The island of Lundy, which is 400ft at its highest point, is the largest in the Bristol Channel and quite possibly the most unique. In Norse, 'Lundy' means 'Puffin Island' and a lack of roads, cars and pollution make it a fantastic place to escape from the bustle of everyday life and enjoy the natural pleasures of being outside. Enjoying a mild climate and with plenty to see and do, Lundy is a must-visit destination when staying in Devon.
A little bit of history
The island’s name is derived from one of its once abundant species of bird – the puffin. It has been inhabited for an estimated 3,000 years and has a rich and colourful history: first home to the De Marisco family, then a base for marauders, and next a haven to the lighthouse keepers - at which time the island’s population was just 10 people. It passed hands many times, having been won in a card game as well as being bought in cash on a number of occasions. It is now in the care of The Landmark Trust which has the island under lease for the next 60 years.
We could go into great detail on the history of Lundy, but we thought you would be most interested in these few fascinating facts:
- The island’s postal service is the oldest still-operating service in the world.
- The current population of the island at the last count was just 28 and includes a warden, an island manager and a farmer.
- The island is 5km long and has an area of 1.72 square miles.
How to get to Lundy
Lundy can be reached by the MS Oldenburg ferry, which carries up to 267 passengers. A summer timetable runs from April through to October, with the vessel leaving from both Ilfracombe and Bideford once per day. It takes around 2 hours to get to the island from the mainland so whilst on your journey, you can enjoy the saloon, bar, buffet, shop and information centre which are all available on board, as well as the panoramic sights of the coast.
During the winter season, you can even travel via helicopter from Hartland Point, which is a particularly special experience providing some incredible aerial views on a clear day. Taking just 7 minutes, it’s by far the quickest route and the whirlybird can seat up to seven passengers.
If you’d prefer to make your own way there either via sea vessel or private plane/helicopter, there are small designated areas for you to dock or land while you enjoy the island, but be aware, these are typically subject to a small landing fee.
We have plenty of fantastic cottages in North Devon that will give you easy access to the ferry crossing so that you can enjoy a day trip.
Marisco Tavern is the local pub, offering up a range of simple yet delicious meals from the ever-tempting cheesy chips to homemade burgers, pasties, sandwiches and baguettes, as well as a range of hot and cold beverages. With a lovely walled beer garden, it’s the perfect place to refuel at lunchtime!
Fun fact: It’s the pub that never closes and is the only building that has light 24 hours a day.
Also situated on the island is a small shop called Lundy General Stores, which is well stocked with a range of picnic-style foods and snacks as you journey around the island. Here you can pick up letterboxing packs (explained below), collectable postal stamps, camping essentials and everything else you could possibly need during your visit – the shop size is deceiving!
What to do on Lundy
There are many fascinating walking routes on the island where you’ll be able to spot burial chambers, former prisoner caves, the highest lighthouse in Britain and a plethora of wonderful wildlife, flora and fauna. You could easily fill your day on these routes alone, however, there are plenty of other activities also available:
Lundy’s most-famed activity comes in the form of 27 letterboxes made from a variety of materials. These form a treasure hunt across the island, with a unique rubber stamp hidden in each that can be marked off on a map. Letterbox packs can be purchased from the shop, and the hidden trail will take you to many of Lundy’s secret gems that you may not have otherwise stumbled upon. It’s a great activity for all the family and will certainly help you to get to know the island better.
The island of Lundy is a Marine Protected Area, making it one of the best diving sites in the British Isles. Situated just off the edge of the Atlantic, the unpolluted water often has excellent visibility, and when paired with the impressive array of shipwrecks and sea creatures, it’s no wonder this is such a popular spot. However, it’s important to be aware the strong tidal currents can make this a dangerous diving spot for the less experienced.
For those who aren’t ready to brave diving, the warden runs snorkelling sessions throughout the summer months where you can take a peek under the sea’s surface, guided by an expert.
The climbing adventures at Lundy can be fantastic and draw thousands of visitors back year after year for the unique experience. There are around 1,000 climbs for you to choose from, but be warned, none of these are suitable for beginners, and the incredibly wide tidal range of 15 metres means you must be especially careful. Nonetheless, their routes are spectacular, and a few of the most loved include Devil’s Slide, Flying Dutchman and Golden Gate. Climbing restrictions are in place from 31st March to 14th August in some areas to protect certain wildlife during breeding season, so late August and September are the best times to climb.
Wildlife spotting on Lundy
A wide array of rare and spectacular wildlife can be found throughout the island and its surrounding waters, including puffins, Manx shearwaters, guillemots, starlings, meadow pipits, skylarks, kestrels, rabbits, sika deer, highland cattle, sheep, pygmy shrews, pipistrelle bats, and many, many more! Whether you’re bird watching, seeking out life in the sea or heading for the land animals, there is plenty of life that will capture your interest during your visit.
If you fancy taking a day trip to Lundy Island, why not stay in one of our nearby cottages in Devon? We have properties in both Ilfracombe and Appledore to make your travels as easy as can be, along with a wealth of other places to visit in the local area!