Sunday, 25 June 2017

Whitsun Family Holiday in Northumberland with a bit of Birdng thrown in

We spent half term week in Northumberland, staying at these holiday cottages at Fenhan Le Moor just off the A1 and close to Lindisfarne. This was a family holiday and the location was great for touring. The week passed by with a mix of Castle visits, beach time and light birding.
Swallow taken through the bathroom window at our holiday cottage
Favourite places

Low Newton Beach
Cheap car park (£4 all day), a pub by the beach, rock pools and a great curving sweep of sand leading the eye to the ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle. Even on a warm and sunny late May Bank holiday Monday there were less than 100 on the beach, the wife said it reminded her of the North Norfolk of her childhood before it was  "discovered"

Low Newton Beach, rather nice

"Live Interpretation" by a rather good and witty couple of Court Jesters at Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle
We ended up here on a drizzly day not knowing what to expect and only paid to go into the castle. Expensive but you can use your ticket as often as you wish for a year. The interior of the castle was full of overseas tour groups, do not touch and no photography signs and rammed with posh tat. Outside there was great live entertainment and interpretation this we all loved.

Dunstanburgh Castle
great ruins and saw half a dozen Bottlenose Dolphins off shore from here. Small visitor centre here with a coffee machine and loo's. Also worth knowing that although operated by English Heritage it's owned by the National Trust and you can get in free with your NT membership card.

Heavily cropped shot of a couple of members of a pod of half a dozen Bottlenose Dolphins that swan past Dunstanburgh Castle as we had our picnic lunch

Dunstanburgh Castle

The Farne Islands
We went with Billy Shiels on their full day excursion which means you get two hours on both Staple Island in the morning and Inner Farne in the afternoon. This cost £110 in boat fees, we didn't have to pay National Trust landing fees as we are members. Staple Island has no facilities and is quite rocky, there really isn't anywhere out of the way for a pee so watch your early morning coffee intake. Great seabird island though. Inner Farne does have a loo and a basic visitor centre it also has thousands of Arctic Terns and more Puffins. Managed to find a couple of Roseate Terns in the roost here.

These Islands really are an amazing wildlife experience, amongst the finest in the UK, you are able to walk around a seabird colony and get within inches of nesting wild birds. At the right time of year you will get great views of Puffins and a wide range of other seabirds as well as Grey Seals hauled out of the rocks and if you are lucky Dolphins.

The walk through the Arctic Tern colony is a wonderfully visceral experience as the Terns fly over your heads pecking you on the scalp [wear a hat] and crapping over your hat and back leaving you with a souvenir of white wash on your clothes, wonderful.

If you are a birder and can't get out to Coquet Island to look for Roseate Terns and are unhappy with distant scope views from the beach there, you stand a reasonable chance of finding a Roseate or two amongst the several hundred resting Arctic Terns on the beach near the jetty.

Puffin and tour boat

Arctic Tern, up close and personal
Roseate Tern [top left] Inner Farne

We also visited Bamburgh Castle which is a offers great views out to the Farnes and looks lovely in its position on the coast. Did though find the visitor experience a little disjointed and didn't appreciate a steward shouting at the kids to get off the grass.

View north from Bamburgh Castle