Introducing Farne Islands
One of England's most incredible seabird conventions is found on a rocky archipelago of islands about 3 miles offshore from the undistinguished fishing village of Seahouses.
The best time to visit the Farne Islands is during breeding season (roughly May to July), when you can see feeding chicks of 20 species of seabird, including puffin, kittiwake, Arctic tern, eider duck, cormorant and gull. This is a quite extraordinary experience, for there are few places in the world where you can get so close to nesting seabirds. The islands are also home to a colony of grey seals.
To protect the islands from environmental damage, only two are accessible to the public: Inner Farne and Staple Island. Inner Farne is the more interesting, as it is also the site of a tiny chapel (1370; restored 1848) to the memory of St Cuthbert, who lived here for a spell and died here in 687.
There are various tours, from 1½-hour cruises to all-day specials, and they get going from 10am April to October. Crossings can be rough, and may be impossible in bad weather. Some of the boats have no proper cabin, so make sure you've got warm, waterproof clothing if there's a chance of rain. Also recommended is an old hat – those birds sure can ruin a head of hair!
Of the four operators that sail from the dock in Seahouses, Billy Shiel is probably the best known – he even got an MBE for his troubles.