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 coast of North Devon. The name ‘Lundy’ may already be recognised as it’s the name of a shipping forecast area in the UK and 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 to be a bit of a character and claimed himself to be ‘King of Lundy’. He even printed stamps and issued 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 2 lighthouses on Lundy, both which are still in service today.
After the death of Harman the island was put up for sale and bought by the National Trust after a generous donation from Mr Jack Hayward an English businessman, property developer, philanthropist and president of English 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 possible for the majority. We will look instead, at how to get the most out of a day trip by boat to Lundy. Offering some helpful tips and lesser known facts.
For such a small place, Lundy has 42 scheduled monuments plus listed buildings and is rich with tales of piracy and smuggling. There’s even a 13th century castle, now used as accommodation.
Often likened to Galapagos for its wildlife habitat, it won’t disappoint nature lovers and never falls to impress those less versed in the field.
The boats to Lundy are often accompanied by pods of dolphins and porpoise. On arrival, the local grey seal population will greet you if their curiosity has already got the better of them out to sea.
Lundy’s seas are England's only statutory Marine Nature Reserve (MNR) and 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 Safari’s are Warden led events available for visitors to discover and enjoy the island. The latter prove popular, so it is advisable to book and incurs 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 watchers heaven with most activity March to November. Thousands of migratory birds pass through Lundy in Spring and Autumn when ringing takes place. 116,875 birds of 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 which has become synonymous with Lundy has grown significantly since the eradication of rats 15 years ago and can be found in abundance at Jenny’s Cove and St Philip’s Stone with 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 and the 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?
Day visitors tend to travel to Lundy on the German-built MS Oldenburg – a lifeline for the island an 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 Lundy.
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. The chance to visit coves impossible by land and get up close and personal with sea life – basking sharks are known to frequent the waters.
Swim or fish from the boat. Snorkel with seals and dive wrecks. Land on the island at your pleasure (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 of Lundy. 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 the novice anglers.
Enjoy the fruits of your labour when you return, there’s nothing better than fresh fish on the bbq. They also offer a swim with the seals trip to Lundy and 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 and the other offers a round Island wildlife sea safari and chance to explore onshore.
For extra special trips, up to 12 people can privately hire a boat and tailor a trip. A great idea for families holidaying together, just make sure you book well in advance.
If you fancy a mini expedition and want to set sail then 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 to all your needs and can provide an exciting and alternative way to exploring 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.
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 and when the Puffins are in abundance so that you are not disappointed!
Book in advance. There can be long queues at busy periods during the summer and weekends.
Don’t forget a camera! This blog – A photographer’s guide to Lundy Island is a nice guide to shooting 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.