The North Devon coastline has a reputation for being spectacular enough, with its sweeping views across the Bristol Channel, but for a select number of visitors heading to the region, it is the small island that lies off its coast which marks the spot on their holiday map. Lundy is three miles (5km) long and just over half a mile wide (1km) and is a mere 23.5 miles from land (the town of Ilfracombe) and yet it could be another world…
While there are only 28 inhabitants on the island, around 20,000 visitors make the trip to Lundy Island each year between the months of April and October. The crossing, with MS Oldenburg tickets, takes approximately two hours. The Carlton Hotel in Ilfracombe has been approved as an official ticketing agent ahead of the 2020 season which means that residents (and non-guests) can purchase MS Oldenburg tickets. This Landmark Trust owned ship is something of a North Devon institution and has been carrying visitors out to Lundy and back for the past 35 years.
With a capacity of 267 passengers, she sails four times a week in the summer, from the port towns of Bideford and Ilfracombe. Most visitors to Lundy opt for the day trip – there on the tide in the morning and back on the tide in the afternoon (due to the tide times are not fixed so make sure to listen when the skipper announces when MS Oldenburg will leave for its return journey!).
However, the Landmark Trust, which manages Lundy Island, also has a number of holiday properties and an increasingly popular North Devon holiday choice is to combine a couple of days exploring the island with a couple of days on the mainland. The Carlton’s central location makes the hotel an ideal place to set up base camp as the Oldenburg leaves from Ilfracombe harbour, which is just a 10 minute stroll away.
Explore Lundy Island
So what can you expect to discover on Lundy? Well, let’s start with the joy of simplicity. There are no roads on Lundy, no shops, no major housing developments. This means there’s no traffic, no pollution and no stress (unless you neglected to listen to the skipper…). You are effectively escaping from the world when you set foot on Lundy Island and even your fellow passengers will begin to melt away by the time you’ve traced your way from the landing jetty to the centre of Lundy civilisation (ie the shop and the Marisco Tavern which are both run by the Landmark Trust).
The island has many nooks and crannies to explore and the 360 degree aspect provides amazing diversity in terrain despite the relatively small surface area. In the west, imposing cliffs jut from the exposed Atlantic side while the sheltered east of the island is home to wildflowers and a gentler coastline. This diversity of the natural environment is a big attraction for wildlife spotters.
Lundy comes from the Norse word for ‘puffin’ and the distinctive black and white bird with the colourful beak lives on the island, one of 317 species of bird which is known to frequent this Atlantic outcrop. This makes Lundy a popular destination for bird watchers who know their stuff, but also for casual visitors who are chasing a glimpse of what the Northern Scots refer to as ‘sea parrots’.
Marine Conservation Area
This beautiful little island also became the first Marine Conservation Zone in Britain in 2010. The waters around Lundy Island have long been popular with divers due to the clarity of the water and the diversity of marine wildlife it encompasses, including branching sponges and cup corals. You don’t have to be a diver to catch sight of the island’s seal population either and it’s very rare to visit the island without seeing at least a couple of pinnipeds bobbing up and down in the sea. There are also basking sharks, porpoises, dolphins and the occasional Minke whale to be spotted in the waters around Lundy. Seal watching, in particular, is a popular pastime amongst visitors.
Pirates and Brigands in Lundy’s History!
While nature rightly gets most of the attention on Lundy, it is worth reading up a little about the rich history of this island. Anyone travelling with kids can score some easy wow points by painting a picture of an island that for many years was the seat of some tumult; over time it has played base to Norse invaders, Knights Templar and various brigand groups including bands of pirates from England, France, the Basque country and even Barbary pirates from the North coast of Africa!
Definitely a trip to jot down in the memory book, Lundy Island may be not more than 20 miles off the North Devon coast but once you’re there, looking back at the mainland, it really does feel like you’ve travelled to a destination both exotic and unfamiliar. You can book your MS Oldenburg tickets to Lundy through The Carlton Hotel, which also offers the perfect pre and post-visit dock to shore up in, replenish stores and stretch your land legs!