Where can one join a seal and seabird watching cruise in Northumberland?

Of the numerous charming spots in the UK, Northumberland lays claim to some of the most enchanting. With its rugged coastline, historic sites and the enchanting Farne Islands, it captivates the hearts of visitors. Among the standout experiences is the opportunity to join a seal and seabird watching cruise. The Farne Islands, globally recognised as a significant wildlife haven, provide an unmissable chance to observe seals, puffins, and other birds in their natural environment. But where exactly can you hop aboard one of these thrilling cruises?

The Heart of Seahouses

Seahouses, a small village on the Northumberland coast, is the primary starting point for wildlife cruises to the Farne Islands. It’s a charming place with a distinct maritime ambiance. Local businesses, from pubs to guesthouses and chippies, cater to the influx of tourists with inviting hospitality.

Seahouses has a well-equipped harbour, which is the main departure point for cruises. Several local companies operate trips, including boat tours and landing experiences. From here, you can take a trip to see the grey seals basking on the islands or the diverse bird life that inhabits them. The familiar sight of puffins often steals the show, but a bevy of birds, including terns, shags, and guillemots, also call these islands home.

Farne Islands: A Wildlife Spectacle

The Farne Islands, a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland, are the main hub of activity for wildlife cruises. Operated by the National Trust, the islands offer an immersive wildlife experience. It's here you'll find numerous species of birds and seals in abundance.

The islands are split into two groups, the Inner and Outer Farnes. The Inner Farne, Staple Island, and the Longstone are the main islands where boats can land, courtesy of the National Trust. You'll find a plethora of birdlife residing here, including the lovable puffins.

On the other hand, the Outer Farnes, particularly Brownsman Island, are home to a large colony of grey seals. Boat trips often circle these islands, providing unforgettable close-up encounters with the seals.

Puffin and Seabird Spotting Trips

The Farne Islands are a hotspot for birdwatchers, and puffins are the main attraction. These much-loved birds, with their colourful beaks and comical walk, are a joy to watch. However, it's not only puffins that you'll encounter on your trip.

Staple Island, part of the Outer Group of the Farne Islands, is a bird paradise. It's home to a large colony of guillemots and kittiwakes. The shags, with their distinctive crest and green eyes, are also easy to spot. With so many birds nesting and feeding on the island, you'll have plenty to keep your binoculars busy.

Boat trips from Seahouses often include a landing trip to Staple Island, where you can observe these birds at close range. However, remember to respect the wildlife and keep a safe distance.

Seal Watching Trips

While the seabirds get a lot of the attention on wildlife cruises, the seals are equally enthralling. The Farne Islands are home to one of the largest colonies of grey seals in the world. Boat trips from Seahouses take you up close and personal with these amazing creatures.

The seals can be seen all year round, but the best time to visit is during the breeding season, from late September to November. During this time, the beaches of the Outer Farne Islands are teeming with seals and their pups.

Seal watching trips usually don't include a landing. Instead, the boats circle the islands, giving you a fantastic view of the seals in their natural habitat. With a bit of luck, you might even see seals swimming and playing in the water.

Joining a Wildlife Cruise

Joining a wildlife cruise in Northumberland is straightforward. Numerous companies in Seahouses offer trips to the Farne Islands, and you can usually book directly at the harbour. Alternatively, you can reserve a place online in advance, which is recommended during the busy summer months.

Boat trips typically last between 2.5 to 3 hours, and landing trips can take a bit longer. Remember to dress warmly, even in summer, as it can be chilly out at sea. And don't forget your camera or binoculars for the best views of the wildlife.

Visiting the Farne Islands is a truly remarkable experience. Whether you're a seasoned birdwatcher or just love the idea of seeing seals up close, a trip from Seahouses will be a highlight of your time in Northumberland. So, pack your sense of adventure and set sail for a wildlife experience you won't forget.

Billy Shiel's Boat Trips and Other Operators

A trip to Northumberland wouldn't be complete without embarking on a wildlife cruise, and Billy Shiel's Boat Trips is one of the most popular providers. This family-run business has been operating since 1918, and their extensive knowledge and passion for the Farne Islands' wildlife are evident in their informative and engaging boat tours.

Billy Shiel's Boat Trips offers several tour options, including bird watching trips, seal viewing tours, and landing trips to the islands. Each trip is helmed by skilled local skippers who are intimately familiar with the Farne Islands and their residents. Whilst on the boat trip, you'll learn about the history of the area, including tales of the famed Grace Darling, and the importance of the National Trust's conservation work on the islands.

In addition to Billy Shiel's, there are other reputable operators based out of Seahouses Harbour. Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours and Golden Gate Boat Trips, for instance, also offer a variety of cruises with different focuses, be it the bird sanctuary on Staple Island or the grey seals during their breeding season. Regardless of which operator and trip you choose, you're sure to get an incredible wildlife experience on the Northumberland coast.

Landing Trips to the Farne Islands

One of the highlights of a Farne Islands wildlife cruise is the opportunity to set foot on the islands themselves. These landing trips allow you to experience the wildlife up-close and gain a deeper understanding of the islands' ecology.

The National Trust manages the Farne Islands, and landing is allowed on the Inner Farne, Staple Island, and Longstone. However, keep in mind that each island has a different opening season, and Staple Island is closed during the breeding season to protect the nesting birds.

Once on the islands, you're free to explore the well-marked trails and watch the puffins, guillemots, shags, and other seabirds from a safe and respectful distance. Remember, the Farne Islands are a vital bird sanctuary, and it's crucial not to disturb the birds or their habitats.

It's worth noting that there's an additional landing fee for non-National Trust members, which is used to support the conservation work on the islands.


Northumberland is undoubtedly a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts. A boat trip to the Farne Islands from Seahouses offers a unique chance to witness grey seals and a variety of seabirds in their natural habitat. From the charming village of Seahouses Northumberland, you can embark on this unforgettable adventure with several experienced boat tour operators.

Whether you're opting for a bird watching excursion, a seal spotting trip, or a landing trip to the islands, your visit to the Farne Islands will be a highlight of your Northumberland visit. So, don't wait any longer, head to Seahouses Harbour, and immerse yourself in the incredible wildlife spectacle that awaits you on the Farne Islands.

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