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.
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, 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. This gives us time and opportunity to soak up the unique atmosphere before we head back across to the mainland.
Day 5 - Wednesday Derwent Valley and RSPB Saltholme
Today we head south to the Derwent Valley on the fringes of Tyneside, the only UK urban release site for Red Kites, a great area to see these magnificent birds, with river and woodland species nearby. Further afield, we venture south of the Tyne and to the RSPB Saltholme reserve on Teessid, and Seal Sands - 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. We may see Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail and terns, with chances of migrant waders too. Depending on time we may return via the Tees or Durham dales.
Day 6 - Thursday Coquet Island and the Northumberland coast
Back in Northumberland, this day will be spent on the coast in the south-east part of the County where a string of nature reserves, pools and coastline attract wonderful wildlife. Perhaps the highlight will be a boat trip (tide dependent) around Coquet Island (only a mile offshore and an RSPB reserve with unfortunately no public landing arrangements) home to 90% of the UK’s population of the very rare Roseate Tern and another huge seabird breeding colony. From the boat it is possible to pick out these birds from the massed throng of wheeling birdlife that we will encounter at close range. We also visit some of the other places in the area; Hauxley Reserve, Druridge Bay & Pools, Cresswell Ponds, Newbiggin Bay, we will pick the best spots according to the weather and recent sightings.
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 currently three pairs of breeding Osprey, breeding Crossbill and a raptor watchpoint particularly known for Goshawk. 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 throughout 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. Even further north we may visit the ancient Border Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, to see the River Tweed, harbour, estuary, beaches, geology, history, fortified walls, and the Lowry Trail; an art trail dedicated to the work of LS Lowry, a frequent visitor, parts of which are great for wildlife watching onto the river and estuary. 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 the local railway stations for ongoing trains or by departure by other means.