If you are looking for an interesting and unique diving experience in the UK, then look no further than the Farne Islands just off the coast of Northumberland. Never heard of them before? Well the Farne Islands are a group of 28 or 30 islands located between 2 to 5 miles off the north-east coast of England’s Northumberland province, which is merely a 30 minute boat ride from the mainland. The number of islands varies with the tide that often submerges a few of them.
At first this seems like a rather unusual spot to go scuba diving, but these islands contain some of the richest scuba diving waters in the United Kingdom, and also play host to one of the largest colony of Atlantic grey seals in the North Sea.
The waters in this region provide divers with surprisingly great visibility, enabling divers to dive along plummeting underwater Cliffs and islands submerged during high tide. The receding North Sea tides and currents offer divers some unparalleled drift diving along the reef which is undercut in several places offering an almost cave diving like experience. There are sites where divers can encounter colorful sponges, soft coral, anemones, sun stars, plenty of sea urchins and even chance upon the occasional octopus. Smaller crustaceans such as spider crabs, lobsters and even nudibranch can be spotted at many sites and Cod and other large shoaling fish are plentiful in the waters around the Farne Islands. With the large colonies of resident seals, a chance encounter with a curious seal underwater is almost guaranteed and if lucky they will put on an underwater ballet for you. Divers have often encountered a playful tugging at their fins by a seal during their dives here. Aside from the Seals and frequent sighting of pods of Dolphins visiting the Farne Islands, It has also been reported that Humpback whales and Basking Sharks have been known to visit this area to feed in these plankton rich waters.
For those who love wreck diving, many wrecks are littered around the seabed in this region. The most popular one being the ‘Somali’ a passenger-cargo steamer that was bound for Hong Kong in 1941, when it was bombed by the Germans in WWII. The Somali now rests upright in 30 meters of water just off Beadnell Point and is a highlight of scuba divers. The Antiaircraft guns on her stern, the propeller shaft, engines and steam pipes are all relatively intact and divers will require numerous dives here to fully appreciate this 450ft vessel. Other diveable wrecks include ‘The Britannia’, The Acclivity, the Abessinia and several others all of which are in the 30-35 meter range, open to recreational scuba divers, but in varying stages of in good physical shape.
The Farne Islands not only provide Scuba Divers an unforgettable experience underwater, but also house a spectacular variety of seabirds including Puffins, Guillemots and Kittiwakes, with tens of thousands of these birds nesting along the cliff faces during May, June and July. Despite the water being cold, diving here in the summer months is something anyone interested in diving in the UK must try.