Called Puffin Island by the Norsemen who once landed there, Lundy Island is a green speck of land 3 ½ miles long and half a mile wide in the Bristol Channel between Devon and South Wales, about 12 miles from the Devon coast, and around twice as far from the Welsh coast. During the 19th century the island became known as the Kingdom of Heaven, since at that time it was ruled by the Heaven family, and it can certainly feel like heaven on a fine day, with fabulous views of the English and Welsh coasts, and out to the Atlantic. The island has belonged to the National Trust since 1969, and it boasts one pub and three lighthouses, the Old Light built in 1819 and made of granite, and the white-painted North Lundy and South Lundy Lighthouses built in 1897. There are a number of buildings on the island leased by the LandmarkTrust and rented out as holiday lets.
As well as the Norsemen, the island was once the haunt of pirates, a reminder of which is the small cove in the north-east corner of the island called Frenchman’s Landing. There is a ruined castle in the south which was built by Henry III, sometimes referred to as the Marisco Castle (a name shared by the island’s pub, the Marisco Tavern) at a time when the island could properly be described as inhabited, and restoration work was carried out on it during the Civil War, when the inhabitants remained stubbornly faithful to Charles I while mainland Royalists were being defeated. It was during the 20th century that the island began to depopulate, so that most of the people found there today are either visitors or volunteers coming to the island for conservation projects.
The island is a paradise for wildlife watchers and twitchers. The puffins which gave rise to the island’s original name went into a seemingly terminal decline around 10 years ago, but the population has since made a recovery thanks to the extermination of the island’s rats. But there are far more birds to look out for than puffins, with over 400 species having been recorded. Other creatures include grey seals, sika deer, wild goats and Soay sheep, while the waters surrounding the island are visited by sharks and dolphins – something to look out for from the MS Oldenburg, the passenger ferry bringing visitors across from Bideford and Ilfracombe.
Map of the island.
|Coast of Lundy. Photo by Nick Stenning, via Wikimedia Commons|