bamburgh Castle

Staple Island

There was far more bird life present than I had seen here on my previous trip.

Inner Farne

Staple Island

However the captain said that he would not stop here for long and instead we would have a tour around the other islands on the way back which suited me, so we picked up speed and header over Staple Sound (which separates the inner and outer group of islands) to the outer islands, including Staple Island.

Cormorants, Staple Island

Staple Island

Cormorants, Staple Island

We soon docked at the steps leading up onto the island. The boat was bobbing about a bit making getting off difficult not helped by the captain shouting at anyone that didn’t stand on the box he put up but stepped directly off the boat.

Once on the island there was a bit of boardwalk to pay the National Trust warden (I am not a member). I had not expected what I saw, and it was a delight. There were puffins everywhere!

Puffins on Staple Island

Puffins on Staple Island

I seem to have had little luck trying to see these birds so far. On trips, to Lundy, Inner Farne and assorted other islands I have got just one distant glimpse of a puffin. So I was so pleased to see these wonderful birds in abundance on the island.

Puffins on Staple Island

Puffins on Staple Island

They live for most of the year at sea, never coming onto land, but head onto land (often islands) for a few months of the year from spring to mid summer in order to breed and raise their young and then return to sea again, so this time of year is the best to visit.

Puffins on Staple Island

The island is small, only about 200 metres tall and 300 hundred meters wide. The only structure on the island is a National Trust shed (which I noticed the roofing felt had already blown off – I suspect the shed is replaced each year) and the remains of some sort of tower, which is roofless. The wardens live on the neighbouring island of Brownsman, which has a house and a few other buildings, although they can only reach the island at low tide, when it is linked to Staple Island, presumably at high tide they must take a boat, or wait until low tide. You can see the house here and the rather awkward “walk” the wardens have to get to it!

Staple Island

Staple Island

Staple Island

Once paid we were free to wander around about half of the island, the rest being roped off.

Staple Island

Staple Island and Longstone Island

Staple Island

It really was a photographers heaven, for everywhere you looked was assorted bird life, either perched on the cliffs or in the case of the puffins coming in and out of their burrows in the grassy cliffs, about the only area with any vegetation on the island (and it looked as if the puffins, or more specifically, their pooh) had killed of much of that!

Puffins on Staple Island

Puffin on Staple Island

Puffins on Staple Island

Puffins were not the only birds present, there were also Cormorants and Guillemots.

Staple Island

Cormorants, Staple Island

Guillemots, Staple Island

Guillemots, Staple Island

Many of the birds were feeding young, too.

Cormorants, Staple Island

Fulmar, Staple Island

Cormorants, Staple Island

The puffins were clearly not afraid of humans and did not seem bothered by our presence, meaning you could get quite close to them to take photographs.

Puffins on Staple Island

Puffins on Staple Island

It was a real joy to watch them. It was not just the puffins either, there were also a large number of guillemots, which look a bit like penguins and seemed to particularly favour a perch on a rock at the east of the island. Shags, Terns and Cormorants were also much in evidence and indeed the whole island was a real wildlife haven. I had certainly not expected to see so much at this time of the year.

Puffins on Staple Island

The views from the island were also good, but rather secondary. There was the wonderful Bamburgh Castle of course but I could also see down to Dunstanburgh and the low hills behind the coast, and the miles of sandy beaches.

Dunstanburgh from Staple Island

Inner Farne

There were also good views of Longstone Island, just to the north.

Longstone Lighthouse, Farne Islands

All in all it was a wonderful trip, which I highly recommend.

Puffins on Staple Island, Farne Islands

Puffins on Staple Island, Farne Islands

Sadly the hour was soon up and just as the rain started, we were back on the boat. Thankfully it was just a short shower and the captain took us further north, quite close to the other islands that are north of Staple Island where there were huge numbers of Atlantic Grey seals on the rocks and islands.

Grey seals at the Farne Islands

Grey seals at the Farne Islands

They too were clearly quite used to human contact what with the number of boats that pass them and so we could get close and get a good view. It was wonderful to see them all.

Grey seals at the Farne Islands

Grey seals at the Farne Islands

Grey seals on the Farne Islands

Sadly it was all to soon time to head back to Seahouses, as we headed back there were again fine views of Bamburgh and Inner Farne.

Bamburgh castle

Inner Farne

On reaching Seahouses, I had nearly 2 hours before my next trip, enough time for lunch and a wander up the coast towards Bamburgh.

I returned in time for the trip to Longstone Lighthouse and was directed to wait by the harbour. When the boat arrived there were only 5 people waiting, myself included. We were then told it was not possible to go to the Lighthouse because it was being converted to solar power at the time and the boat was needed to transport water over to the island instead, so the trip was cancelled. I suspect this last point was an excuse and they had simply cancelled the trip because there weren’t enough people having booked for that day for them to run the trip and make a profit (as the boat seemed to moor up in the harbour, not head out to the lighthouse with water, as we had been told it would be). So that was rather frustrating. We were offered a choice of a trip to Inner Farne and around the islands instead or a refund. Since the offered boat trip was very similar to the trip to Staple Island that morning and I had already been to Inner Farne I opted for a refund.

That was rather frustrating because I had made an early start in order to be able to do both trips in one day and now my plans had been spoiled by the cancellation of the second trip. A visit to Longstone Island would therefore have to wait for another day.

Still I highly recommend a trip to Staple Island (especially if you like Puffins) and I was very glad to have done it. In fact I think the boats generally run when the puffins are there, so you hopefully have a good chance of seeing them.

The Farne Islands are generally accessible to the public between early April and late October (closed in winter), but Staple Island is only accessible from 1st May to the end of July. It is possible to land on Inner Farne, Staple Island and Longstone Island. The islands are owned by the National Trust, who have a website about the islands.

There are various companies that operate boats to the Farne Islands and land on Staple Island, the details of which are below. I used Billy Shiel, but click each company for details of the trips and prices.

  • Billy Shiel. Operate trips to Inner Farne and Staple Island from Seahouses.
  • Golden Gate. Operate trips to Inner Farne, Staple Island and Longstone Island from Seahouses.
  • Serenity. Operate trips to Inner Farne, Staple Island and Longstone Island from Seahouses.
  • St Cuthbert. Operate trips to Inner Farne, Staple Island and Longstone Island from Seahouses.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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