I have no doubt that in many parts of the world (some of which I have visited) that the concept of a 24 hour a day fire brigade response would be seen as laughable. However, in the UK, we take this as an article of faith. If we 'phone 999 we know that sooner or later a trained fire crew will turn up and sort out whatever problem we have, from the house burning down to a flooded back garden or even a cat stuck up a tree! Now, try and apply this principle to Lundy and, if you have read my introduction page or other tips, you will know exactly how odd a concept this actually is. Yet another example of how remote Lundy remians in the 21st century and how removed from the "norms" of British society that most of us take for granted. I post this to demonstrate how "other-worldly" the island really is.
The image you can see is that of the Lundy Fire Brigade. Now, with a resident poplulation of 27 and a transitory visiting population of perhaps a couple of hundred in high season, it obviously makes no sense to build a fire station and staff it, that is clearly impractical. In a way that is so typically Lundy, they have worked out their own solution and you can see it here. On an occasional basis, professional firefighters from the Devon and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service come to the island and give basic training to those that live and work here permanently.
i was sure that this was just some sort of "Health and Safety" requirement or demanded by the insurance conmpanies but apparently quite recently the "Lundy Fire Brigade", consisting of the islands chef, farmer, a couple of housemaids and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, had to turn out and extinguish a fire. Well done them.
I know this might seem like a ridiculous thing to write a tip about but I post it here as an example of just how different a world you enter when you step off the boat or chopper here, whilst still being in the UK, it really is a place apart.
See if you can find it and take a photo (I know where it normally hides!), I'd love to see them!
I've called them the secret steps, because they're quite hidden and not really mentioned in any of the leaflets about the island. Anyway, about halfway along the tramway by the North Light, there's a very rough path leading down the cliff face. It looks impossibly steep from above, but really isn't too bad as long as you're careful. From the tramway, you can just make out some steps about halfway down...that's what you're aiming for, and once you get there, it's a fairly easy descent to a concrete platform where boats used to dock with supplies for the lighthouse. The steps themselves are quite sturdy, but i wouldn't put too much faith in the wobbly metal handrail!
The reason to come down here becomes obvious within a few minutes. Sit still and suddenly a little head will appear among the waves, staring right back at you. Then another...and another. The grey seals will have spotted you a mile off, and will come ever closer to get a good look at you. Be quick with your camera, as it's almost as if they know you're about to take their photo and disappear, resurfacing once you've put your camera away...I have so many photos of empty sea! One in particular kept rolling around on his back, showing off, but never in front of the camera.
It was quite a special place for me...I've never seen seals that close before, and assumed because they are wild, they'd bugger off as soon as I got near...but they're amazingly inquisitive. My brothers didn't come with me that day, and they're less inclined towards steep cliff paths than I am...well, they really missed out this time.
Up at the North Light, if you've got time to spare, have a look at the tramlines to the right of the lighthouse. It's not really what you'd expect to find at the end of an isolated island, but yes, they are tram tracks...used to transport supplies to the lighthouse keepers. Ships would land at the platform down below (see next tip) and while people would climb the steps, goods were hauled up the crack between the rocks then loaded onto carts to be pulled along the tramway. Walk along the tracks for closer views of the seals and to follow the soay sheep as the graze in ever more precarious positions.
Just before the path down to the North Light, you should be able to see a pile of white stones off to the right. Close up, these turn out to be in the shape of some sort of dwelling, known as John o'Groats House. Apparently these are the remains of a mediaeval "lighthouse", built on possibly the windiest part of the island. From here, Lundy looks very bleak, all flat and grey, in stark contrast to the nearby green slopes of the east coast.
All around here are big circular boulders. Man-made? Natural?
In two fo the pictures, you can see the cloud forming a very clear line in the sky, splitting Lundy in half. This was quite common...the east coast being sunny and warm, while the Old Light and the Battery on the west coast shrouded in mist.
If the queen had decided to land here rather than at Brazen Ward, I think I would maybe have understood, but anyway....eventually the coast path will bring you to Gannets' Bay, another popular seal haunt, and you'll have two choices...climb upwards to meet the main path above Threequarters Wall, or carry on round the bay to a very isolated spot. I opted for the latter, and soon found out why it is isolated...in places the path has fallen away and you have to scramble along the cliffside, but the drops aren't too bad to make it too dangerous. The path ends at Gannets' Rock, where you can scramble up the rocks to look out over the next inaccessible bay.
I made it there late in the afternoon, on one of the days when the MS Oldenburg was visiting. Watching the seals cavorting in the bay, I suddenly heard an engine, then a voice saying "and on the right, you can see Gannets' Rock...". The Oldenburg was doing a round the island boat trip, and i think some of the passengers were quite surprised to see a lone hiker (me...) stood on the clifftop miles from anywhere!
Instead of walking down to Quarry Beach, you can continue along the wide path leading north up the east coast. Look out for a path branching off down to the right, and this will keep you away from the main paths (you'll appreciate this if a boat is in!). This rougher path takes you round two or three bays, all of which are great places to spot grey seals. One rock in particular seems to be a favourite, and I counted over twenty seals arguing over prime sunbathing spots with not a single other person in sight. What surprised me was the noise that they make, like dogs howling.
A bit further north, a very well hidden path leads down to another battery on a headland. This is Brazen Ward, where Queen Elizabeth II came ashore. Now why on earth would she choose to come ashore here of all places?! I know she likes to be different, but really...nobody else comes ashore here. Was the Landing Bay not to Her Majesty's liking?!
Landing Bay beach too crowded? Try Quarry Beach...to get there, you need to clamber down a steep path below the quarries partly hidden in the undergrowth, swing down a rope between two rocks, then descend a ladder, all to reach a beach of boulders and...well, not much else, to be honest! However, the sea is quite calm along here, and it is sheltered from the wind, so this might be the perfect place to escape from all those pesky daytrippers who keep trampling through your garden!
Between the Quarterwall Cottages and the Old Hospital, there's a set of steps leading down to a tiny pond with ducks in it, fairly well hidden from view. On the other side of the pond, what looks like an old toolshed stands on a flat bit of grass with great views along the coast back to the Landing Bay. There's a seat outside the hut, and this seems to be quite a popular place for a picnic when it is warm enough.
The hut was actually where the timekeeper sat and kept note of the workers at the quarries below. Nowadays, it is known as Gade's Hut, after Felix Gade, a long-term resident of Lundy.
Continue down the path and you'll soon come to the remains of the quarries themselves. In the 1860's, the Lundy Granite Company worked these quarries, with grandiose plans of supplying stone for all sorts of buildings in London...however the quality of the stone wasn't great, so after only a few years in business, the quarries closed and the neighbouring cottages fell into ruin. In one of the quarries, there is a memorial to one of the Harman clan who used to own the island...this particular Harman was awarded the Victoria Cross after dying in WWII in Burma.
I don't have any photos of the quarries for some reason.
Although overlooking the Landing Bay and very visible from the boat as you approach the island, not many daytrippers find their way up to the flagpole. I have to confess to never having found my way there on my two daytrips to Lundy, but this time we were staying just a stone's throw from it...the flagpole was practically in our back garden!
To get there from the Landing bay, turn off the road at Millcombe House and take any of the paths on the right as you approach the house. From the village, exit the Marisco Tavern from smokers' corner and head off down the path to the side of Government House.
As you can probably guess, views from the flagpole are pretty impressive, and it is the best place to come and wave the daytrippers off. To take advantage of the view, a little hut has been built into the hillside, known as the Ugly.
Below the flagpole, there is also access to the remote east coast via a steep set of steps...not for those with a fear of heights though, as the cliff path is right on the edge in places.
The most common departure point for boat trips to reach Lundy Island, is Ilfracombe on the North Devon Coast. A very pleasant seaside town in its own right, it is worth making a stop here either before or after your visit to Lundy.
There are at least 4 (I may think of others) very special wildlife features to the Island. All are so rare they are officially protected.
The Island is one of only a few sites in the UK where the Puffin breeds.
There is a special plant called the Lundy Cabbage, unique to the Island.
The Island is the last place in the UK for the Black Rat to breed in the wild. This is alleged to have brought either Back Death or Bubolic Plague to UK and to seamen.
The coral and undersea inshore fish. They are all in the UK's only under sea area of Special Scientific Interest (SSI). You will need a special licence to dive in the designated area.
There are several herds of feral goats.
There are numerous rock climbs making the descent and climb of ths sea cliffs - all of varying difficulty. I think you may need a special licence to climb any or all the spectacular cliffs.