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History of Lundy
Lundy is the largest island in the Bristol Channel. A granite outcrop, 3 miles long and ½ a mile wide, 12 miles (19 km) off the North Devon coast. The name ‘Lundy’ is the name of a shipping forecast area in the UK and is Old Norse for ‘Puffin Island’.
Originally purchased in 1834 by William Hudson Heaven and subsequently inherited by his son until 1917 when Lundy was bought by Augustus Langham Christie. Christie then sold Lundy in 1925 to Martin Coles Harman who was deemed a bit of a character and pronounced himself the ‘King of Lundy’. He even issued stamps and coins with his own head on alongside several flags he designed.
One flag was flown when the Queen Mother visited from the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1958 and on visits from Trinity House, owners of the two lighthouses on Lundy, both of which are still in service today.
After Harman's death the island was sold to the National Trust thanks to a generous donation from Mr Jack Hayward, English businessman, property developer, philanthropist, and president of football club Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Today, The Landmark Trust manages the island on behalf of the National Trust.
Although you can stay on Lundy Island, this is not practical for most visitors. We will instead focus on how to get the most out of a day trip to Lundy. Expect helpful tips and some lesser known facts.
Why visit Lundy?
For such a small place, Lundy packs a punch. 42 scheduled monuments dot the island, plus listed buildings and a rich history of piracy and smuggling to boot. There’s even a 13th century castle, now available to stay in.
Lundy is often likened to the Galapagos due to its wildlife habitat. It certainly charms nature lovers and amateur fans of David Attenborough.
Boats to Lundy are often escorted by pods of dolphins and porpoise. On arrival, the local grey seal population may greet you.
Lundy’s sea forms England's only statutory Marine Nature Reserve (MNR). It has the most incredible diversity of any marine site in the UK. Much of the island is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and draws naturists from far and wide. Jenny's Cove is a favourite for migratory birds, it's located on the west side of the island.
Guided Tours, Visitor Talks, Rockpool Rambles and Snorkel Safaris are Warden led events available for visitors to discover and enjoy the island. The latter prove popular, so it is advisable to book. There is a a small fee but equipment is provided. The walks and talks run all year, weather permitting. Some start at the Jetty, but best to head to the Marisco Tavern where details of activities on Lundy are posted.
It’s a bird watcher's heaven, with most activity from March to November. Thousands of migratory birds pass through Lundy in Spring and Autumn when ringing takes place. 116,875 birds from 176 species have been recorded as ringed on the island as of 2017. The latest guide to birds on Lundy can be viewed here.
Spring is the main breeding season for both sea and land birds. The Puffin population, which has become synonymous with Lundy, has grown significantly since the eradication of rats fifteen years ago. They can be found in abundance at Jenny’s Cove and St Philip’s Stone, alongside Guillemots and Razorbills.
Visit before the end of July to ensure you get a proper glimpse of this intriguing bird.
On land, naturists seek out Soay Sheep, Sika Deer, over 350 species of butterflies and moths, and an abundance of small mammals and flora. Did you know Lundy has its own breed of Pony too?
Visiting Lundy by boat
Day visitors tend to travel to Lundy on the German-built MS Oldenburg – a lifeline for the island as Lundy’s ferry and supply ship.
The ship sails up to four times a week from either Bideford or Ilfracombe and can carry 267 passengers. Seating is available inside and out with refreshments available for the 2 hour sail.
The trip allows between 4-6 hours to explore the island depending on which day you travel. Take into account tide times as these will affect sailing times.
The wind will determine the route you take when you arrive - if the wind’s Easterly, go West and vice-versa. Be sure to pack something you can cover up with, don’t be caught out by the cool sea breeze or strong summer sun. If you’re sat on deck, you’ll be exposed to both, so a good sunhat and sun cream is advisable.
This is the perfect ‘entry level’ experience for Lundy. Suitable for all ages but perhaps worth a check for those less mobile due to the challenging landscape on the island.
Tickets can be purchased in advance over the phone on 01271 863636 and in person at the Lundy Shore Office in Bideford or The Lundy Booking Office in Ilfracombe from April to October. Pre-booking is highly advised during the summer months.
Looking for a more intimate personalised experience visiting Lundy?
Charter your own boat. This way you get to see the island from a different perspective. Visit coves that are inaccessible by land and get up close and personal with their sea life. You may spot some big fish- basking sharks frequent the waters.
Swim or fish from the boat. Snorkel with seals and dive wrecks. Land on the island at your pleasure (a small fee applies) or watch the birds and survey the spectacular scenery.
Boat Trips to Lundy are a family run company offering a host of personalised experiences. If you’re looking specifically for a fishing trip to Lundy then Wild Frontier Charters offer trips from 2 to 10 hours, providing rods, bait and tackle with tuition for novice anglers.
Enjoy the fruits of your labour when you return, there’s nothing better than fresh fish from the BBQ. They also offer a swim with the seals of Lundy trip which sets sail from Ilfracombe.
For those seeking a sea safari, Ilfracombe Boat Trips offer 2 options with accredited Wildlife Safari Safe Operator (WiSe) boats and skippers. One trip is dog friendly, the other combines a wildlife sea safari with the chance to explore onshore.
For extra special trips, up to 12 people can privately hire a boat and tailor a trip. This is a great idea for families holidaying together, just make sure you book well in advance.
If you fancy a mini expedition you can charter the Hecate from Crystal Voyages. The Hecate is a catamaran licensed to take up to 10 people. Skipper Matt Knight and his qualified crew with cater for all your needs and can provide an exciting and alternative way to explore Lundy and the North Devon Coast.
New for 2019 is Ilfracombe Sea Safari’s catamaran. In addition to their RIB shuttle service which is quite a thrill and only takes an hour, you can venture out to Lundy on a 6 hour SUP tour. If you’re 8 years or older this is the ultimate way to experience Lundy.
Top tips for your visit to Lundy
Check the tide timetable for Ilfracombe as this will determine what time boats set sail. View the latest sailing timetable for the MS Oldenburg here as sometimes it can return to Bideford according to the tide.
Check the weather forecast and take appropriate clothing. Something warm for the boat, a hat and sun cream.
Check accessibility with the boat operator. You may not always land at the jetty on Lundy. Even if you do, there is a steep walk that takes you up onto the island. Although it says pushchairs can be used, be aware, the topography is not the best to navigate with wheels and the same goes for wheelchairs.
Check the breeding season of the birds on Lundy. Visit when Puffins are in abundance so you are not disappointed!
Book in advance. There can be long queues at busy periods during the summer and weekends.
Pack your camera. Read A photographer’s guide to Lundy Island for how to shoot the best pics on the island.
No dogs (except assistance dogs) are permitted on the island as it is a working farm.
Visit the Marisco Tavern for details of activities and events on arrival.