Day 1 - Saturday Arrival
After arriving by train, road or other means we gather at our comfortable hotel, our base for the next 7 nights, for our first group meal and an introduction to the week ahead. Please note, if travelling by train your guide will meet you at Alnmouth station at 15:00 on arrival day. If travelling by car, we will meet at our hotel at approx. 16:00. You can leave your vehicle parked here for the duration of your holiday.
Day 2 - Sunday The Farne Islands
The Farnes are our primary target for the week - gauging our best day to visit by tide and weather conditions. The Farnes are one of Britain’s greatest wildlife spectacles – especially during the summer breeding season with huge colonies of thousands of terns (including a few nesting Roseate), Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Eider, Kittiwake, Shag and Atlantic Grey Seal. All of your senses will be engaged, as you stand toe-to-toe and face-to-face amongst the clamouring throng of seabird life. Departing from the harbour at Seahouses we aim to spend all day visiting the two main islands, Staple Island in the morning, transferring to Inner Farne in the afternoon. Late-June and early-July is a great time to visit; some birds will have fledged young, others small chicks whilst some will be on eggs. A photographers paradise with time to fully enjoy and appreciate the experience.
Day 3 - Monday The Cheviot Hills
Today we head inland to the Cheviot Hills and Northumberland National Park, to the west and north of the county. A huge block of wild, untamed lands with few people but a number of narrow secluded valleys that penetrate into the heart. We will visit two or three of these valleys, choosing from College, Harthope, Alwin, Ingram and Coquet, exploring the typical upland habitat and wildlife. We might see Dipper, Raven, Peregrine, Red Grouse, Grey Wagtail, Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, Common Sandpiper and maybe a few Wild Goats too.
Day 4 - Tuesday The Holy Island of Lindisfarne
If the tides are suitable we will intentionally become stranded and cut off by the sea on The Holy Island of Lindisfarne - where the causeway floods twice daily. It is comprised of 3500 hectares of dunes, saltmarsh and mudflats; great for walks through the interior and rocky shore and for breeding birds, flowers, butterflies and sea-watching with both Grey & Common Seal resident. The island is famed for its Christian and bloody Viking past, the Castle, Gertrude Jekyll garden and of course the Priory. When the tide is high the island relaxes from the pressures of modern life and takes on a discernable spiritual tranquility similar to Iona, where there are ancient monastic connections. Later, we may visit other coastal locations which can be good for birds. Hauxley Reserve, Druridge Bay & Pools, Cresswell Ponds or Newbiggin Bay are all great sites, and we choose the best according to the weather and recent sightings.
Day 5 – Wednesday RSPB Saltholme, Teesmouth and Cleveland
Today we venture south of the Tyne to the RSPB Saltholme reserve on Teesside. An area of wetland, reedbeds, grassland and meadow, great for birds and visiting migrants with the backdrop of industry and post-industrial architecture. This fairly newly constructed reserve has developed well during its short life span and the area attracts one of the northernmost colonies of breeding Avocet. A reserve rapidly becoming famed for migrant waders too, we can expect to build a high bird-list today as we explore the site via well-placed hides. We may also see Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail and terns, with chances of late-spring and early-summer rarities. With several other good coastal birding options within striking distance, we will be sure of a great day’s birding wherever we spend our time.
Day 6 - Thursday Derwent Valley and Northumberland/Durham Moors
The Derwent Valley on the fringes of Tyneside is the only UK urban release site for Red Kites and is a great area to see these magnificent birds. A variety river and woodland species may also be seen nearby, and scarce Honey Buzzard is a possibility in good weather. In the moors we search for Red Grouse, Golden Plover, Wheatear and Whinchat, while other raptors on this day might include Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Merlin. With time to investigate Hadrian’s Wall too, a series of local lakes and pools can often yield surprises and the area is also good for dragonflies and butterflies.
Day 7 - Friday Kielder Forest
Heading inland again we go west over the Otterburn Moors and Ministry of Defence Training area to Kielder Forest and Kielder Water, very good in summer for forest, woodland and moorland birds with breeding Osprey, Goshawk and Crossbill all possible. Our return will take us back along the Military Road, running parallel to Hadrian’s Wall where we may have time to walk a section (at Steel Rigg or Cawfields) that typifies this ancient site.
Should weather and conditions seriously affect our plans through the week we still have many places all along the Northumberland coast to potentially visit for mainland seabird colonies, geological features and other points of interest. These include Beadnell Bay, the Long Nanny Reserve for Little and Arctic Tern, Embleton Bay, Craster, Dunstanburgh Castle, Howick and the Cullernose Point Kittiwake colony, beaches at Boulmer and Alnmouth, and the Coquet River at Amble/Warkworth. Away from the coast we have chance to visit The Chillingham Wild Cattle (entrance fee), an 800 year-old herd of truly wild, untamed, undomesticated, unique group of animals that hark back to medieval times. Run by a charitable trust they have a DNA unmatched by any other cattle in the world and speculation is still uncertain as to their origins. So, whatever the weather, there are more than enough places, habitats and experiences to fill a week long tour in and around Northumberland with a potential birdlist of over 100+ species.
Day 8 - Saturday Departure
After our final breakfast, guests will be dropped off at Alnmouth railway station for ongoing trains departing from 09:30 onwards.