The Island Magic
It is difficult to sum up exactly what it is about Lundy that makes so many people fall under its spell. There is an indiscernible magical quality that seems to pervade the senses as soon as you set foot ashore, which varies in intensity from person to person. A holiday here gives the opportunity to totally relax and unwind, away from pressures of mainland life, and be busy doing absolutely nothing.
Getting to Lundy
There are two ways of getting to Lundy, depending upon the season of travel. During the summer months (April to October) visitors are carried on the island’s own vessel, MS Oldenburg (affectionately known as the Old and Buggered), which sails from both Bideford and Ilfracombe. Sailings are three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday), plus Wednesday in July and August. The voyage takes around 2 hours, depending on ports, tides and weather. Sailings from Ilfracombe are usually slightly faster, as it can take considerable time to cross Bideford Bar and reach the open sea.
The ship is fully equipped with a small shop, information centre, buffet and bar, with indoor and outdoor seating. Smoking is permitted only on the open decks. All staying visitors must book tickets in advance, as the fact that you have paid for accommodation does not automatically entitle you to this.
On arrival at the island, visitors disembark on the jetty. The steep walk up to the village then begins. The Lundy brochure describes this as a gentle stroll, which is not at all how I would describe it. It seems that no matter how many times I visit the island, I still arrive at the village red in the face and out of breath! This is exacerbated by the fact that I am carrying extra clothing and provisions for the journey, and my first few hours on the island. At busy times it can be several hours before visitors are reunited with their luggage. It is therefore prudent to carry any essential supplies with you. Tea, coffee and UHT milk are available in each property, should you wish to make a hot drink while you wait. All luggage is safely carried in the hold aboard MS Oldenburg and transferred to a tractor and trailer for transportation to your property.
During the winter months, (November to March) the Oldenburg comes out of service, and the island is served by a scheduled helicopter service from Hartland Point. The helicopter operates on Mondays and Fridays, with flying between 11am and 2pm, making it ideal for weekend visits and short breaks. Although much quicker (an average of 7 minutes flying time). As the helicopter holds a maximum of 7 passengers, it can take several hours to get everyone across. One passenger sits next to the pilot, whilst the remaining six are crammed into the cabin behind. Travelling alone as I always do automatically puts you at an advantage for the front seat, the view from which is pretty amazing, giving you a totally different perspective of the island.
The heliport is basically a field at the top of Hartland Point, not far from the Beacon. It consists essentially of a shed, with separate toilet. A café is open on flying days, serving the usual hot drinks and home bakes (sadly not including gluten free). Parking is provided at the public car park a five minute walk from the heliport and costs approximately £1.50 per day (subject to change).
Please note there is a strict baggage allowance of 10 kilos per passenger for the helicopter, and 20 kilos by boat. The official literature says that all bags are weighed on arrival at the port and excess baggage (£5 per 5 kilos or part thereof) charged to your account at the Marisco Tavern. In practise, this only ever happens at the heliport. This makes life somewhat difficult for those with special dietary needs who have to take provisions with them. You can of course order goods in advance from the shop, but past experience has shown that they are unlikely to be able to obtain them. Provided you let the Shore Office know in advance, it is usually possible to take these items free of charge, as long as they are packed in a seperate bag and clearly labelled as special dietary needs.
Entrance to Lundy is free for all those who arrive by scheduled transport. However, as the island is owned by the National Trust, visitors arriving by other means, including their own boats and light aircraft, will be charged a small entrance fee. If you are staying on Lundy, and do not arrive by scheduled transport, you will also be charged for carrying your luggage to the top of the island. Full details and up to date prices are available from the Island Office on 01237 431831.
On the rare occasions (mostly spring and autumn) when the Oldenburg is unable to sail due to adverse weather conditions, the Landmark Trust will endeavour to arrange alternative helicopter transportation, at subsided rate and meet the cost of extra night’s accommodation for visitors who are unable to leave the island.
Before setting out en route to the ports, it is sensible to ensure that Landmark have your mobile telephone number so that they can notify you of any changes to either departure times or ports. Please use your phone sensibly with the safety of others in mind – remember that you can now receive three penalty points if caught using a hand held mobile telephone whilst driving.
It is also imperitive that all staying passengers to the island telephone the information line on 01271 863636 after 8pm the night before the departure for up to date travel information. Weather can sometimes force changes of sailing and/or flying times if particular winds are forecast.
Getting to the Ports
Both Bideford and Ilfracombe are accessed via Junction 27 of the M5, which links Birmingham and Exeter. This leads to the A361, the main link road into North Devon.
From London and the south there are 2 main routes into North Devon, either straight down the M4 and M5, or via the M3/A303/A358.
The A361 takes you into Barnstaple, the largest town in North Devon. At the end of this road, the A39 (left) takes you into Bideford and Hartland, right, through the town centre takes you into Ilfracombe. Barnstaple is not the easiest town to drive through, due its large number of roundabouts. For those who wish to avoid the town it is possible to do this by turning right onto the A399 at South Molton roundabout (the scenic route) or continuing to the main roundabout that leads to the A39 and the Barnstaple Western bypass at Roundswell roundabout.
For those travelling by public transport the best option is probably by National Express coaches, which run from most major towns across the country. By train North Devon is accessed via the Tarka Line which runs from Exeter to Barnstaple. You will then need to travel on to the port by public bus. Further information on both busses and trains can be obtained from www.traveline.org.uk
Accomodation at the Ports
Details on suitable accommodation will be sent to you as part of your holiday confirmation. If you are looking for low cost, no frills accomodation, then I would recommend Travelodge, who have several hotels along the main routes into North Devon, the nearest being in Barnstaple itself. I would also recommend the youth hostel at Westward Ho!, which being open all year, is convenient for both helicopter and boat. The most obvious advantage for those with special dietary needs is the fact that you can self cater, and as such, have access to a large kitchen where you can store provisions which you will need to bring with you, ensuring that they remain fresh.
Details of other establishments can be found at www.staynorthdevon.co.uk
Accomodation on Lundy
Lundy has 23 holiday properties to choose from sleeping between 1 and 14 people. These include a lighthouse, a castle and a Victorian mansion. Many of the buildings are constructed from the island’s granite, and all have their own unique style and character. All have heating and many of the larger properties also have wood burning stoves. Each property has either a bath or shower depending on size. The kitchens are fully equipped with everything you need in order to self cater. Each building contains a selection of books, card games, jigsaws etc for those rainy and windy days which are part and parcel of island life.
The island also has its own campsite, situated in the centre of the village close to the Tavern and shop. It has both hot and cold water, with showers and toilets in an adjacent building.
During July, August, and most Bank Holidays, properties are let by the week from Saturday to Saturday. At other times, properties may be booked for any period that fits in around the arrival and departure of MS Oldenburg and/or the helicopter. The maximum length of stay in any one propery is three weeks.
As Lundy is part of the United Kingdom there is no need to change money or obtain travellers cheques (unless of course you are visiting from abroad). For staying visitors it is possible to open an account at both the Tavern and shop for the duration of your stay, and pay on departure. It is best to take a small amount of cash with you though, as when you arrive, departing visitors may still have to pay their bills. The Tavern may therefore ask you to pay for your first meal in cash, in order to avoid confusion.
Both shop and Tavern accept Visa, MasterCard, Solo and Switch (minimum £10), as well as cash and cheques. If you do need extra cash, the shop can usually cash personal cheques without problems
As Lundy has no resident Doctor, visitors with serious medical conditions would be strongly advised to consult their own Doctor prior to booking. If you need to take medication for any reason, such as asthma, allergies etc, ensure that you bring adequate supplies with you. Although the shop stocks basic items such as pain killers, plasters etc, it is sensible to take a basic first aid with you anyway. Wet wipes or a small tub of water free hand wash are useful accessories to bring, as well as a supply of paper tissues.
If the worst should happen, the majority of islanders are fully trained members of the coastguard team, and are trained to help with evacuation.
Lundy, like many regions in the south of England, particularly in the summer months, suffers from periodic shortages of water, so visitors are asked to use it as sparingly as possible. The water has slightly higher than average nitrate levels, which although safe, results in a slight brown colouration and to some visitors at least, a disagreeable taste (although no worse than London tap water!). Although it may be tempting to drink water from the myriad of natural springs around the island, I strongly recommend that you do not do so, as it is likely to prompt a very unpleasant reaction, and may even give you intestinal parasites from the animals that also use these springs.
During the summer months in particular, it is absolutely essential to ensure that you drink adequate amounts of water in order to avoid dehydration. The use of a high factor sun screen is also strongly recommended. Remember that Lundy is an island surrounded by sea, which reflects the rays of the sun. Wind burn can be almost as big a problem as the sun. Unfortunately the only way to avoid this is to stay in.
The electricity, which is supplemented by the islands own generator, is switched off each night between midnight and approximately 6am. If you like to stay up late bring candles and/or a torch and leave it by the bed in case you wake up in the night.
Electricity is very expensive to produce, so visitors are asked not to bring any electrical items with them and ensure that supplies are used responsibly.
The weather on Lundy is if anything slightly warmer than the mainland, with snow extremely rare. As an island surrounded by sea, the main consideration is the wind, which seems to blow from all directions at once. This makes for somewhat exhilarating walks. The west side of the island, facing the Atlantic is naturally less sheltered than the east, which can be relatively calm when a gale force wind is blowing to the west.
On an island with limited shelter, the summers can be blistering hot, and the winters extremely cold. Therefore take care to dress accordingly, and carry adequate amounts of water and sun cream. A hat is invaluable to protect you from the very real risk of sunstroke.
What to bring with you
This will depend upon the season of travel. There are certain items however which are essential at any time of year. These include good quality walking boots, and a set of waterproofs (both jacket and trousers), as well as toiletries and a basic first aid kit. It is best to take a variety of different clothing, since even in summer, the weather can be unpredictable with gales and heavy rain. The island does have a laundry service, should you run out of clean clothes, but it is prohibitively expensive at £15 for a service wash (subject to change). If you are staying for any length of time, remember to bring washing liquid and a clothes line with pegs.
The Marisco Tavern
This is the island’s one and only Pub, named after the famous Marisco family who owned the island for many tempestuous years. The Tavern forms the hub of island life, and is a wonderfully friendly and atmospheric place with an excellent selection of food and drink to suit all tastes and palettes.
Although the door is always open, food is only served at set times. Breakfast is available between 8.30 and 10 am, lunch from 12 until 2pm, and evenings meals from 6 to 8.30 pm (desserts served until 9pm). Bar hours vary, but are generally from 12 noon ’til 10pm, with 11am opening on boat/helicopter days and 11pm closing Fridays and Saturdays. On boat days, the kicthen remains open until 30 minutes before sailing.
Lunch consists of a selection of jacket potatoes with various filings, as well as baguettes and other hot dishes. These always include veggie pasties and burgers (unfortunately not gluten free). The jacket potatoes are however huge and delicious. I particularly recommend the cheese and coleslaw.
The evening menu features island produce such as game stew (goat, venision and soay lamb), Lundy lamb and local crab and lobster with up to three daily specials. Vegetarians are also catered for, although it would be fair to say, that in common with other similar establishments, there is an over-reliance on pasta and cheese. The two chefs are though very accomodating and will do their best to cater for specalist needs (vegan, gluten free etc) and answer any questions that you may have.
The Tavern is much more than a place to eat and drink, as it also serves as an informal island headquarters where one can call it in report problems with the properties, make future holiday bookings, or just sit and listen to island gossip. Many of the warden’s events such as bird walks also depart from here.
The Island Shop
Over the years, Nigel the shop manager has become expert at anticipating the needs of both islanders and visitors alike. As a result the shop is well stocked with all essential items, similar to a village shop. These include fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen goods, toiletries, and soft drinks.
Vegetarians are catered for with frozen veggie burgers and sausages, (locally made Bean Burgers plus Linda McCartney). The shop does not stock quorn or tofu, and only large packs of soya mince, which are not always available. Other basic items, such as rice (brown and white basmati, as well as easy cook and savoury), pasta and tinned beans (butter, kidney and chickpeas, plus organic cannellini and borlotti) are readily available, as well as fresh humous from the fridge. Rice and oat cakes are also available for those who are coeliac or intolerant to wheat. There is no wheat free pasta. Soya milk is also available (unsweetened).
When visitors book their accomodation, they are sent a list detailing the shops stock and inviting them to complete an order form for any special items, such as baby requisitories and special dietary needs. The availability of these items cannot be guaranteed. Those with special dietary needs are therefore strongly advised to bring basic supplies with them. Orders should be completed at least two weeks in advance.
Should you need to bring provisions with you, then there are branches of both Tesco and Sainsburys on the outskirts of Barnstaple. There is a smaller branch of Tescos just outside Ilfracombe. Both stores do their own excellent wheat and dairy free range of products. Please note these are not large branches, and may not have the full range of items available. Both Bideford and Ilfracombe have excellent health food stores, where a variety of wheat free and vegetarian items can be purchased
For those wishing to bring chilled supplies with them, I recommend a product called Chillerz, obtainable from larger branches of Millets. These ice sheets remain frozen for anything up to 48 hours, meaning that you can if necessary store supplies overnight at your bed and breakfast hotel before transporting them to the island the following day, thus removing the need to travel through Barnstaple altogether. If staying in Ilfracombe, the majority of rooms at the Laston House Hotel have small fridges that you can also store items in.
Keeping in Touch
The island’s only pay phone is situated in the front room of the Tavern. It is unable to accept phone cards, or incoming calls, so ensure you bring adequate supplies of ten pence pieces. Extra change is always available from the shop or the bar.
Mobile phone coverage varies, being better on the east side, facing the mainland than the west, although a reasonable signal can usually be obtained from the Old Light.
Although the island does have email, this is not available for the use of visitors. If you ask, it will be refused, so I suggest that you don’t! The island does though have its own wifi network set up in the office above the Marisco Tavern, but this is for islanders only.
Lundy is one of the most picturesque islands I have visited, with spectacular cliff and inland scenery, and a fascinating variety of wildlife. The light changes in angle and intensity both with the seasons, and time of day, being particularly spectacular in the hour or so before sunset.
For general landscape photography, a wide angle zoom of around 28 – 70 mm will probably be all you need. If you hope to photograph birds, or seals a 200 – 300 mm lens will prove its worth. One of the new hybrid cameras with a 12 or 18 x zoom will help down cut the weight.
Whichever type of photography you do, there are three things that are absolutely essential for any successful trip; spare batteries, adequate cleaning equipment to protect your valuable equipment from dust and grit, and a good set of polarising filters. These have the effect of absorbing stray UV light, and intensifying the blue skies.
The shop stocks disposable cameras but no film or memory cards. It is therefore essential to make sure you bring adequate supplies with you.
Energetically speaking Lundy is a very special place, forming a Lunar Triangle with Stone Henge and the Preseli Mountains in Wales (this is where the stones used in Stone Henge were mined). It forms part of the same Ley Line then that runs through these very special places. There is also a very important energy vortex located in the region of Beacon Hill, near the Old Light.
The main attraction is the total absence of pressures and distractions of mainland life. With this comes a gradual quieting of the mind, and constant internal babble. It takes a couple of days for the babble to completely stop, and then after a day or two, if you are not careful it will do its best to start all over again.
Walking around the island is a form of walking meditation, where it is difficult not to see and sense the divine presence everywhere around you. This naturally serves to heighten our own sense of Divinity, and gives us the opportunity to re-discover who we really are. There is no danger of becoming ungrounded here though, as all the walking and close proximity to nature keeps our feet very firmly on the ground!