There is great excitement in our house as it is the start of the Lundy day-trip season. In the winter, the island is served by helicopters, and day-trips are not allowed. But from now until the end of October, the Oldenburg, Lundy’s own ship, sails three times a week, giving lots of opportunities for a fabulous day out.
Based in Bideford, she often sails from Ilfracombe, where she can sail whatever the tide, but leaving at 10am and returning by 6pm gives you only 3 1/2 hours on the island. When she sails from Bideford, she has to sail on the high tide to clear the sand bar at the end of the Taw / Torridge Estuary, so you often get a much longer day trip.
Saturday was forecast pretty fair, with a ‘slight’ sea, and the sailing schedule promised a whopping 7 hours on the island, so we left at 7.30am for the short drive to Bideford, arriving in plenty of time for the recommended 8am check in time.
With about 150 passengers on board, some day-trippers like ourselves, and some staying for a few days in one of the 23 properties, we set sail on time, and in a bit of drizzle. That soon cleared and we had a lovely 2 hour crossing, watching out for seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, shearwaters, gannets, and kittiwakes. No dolphins this time, but they are sometimes seen.
Down the gangway and onto the jetty, and finally we were back on Lundy for the first time since September. Shedding layers of warm clothing that keep one comfortable on the boat, we slowly climbed up the steep beach road, pausing often to take in the wonderful views down the island.
Most people head straight for the village, but we prefer to get walking, so we took the gateway that leads along the lower east side path.
Winding its way along the gentle slope of the east side, this path is often sheltered from the prevailing winds, and can be a good place to find migrant birds sheltering, as well as the sika deer. There are few trees on the island, and all are on this gentler coast. Even here they are sculpted by the wind.
We followed the path as it clings to the slope, passing through copses of trees and shrubs that nestle in the sheltered valleys. Pausing frequently to watch the chiffchaffs and willow warblers feeding, we didn’t rush, just enjoying the beautiful day. We found a herd of 29 deer, including a couple of young stags, and some of last years youngsters.
The path brought us out onto the terraces, which are the remains of old granite workings. Quarries dot the side of the island, and a railway ran along the flat terrace to transport the rock. We found a comfortable flat rock, and stopped for a picnic lunch.
Continuing up the terraces, we found a male black redstart hopping around in the bushes in one of the quarries. An occasional spring visitor, it was a nice highlight of the birding.
At the end of the terraces you can curve back up onto the top of the island, but we chose to continue down the east side. We only saw one other couple all the time we were on the east side, so it shows how peaceful it can be compared to some of the more popular spots on the island.
This coast is also an excellent place to see the grey seals that live and breed on Lundy, and we counted 24 during the day.
The path leads to Gannets Combe, a deep valley that separated the southern body of the island from the more rugged North End. We didn’t have time to carry on to the North, so we headed inland.
The island is about 3 miles long but a maximum of 1/2 mile wide, so it doesn’t take long to cross the flat top to the other side. The west is much steeper and rockier than the east, and often much windier as well. We found a spot with a view, and stopped for a drink and a snack.
Walking south now down the broad grassy paths on top of the west side , we passed an old mill stone, a reminder that people have lived on Lundy for a very long time, and there are many archaeological finds for those interested in history.
There is always plenty to see on Lundy, and we found flocks of the wild soay sheep, a few of the feral goats, and these two Lundy ponies.
We made it to Jenny’s cove, the most famous seabird colony on the west side, and sat down to watch the guillemots flying onto and off the breeding ledges. There were plenty of razorbills in rafts on the water, and we were lucky enough to see a few puffins too. It is still early in the year for puffins, and they will arrive in increasing numbers over the next few weeks.
Continuing back down the west side of the island, we passed through the jumbled rocks of the ‘earthquake’, and could soon see the tower of the Old Light, which marks the start of the southern end of the island.
The southern end is a working farm, and the sheep have just started lambing.
The Old Light was built on the top of the island to keep shipping away from Lundy’s treacherous rocks, but when it was finished they realised that it was so often fog bound as to be useless. Two new lighthouses were built lower down on the northern and southern tips, and the Old Light was retired. Now it forms two pleasant holiday cottages in the main building, and everyone is welcome to climb the tower and relax in the pair of deckchairs inside the lantern.
We headed back through the fields towards the village, where we had some much-needed refreshment in the Marisco Tavern.
Sadly it was time to head back down the valley to the jetty to rejoin the Oldenburg at 6pm for the return journey. The weather was absolutely glorious for 1st April, and we were able to cover a large part of the coastline during the day, so we had thoroughly enjoyed our day.
with everyone safely aboard we set sail for the return crossing to Bideford. As we sailed, the sun sank behind us, streaking the sky with pinks and oranges.
Back on the quayside at Bideford after an uneventful but chilly journey, we headed to the fish and chip shop for the traditional post-crossing dinner, before heading home. It was a perfect Lundy day out.