Site details

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5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
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Inner Farne, the largest island of the Farnes group. Photo: Judy Foster-Smith

Synoptic description of site:

The Farnes are a small archipelago of islands (largely whinstone) lying between approximately 2 and 6 km off the mainland coast. They are famed for their seabird and grey seal colonies and dive sites.

Extensive description of site:

The Farne Islands, off the Northumberland coast, England, are a small archipelago of some 15 to 28 islands, depending on the state of the tide. They consist of an outcrop of hard dolerite which forms south-west facing cliffs, providing suitable habitat for many different species of seabird. The islands stand in depths of up to 30m and the clarity of water attracts divers from throughout Britain. The islands are owned and managed by The National Trust (England).

Habitats present:
Littoral XX
Sublittoral XX
Seagrass beds 

Description of fauna and flora:

Over 70,000 pairs of seabirds breed on the islands. There is also an important breeding colony of grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, of around 3,500 individuals. These populations have been monitored since the 1970s and 1950s respectively. Rich sublittoral communities occur on the vertical rock faces and extensive areas of tide-swept cobbles. Regular sightings of cetaceans occur.

Pristiness: High


No large towns or coastal industry within 30 km (cf. the southern part of Northumberland); offshore islands and therefore relatively inaccessible; no large river systems and no significant sewage input locally.

Human impact:

The islands are popular with tourists, in particular for bird watching, seal watching and diving. The surrounding waters are unpolluted.


Research facilities, including a research vessel, can be arranged at the University of Newcastle (approximately 50 miles away).

Available database and website:

Much of the scattered information on the marine fauna and flora of the Farnes area is given in ĎThe Marine Fauna and Flora of the Cullercoats Districtí (hardcopy only). Data on the seabirds and grey seals are managed by the National Trust.

Commitment and ongoing research:

The seabird and seal populations are monitored on an annual basis as part of the National Trustís management plan for the islands as part of the National Trustís management plan for the islands. Other aspects of marine monitoring are carried out with support from the School of Marine Science and Technology (Dove Marine Laboratory), the University of Newcastle.

Additional Information:

Permission to work at the site would need to be obtained from the National Trust Property Manager.