I can’t believe that I had never been to the Northumberland coast before now! When I started out in work (23 years ago) I was a long distance delivery driver and I didn’t think that there was a county in England that I hadn’t driven around – I was wrong! I have wanted to visit the Farne Islands for a few years now, mainly to have a go at photographing the puffins and to see the seals. We recently made our first family trip, placed our dog into Kennels and set off, we felt a bit guilty as we went with more of our family and they took their dog, Molly – we are bad owner!
The best part of the week was discovering how great the beaches in Northumberland are. We spent time on two of them, Bamburgh and Embleton. For Bamburgh we parked up the hill at the castle, bargain at £2 for the day and great paths down through the dunes to the beach. At Embleton you can park on the country lane which runs down to the golf course next to the beach, failing that, lovely looking pub next to the children’s playground in the village where you can park and enjoy a pint after walking back – probably a 15 minute walk to the beach. As I am old now, I appear to be interested in the cost of things, Northumberland I believe is the only county still to have resisted speed cameras and also the cheapest parking I have ever seen!
I also appeared to be the only person to have never heard of Grace Darling before this trip, which was quite embarrassing! Our 6 year old daughter has recently studied her at school, which made the trip and landing to the Farne Islands and the Grace Darling museum really worthwhile. We sailed out to the Farne Islands on the “Glad Tidings” (http://www.farne-islands.com/) with Billy Shiel company – Good value I thought, taking about 45 minutes to sail out and an hour on Staple Island, cost us £48 for three adults and a child, you have to pay a separate landing fee of about £6 each when you get to the island which you pay to the National Trust wardens. I had read a lot about the Farne Islands before going, which camera lenses to take, how many birds nest on the island, etc – in the end I took the D3S rather than the D80 and relied on the excellent 70-200mm VRII lens, and my mates 400mm Sigma prime. Apparently according to one source I read before we set off was that there are around 60,000 breeding pairs of puffins on the island – as we were about to get on the boat, the last sailing day for this tour in 2011, we noticed a National Trust chalk board – “90% of our puffins have now left the island for the year” – typical!
I have a lot to learn about photographing birds, I shoot mainly in manual mode, and perhaps I should have used one of the auto modes to assist when the birds were in flight. Incredible to see Gannets, another bird I wanted to see and the Terns were great watching them dive and carrying sand eels a few feet away. Overall I was happy with what I shot, now planning a trip to go back, probably May next year with a rented longgggggg lens.
We also celebrated our eldest daughter’s birthday whilst we were away, she had a great time at Alnwick Castle (http://www.alnwickcastle.com/) at their Hogwarts Party, think it had a different name due to Harry Potter copyright! She thought it was great, but the word from the adults was that it was “ok” – at £60 for a family of four for three hours it isn’t cheap and when you are told there will be a feast, think they all (including my daughter) were expecting more. The entrance fee does allow you to go round the castle, but doesn’t include entry into the gardens, which I think would have taken the bill to nearly a £100.
In summary, Alnwick town, nice if you like cafes. Alnwick and Bamburgh Castle stunning and well kept, Beaches superb and the trip to the Farnes the best value. Also the Neptune Restaurant for Fish and Chips in Seahouses was lovely (on both occasions), however you can only pay with cash – how very 1980’s…
Few pics below, hope you enjoy.