…as viewed from Bamburgh Castle

Inner Farne

The Farne Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland, England. There are between 15 and 20 islands depending on the state of the tide.[1] They are scattered about 1 12 to 4 34 miles (2.4–7.6 km) from the mainland, divided into two groups, the Inner Group and the Outer Group. The main islands in the Inner Group are Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the East and West Wideopens (all joined together on very low tides) and (somewhat separated) the Megstone; the main islands in the Outer Group are Staple Island, the Brownsman, North and South Wamses, Big Harcar and the Longstone. The two groups are separated by Staple Sound. The highest point, on Inner Farne, is 62 feet (19 m) above mean sea level.

Farne Islands


Monks and hermits

The earliest recorded inhabitants of the Farne Islands were various Culdees, some connected with Lindisfarne. This followed the old Celtic Christian tradition of island hermitages, also found in WalesIreland and Scotland.

The islands are first recorded in 651, when they became home to Saint Aidan, followed by Saint Cuthbert.[2] Cuthbert isolated himself on the islands until he was called to the bishopric of Lindisfarne, but after two years he returned to the solitude of the Inner Farne and died there in 687, when Saint Aethelwold took up residence instead. Among other acts, Cuthbert introduced special laws in 676 protecting the eider ducks, and other seabirds nesting on the islands; these are thought to be the earliest bird protection laws anywhere in the world.[3][4]

The islands were used by hermits intermittently from the seventh century. These included Saint Bartholomew of Farne.[5] The last hermit was Thomas De Melsonby, who died on the islands in 1246.[2]

A formal monastic cell of Benedictine monks was established on the islands circa 1255. The cell was dependent on Durham Abbey, now Durham Cathedral. A very small cell, it was usually home to only two monks, although on occasion this rose to as many as six. The cell was dissolved in 1536 as part of King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.[5]

St Cuthbert’s Chapel

Following the dissolution of the monastic cell on the islands, the islands became the property of the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral, who leased them to various tenants. The islands remained a detached part of County Durham until 1844, when the Counties (Detached Parts) Act transferred them to Northumberland. In 1861 the islands were sold to Charles Thorp, who was at the time Archdeacon of Durham.[5] In 1894 the islands were bought by the industrialist William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong.[2] The islands are currently owned by the National Trust.[5]

Remains still exist of the seventh-century anchorite cell used by Saint Aiden and Saint Cuthbert,[2] as do the remains of a fourteenth-century chapel associated with the cell. Known as St Cuthbert’s Chapel, the chapel is described as a “single-cell building of four bays”. The remains of a second chapel have been incorporated into a later building.[5]

Grace Darling

The Farne Islands are associated with the story of Grace Darling and the wreck of the Forfarshire. Grace Darling was the daughter of Longstone lighthouse-keeper (one of the islands’ lighthouses), William Darling, and on 7 September 1838, at the age of 22 years, she and her father rescued nine people from the wreck of the ‘Forfarshire’ in a strong gale and thick fog, the vessel having run aground on Harcar Rock. The story of the rescue attracted extraordinary attention throughout Britain and made Grace Darling a heroine who has gone down in British folklore.[6]

Farne Islands

10 Comments CherryPie on Oct 25th 2018

10 Responses to “The Farne Islands…”

  1. lisl says:

    You certainly get around, Cherie. This is a place I would love to see

  2. >eider ducks

    He he… I actually remember this part!
    Did they monks actually collect their feathers to make comfy pillows? ;)

  3. Shabana says:

    Thank you so much for very interesting information dear Cheire!

    I LOVED this panoramic view of farne island :)

    this is great to know that there are many like this as island always sound fascinating to me

    just like saint you mentioned in history i would love to be isolated on such island for while

    loved the rescue story of grace too ,such a pride!

  4. Ayush Basu says:

    i had never heard of this place, CP. i liked the text

  5. The Yum List says:

    What rugged wild landscapes.