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How to See Puffins on the Farne Islands

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by Alan Garnsworthy (subscribe)
Freelance writer living in the south of England
Published May 31st 2021
British wildlife at its best
If you want to see puffins in Britain, the Farne Islands must be one of your best choices. Book a trip in May or June and you'll see thousands of these cute and colourful seabirds.

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Thousands of puffins live on the islands

A trip to the Farne Islands begins at the little fishing village of Seahouses. We stayed a few miles away in Bamburgh, although you could easily do this as a day trip from Newcastle.

There are several different boat operators offering to take you out to the islands. Your choices include Billy Shiel and Serenity, who both offer a range of different tours. You can choose to visit Inner Farne or Staple Island, or just take a boat trip without landing on either.

Unless you're a National Trust member, you'll also need to buy a landing pass. This can be done when you arrive in Seahouses, but allow some time for queuing. Current landing fees in peak season are 6 for a child or 12 for an adult.

(A quick warning about coronavirus. Both islands have both been closed during the pandemic, although you can still sail around them without landing. Inner Farne should reopen in summer 2021, whilst Staple Island won't reopen until 2022. Be sure to check the latest information before you go).

So, which island should you visit? Here's more information on each:

Inner Farne

This is the island we visited. It's the largest island and has toilets and a little shop.

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Landing on Inner Farne

When you set foot on Inner Farne, you'll probably be welcomed by arctic terns, which are notorious for dive-bombing tourists. Visitors are advised to wear a hat, as the terns will try to peck the top of your head. Your best bet is just to walk past them as quickly as possible, as they leave you alone once you get beyond their nesting area.

The island is crisscrossed by wooden walkways, taking you right through the puffin colony.

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Puffins live underground like rabbits

Everywhere you look, there are puffins popping in and out of their underground nests, or coming back from fishing with a beak full of eels.

Farne Island puffins, bird spotting in Northumberland, things to do in Northumberland, day trip from Newcastle, family days out, natural wonder, puffin colony, nature
Puffin with sand eels

There's more to the island than just puffins. From the top of the cliffs, you can look down on some of the many other birds that live here.

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Birds absolutely everywhere

Staple Island

Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit this one, as the sea was too rough.

Our guide told us that we'd see all the same birds on Inner Farne, so we didn't feel too disappointed.

I did manage to learn a few useful things about Staple Island. Apparently, it's quieter than Inner Farne, so you'll have a better chance of avoiding crowds. Whilst I didn't feel especially crowded on Inner Farne, there were certainly a lot of other tourists around.

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Photo taken on Inner Farne, but there are plenty of puffins on Staple Island

According to the National Trust, on Staple Island, you're also much less likely to be attacked by terns, which would be nice.

Be aware, there are no toilets or any other buildings on Staple Island.

Puffin, seabirds, Northumberland wildlife, British wildlife, seasonal spectacle
'I nearly caught a fish this big'
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Why? British wildlife at its best
When: May and June are the best months to see puffins, but tours run throughout the year
Phone: National Trust 01289 389244
Where: Northumberland, north-east England
Cost: From 20 - prices vary as there are many different tours
Your Comment
Looks beautiful Alan. Some handy info with gorgeous photos.
by Irenke Forsyth (score: 3|2437) 21 days ago
Fabulous locations and great photos. Definitely a 'wish I was there' location.
by nfoll (score: 1|46) 21 days ago
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