Nature fans are being given the chance to get up close to seals and their pups on an island for only the second time in almost nine decades.
The National Trust runs tours to the Farne Islands every year where people can see the local seal population and visit Inner Farne.
This year however for only the second time in the trust’s 88 year history, visitors are being offered the chance to land on Staple Island, one of the largest in the Farnes, as seal breeding season gets underway.
The islands are home to England’s largest population of Atlantic grey seals, with numbers increasing every year. The first seal pup born on the Farnes this year was on September 27, and heralded what is hoped to be yet another successful season.
More than 1,600 seal pups were born on the islands in 2012, an increase on the previous year, taking the total population to 4,800.
The tour to Staple Island will allow visitors will to see first-hand the challenges faced by a young pup in its first few weeks of life.
From Monday 14 to Thursday, October 31, three visitor boats a day will leave Seahouses Harbour, joined by a trust ranger, and sail to the island.
Once ashore they will be greeted by a team of trust rangers who will share their experiences of working with seals.
David Steel, head ranger for the trust on the Farnes, said: “We are delighted to be able to once again offer this exciting tour.
“There isn’t anywhere else in England where visitors can get as close as this to Atlantic grey seals, particularly during the pupping season.
“This is a really special time at the Farnes and one which not many people get to see, so these tours really do offer a unique experience for the visitor.
“We are hoping that this will be another exciting year for the seal colony and our dedicated staff are looking forward to being able to share their experiences of working alongside these amazing creatures.”
The breeding season for seals on the Farnes usually starts in September with the majority of pups being born in October and November.
Although the pups can swim at an early age they don’t normally leave the breeding colony until they have been weaned and moulted their white coats.
Trust rangers are committed to ensuring that the tours cause no undue disturbance to the seals and that visitors are within a safe viewing distance from the breeding mammals.
The tours are all weather permitting and the trust is advising that people should wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing, including waterproofs.
Tours cost £10 for adults and £5 for children, including trust members, and take place at 11am, 12pm and 1pm. There will be an additional charge for the boat trip.
Bookings are advisable and must be done by contacting either Glad Tidings boat company on 01665 720316 or 01665 720308 (evenings), or Serenity boat company on 01665 721667 or 01665 720760 (evenings.)
Further details can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk
The Inner Farne will remain open as normal from 10am to 5pm, throughout the seal tours, and normal charges apply.