Farne islands, Northumberland

Farne islands
The Farne Islands, also known as 'The Farnes', are a group of small islands about two miles off England's Northumberland coast. The exact number of the islands within the group changes according to tidal conditions, as some of the 'islands' are covered at high tide.

The islands are made up of two groups, known as the Inner Group and the Outer Group. The main islands making up the Inner Group are Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the East and West Wideopens which become joined at low tide. They are accompanied by the somewhat separated island known as the Megstone. The main islands in the Outer Group are Staple Island, the Brownsman, North and South Wamses, Big Harcar and the Longstone. The two groups are separated by a strip of water known as the Staple Sound. The highest point of the group is on Inner Farne and is 62 feet above mean sea level. Inner Farne is the closest of the main islands to the mainland.

The islands are owned by the National Trust and the only inhabitants are the National Trust bird wardens who live on Inner Farne, in the old pele tower and also in the lighthouse cottage on Brownsman. The lighthouses on the islands are now all automatic so they no longer need resident lighthouse keepers. The Trust recently installed solar panels on Inner Farne to provide renewable energy.

The red and white striped Longstone Lighthouse was once home to Grace Darling , who became famous when she and her father launched their famous sea rescue from there during a gale in 1838. Grace was only 22 when the pair rowed out to the aid of the Forfarshire, a ship that had run onto the Harker Rock. They rescued nine people in thick fog, with a gale blowing all the while. The story attracted great attention in Britain at the time and subsequently became part of British folklore.

The islands are a haven for wildlife, especially sea-birds and seals. There are literally thousands of nesting seabirds on the islands, including puffin, shag and four types of tern. Sea trips are available but not all the islands are accessible to the public, including Brownsman, which is off limits. Grey seals are another feature of the local wildlife, the beaches of Brownsman are a popular pupping ground for the grey seals each autumn. Boat trips are organised to Inner Farne allowing visitors to experience these very special islands. During the summer the island is literally alive with nesting seabirds. Those wishing to enjoy the islands without so much noise and fuss from the seabirds should choose spring or autumn as their time to go there!

St Cuthbert's Chapel, the Victorian lighthouse and the medieval pele tower are very popular attractions on Inner Farne. The island has a boardwalk and a visitor centre to make it more accessible to the general public.

More British Natural features?

Other Northumberland Naturals

River Tyne
Cheviot Hills
River Tweed
The River Derwent
River Aln
Allen Banks

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