National Trust Farne Islands website: NT Farne Islands
Boat Trips website: Boat Trips
We used the Shiel family company for our trip - there are others. Tickets (currently £10) are purchased on the day from a kiosk at Seahouses harbour which is open about an hour before the first departure time, currently 10:00 for Staple Island. In fine weather or at weekends, the passenger quota is soon reached, so be there early. There are several variations of boat trips including sail-arounds with no landing, and any sailing or landing may be cancelled in adverse weather at the discretion of the skipper. Dogs are not allowed.
National Trust members can enter the island free, non-members pay a landing fee on arrival (currently £5).
Due to the rocky exposed nature of the Staple cliffs, landings are more tricky than the main island despite the construction of a jetty. The main problem is the 'lift' on the boat at the jetty, which makes it difficult for the crew to guarantee getting all the passengers safely on and off with the boat heaving up and down. This depends on both the speed and direction of the wind, but broadly speaking, anything more than a breeze makes a landing decidedly iffy. Some of the passengers are not agile to say the least, and two members of the crew are poised to help everyone make the critical step.
The Staple trip lasts about 2½ hours with 1 hour ashore. Access is confined to a roped-off section on the edge of the island, which is a wrinkled rocky landscape of Dolerite, looking rather similar to the limestone pavements of the Yorkshire Dales and liberally encrusted by yellow lichen. There are cliffs and sea stacks with an incredible density of nesting birds.
This is a superb opportunity to see the seabirds at close quarters, some of them nesting just inches behind the rope and totally unperturbed by the human visitors. Like the Isle of May last year, there are vast numbers of puffins and guillemots but the real stars here were the shags. Standing like majestic imperial guards on the approach from the boat, the male birds stay close by the females who tend the nests and eggs.
The boat also sails slowly around the island to view the cliffs and stacks from the seaward side, and also to see the basking seals at the edge of the rock shelf. A superb value trip.