I have always wanted to go to the island of Lundy. We did attempt to go a couple of years ago for my birthday but the conditions were deemed unsuitable for landing and the trip was cancelled. Instead we contented ourselves with a visit to the excellent Broomhill Sculpture Gardens and the wonderful Terre Madre restaurant where they served us Lundy crab. This went some way to making up for the disappointment.
This weekend, however, we finally made it. We sailed from Ilfracomble Quay on the supply and passenger vessel the MS Oldenburg leaving at 10 am. Drinks and food were available on board for this two hour journey as well as some wonderful high concentration ginger biscuits for anyone feeling queasy. The weather at sea on the outbound leg was described as moderate – this meant there was a swell and quite a lot of motion (carrying coffee was a challenge!) and it was also raining. Not surprisingly as we approached Lundy it was shrouded in mist.
After disembarking at the landing jetty we had an initial climb up to the village. For those wishing to save a bit of energy it was possible to get a lift to the village with the ranger in one of three land rovers on the island. Our initial priority was to find the Marisco Tavern and to get some lunch before heading out on a circular walk of the southern half of the island. The tavern was very friendly and very efficient. They are clearly set up to deal with the sudden influx of people from the boat … which happens three times most weeks from April to October and four times at the height of the summer.
After eating we checked out the shop (selling food, other essentials and of course souvenirs) and then headed off up the eastern side of the island. At that point it was still quite misty but no longer raining. We didn’t get much of a view of the sea or the plants on that side but we did see sika deer and soay sheep and it was still very atmospheric. On our way up we passed the remains of cottages and an old hospital. We continued up until we reached ‘Halfway Wall’. We then crossed to the western side of the island by following the line of the wall which was outlined by a lovely carpet of bluebells. Halfway Wall ends at Jenny’s Cove which is the best place on the island to see the famous puffins as well as some interesting rock formations such as the Cheeses and the Pyramid. By the way ‘Lund-ey’ is Norse for puffin island. Luckily by this stage the mist had lifted and we had good visibility. However, despite scouring the cliffs and seeing many different sea birds … we did not spot any puffins. We learned later that you need to go out onto one of the promontories and look back inland at the cliff. The puffin population had been declining on Lundy but since rats were eradicated from the island a few years ago it is now gradually increasing again.
Our return walk took a bit longer because of the nature of the terrain. You do need to be careful right near the cliff edges but a little further in there is plenty of springy turf to walk on. The carpets of pink sea thrift are a feature near the cliff tops at this time of year. There are very few trees on Lundy and none out on the moor . You will see the hardy Lundy ponies … but do be careful as one inquisitive pony did try and give me a nip once it realised we had no food.
We knew we were getting close to the village again when we sighted the Old Lighthouse (now used as holiday accommodation). From there you can cut across the fields back to the shop and tavern for a final cup of tea and / or to purchase any souvenirs. You need to leave 25 to 30 minutes to get back down to the jetty for the boat. They ask you to be there for 4 pm and will leave as soon as everyone is on-board even if that’s earlier than scheduled departure time of 4:30 pm.
Our return voyage was calmer and also quicker as we were moving in the same direction as the tide. Spending two hours on a boat means the opportunity to meet people. On the way over we met and chatted to the resident Lundy painter and decorator who was returning from a break. He told us that there were 26 Lundy residents (3 seasonal) and that vehicles on Lundy amounted to 3 landrovers, 2 tractors and 4 quad bikes. On the return trip we sat with a Dutch couple who were on a six week tour of the UK – and amongst other things were trying to visit as many UK islands as possible. They had been fortunate enough to see puffins …
On return to dry land at Ilfracombe we couldn’t leave without the obligatory fish and chips in one of the harbour restaurants …. which rounded off the day nicely.
The Quay at Ilfracombe is under 30 mins drive from Rock Cottage. You can also travel to Lundy from Bideford (about the same distance away from Rock Cottage and also a two hour voyage). There are fewer Bideford sailings but you get more time on the island – around six or seven hours instead of four. After a Bideford sailing the MS Oldenburg can offer a trip around the island so that you can get your bearings before setting off to explore. This takes about one hour.
You must ring 01271 863636 after 8 pm the day before to check if conditions are suitable for sailing and to confirm departure time. An easterly wind will cause problems on landing and so the captain will usually cancel if that is the case.
It is possible to stay on Lundy for a few days in one of several buildings restored and maintained by the Landmark trust. These range from a stone cottage that sleeps just one person to a Georgian villa that can accommodate twelve people. You can also stay in the lighthouse (see above), a castle, a converted pigsty or a camp site … depending on your required level of comfort and affordability. Since on-line bookings have been introduced the popularity has increased so you need to get in early.
There are leaflets on Lundy and its wildlife above and below the waves in Rock Cottage and there is also a small book with four different circular walks which you are welcome to borrow during your stay.
View Back To Quay (MS Oldenburg)
Lundy View (West Side of Island)
Taken in May with beautiful pink sea thrift in foreground