Every year thousands of puffins land on a select few islands and we have three short months to see them before they go out to sea again for the rest of the year.
We took our four children to the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland for their annual puffin pilgrimage.
There’s a storm brewing. The sea has turned a menacing petrol blue.
‘I’m sorry we have to cancel,’ says the captain. ‘You won’t enjoy it, there’s 47mph winds predicted. You don’t want to get thrown around on a boat out there.’
But that’s where he was wrong. My husband Stuart and my children don’t care about getting thrown around. They do care, however, about seeing the puffins.
The puffins have been elusive to us this year. We were in Scotland hoping to sail from Anstruther, in Fife, to the Isle Of May to visit them, but bad weather kept cancelling the boat.
Undeterred, we drove to Northumberland to try our luck in the Farne Islands, a seabird nirvana that we’d always intended to visit.
‘Let me get this straight. You are taking four children aged 9 years to 18 months on a train, car, boat and then smaller boat to an island where there are no cars, no shops, no TV and no internet,’ said my best friend her voice getting higher and higher as she realised from the look on my face that I was serious.
‘It’s a great idea,’ I said a little too cheerily, as her words seemed to bring home the monumental nature of the task.
The idea was simple, we wanted our children to experience the sense of freedom to explore that we had when we were children.
‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could let them be truly wild. It would be so good for them,’ I said to my husband Stuart, getting carried away with the idea after finishing a chapter from Swallows and Amazons.
I went online searching for a wild adventure and somehow the Summer Isles off the coast of the Highlands in Scotland popped up and I was sold.
Only one of the Summer Isles is inhabited, the beautiful Tanera Mòr. It has just six holiday cottages, a tiny post office and cafe, no cars, no modern life intruding. Bliss.
How to make the most of your camera in the Galapagos. Stuart Conway, an award-winning photographer, tells Julie Conway .
Splat. A splodge of goo landed right on my lens. It had been snorted out of the nose of a Marine Iguana sitting inches from my camera. Another narrowly missed my arm. This dragon-like creature wasn’t telling me to get out of his space; he was expelling salt water taken in while feeding.