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Visit some of the magical islands around our coast

Explore the English coast and you frequently notice small islands offshore, or local ferries that are heading from an unidentified ‘A’ to an unidentified ‘B’. Hop on board a coastal ferry and you can explore not only new lands but enjoy a unique perspective on the headlands and towns you have been visiting.

Gain a new perspective from the sea

The volcanic plateau of much of Northumberland collapses into the sea, only to re-emerge four kilometres offshore in the form of the Farne Islands.

You can sail around the islands for much of the year and visit Inner Farne (March-November) and Staple Island (May-July). 

Boat trips run from the small town of Seahouses and are operated by Farne Island tours and Two of the catamarans that run this route have wheelchair access. 

The Farne Islands are famous for their puffins (April to early July) and grey seals (year-round) but your memory is likely to be of the thousands of terns that fill the sky like wedding confetti.  Note that if you visit between May and July you should bring a hat as Arctic terns will divebomb visitors to the islands!

The Farne Islands’ cardiogram outline of jagged rocks is enhanced by the Longstone lighthouse, which sits on Longstone Rock. The lighthouse is famous for the daring rescue in 1838 of survivors of a steamship shipwreck by Grace Darling and her father, the lighthouse keeper William.

Another glorious journey, in more sheltered waters, transports you from the Dorset coast to Brownsea Island in the middle of Poole Harbour. 

The strongest sense you may feel on this crossing is that you are setting off on holiday. Turn around and look at Bournemouth or Poole and they seem miles away. The backdrop of the rolling Purbeck Hills and the stack-stump sentries of the Old Harry Rocks is cinematic.

 This tiny bit of separation makes Brownsea phenomenal for wildlife, in particular the red squirrels you are all but guaranteed to see upon making landfall. Ferries run from both Poole and Sandbanks near Bournemouth. Note that some services accept cash only.

Visit some of the magical islands around our coast Visit some of the magical islands around our coast
Visit some of the magical islands around our coast

Meander tiny inlets and creeks

Ferry journeys need not get you from A to B either, they can offer a new perspective of a coast you have only enjoyed on dry land. 

After exploring the wildlife and cliffs at Bempton in east Yorkshire, you can sit back on the Yorkshire Belle which trundles along the coast from nearby Bridlington daily from Easter to October.  

Among the most delightful of all such journeys is the Kingsbridge ferry in South Devon, which explores the creeks, nooks and crannies of the Kingsbridge Estuary, and passing the town of Salcombe.

Along the way, expect to see herons and egrets perched like statues against a backdrop of pretty woodlands. The coastal fields are so steep you wonder how farmers can possibly drive their tractors from the bottom to the top. 

You will look in vain, however, for any rivers flowing into this estuary. This is because there aren’t any: strictly speaking, the Kingsbridge ‘estuary’ isn’t an estuary  but a ria, or drowned valley.

The crescendo of this trip sees your vessel, the Rivermaid, nudge out underneath the glowering headland of Bolt Head into the open sea. If the water is calm enough, the captain may take you a couple of kilometres along the coast before turning tail and heading for home. 

If you fancy a shorter trip in the South Hams, consider the tiny East Portlemouth ferry, which, year-round, nudges back and forth for the kilometre that separates the steps of Salcombe pier from the peninsula of East Portlemouth (a distance of 25km or 40 minutes by car). You are crammed in tight with fellow passengers as the open-topped clinker-built motorboat navigates the crossing, easing its way around yachts and windsurfers.  

Once on shore, you can explore the coastal path that runs anti-clockwise from the pier before returning to enjoy a hot drink and pasty at the café over-looking the ‘estuary’. 

By Mark Rowe

Visit some of the magical islands around our coast
Visit some of the magical islands around our coast Visit some of the magical islands around our coast