‘Let’s spend New Year’s Eve on a granite outcrop in the middle of the Bristol Channel’ I excitedly proposed to my OH back in October. ‘It’ll be ace! There’s no wifi, no phone signal, no TV……oh and the only way to get there is by helicopter…’
It took a tiny bit of persuasion but he quickly realised what a great adventure we might have – and that the 4-day stay period meant we would fly out on his birthday. And we were lucky, because to stay on Lundy over the holiday season normally means booking months, even years, in advance. We’d been discussing New Year’s eve and what to do, and while idly fantasising about doing something out of the ordinary, I just happened to be looking at the Lundy website. And clearly at the right time as miraculously, there had been a cancellation with one remaining property. So a serendipitous moment indeed.
Lundy island is situated approximately 12 miles off the north Devon coast, with the next stop across the Atlantic being the U.S. When we were in the Azores last September, contemplating that we were on a cluster of islands in the middle of the Atlantic with the next stop being Boston, little did we imagine we would find ourselves in a similar situation some three months later. (Azores blogs start here).
Lundy is owned by the National Trust but leased to and managed by the Landmark Trust. It was gifted to the NT by a wealthy chap named Jack Hayward, who purchased the island in 1969 for £150,000. And considering the complex and varied ownership over previous centuries, this was a brilliant move. Lundy is now preserved and protected and cared for. The abundant wildlife includes deer, goats, seals and puffins. We didn’t get to see puffins as they migrate at this time of year and the seals were elusive too but we didn’t actually venture to the best part of the island to see them.
Our journey started on the 29th at Hartland Point where we checked in for our crossing to the island by helicopter. So exciting! 15 kilos of luggage each meant we could pack sensibly and still get a bottle of single malt across for those chilly evenings. John sat in the front with the pilot, with six of us in the back. The journey lasts around 7 minutes and before you know it, you’re hovering over Lundy village and coming in to land.
The history of the island is rich and intriguing. It has been occupied by families and pirates, Kings and convicts, smugglers and Lords. It was once granted to the Knights Templar for a period of five years. Archaeological finds evidence settlements dating back to the 5th century; a couple of standing stones with Roman inscription stand in the island cemetery.
There are fascinating buildings all over the island, which is a mere 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. A ruined castle and hospital are but a couple of the decaying skeletons across the landscape. Accomodation wise, you find victorian grandeur, a lighthouse, remote cottages, a signal station, old school, radio room and part of the castle keep as well as so many other interesting buildings which are all let to guests throughout the year.
We stayed at Old Light Lower, in a ground floor apartment built as lightkeeper accomodation for the Old Lighthouse. This was constructed in 1819, cost £36,000 and took a year to build. It was deliberately sited on the highest point of the island, some 800 feet above sea level. What seemed like a good plan until the light was operational and it was discovered that when thick fog decends upon the island, the light is not visible out to sea. Hence two further lighthouses were constructed on lower ground at the north and south ends of the island and are fully automated.
But the Old Light is a breathtaking building. Climb to the top and amaze yourself with spectacular views across to the mainland. The acoustics are wonderful too; I practised scales and managed to sound reasonably good!
At night, the building is beautifully eerie. The apartments are connected to the tower by a short passageway; open the door at night and be met by the wind howling through the building and darkness at the foot of the spiral steps. It’s a great place for a vivid imagination!
Our apartment was wonderful. A six foot inglenook with log burner was the highlight. Sheets and blankets on the beds and hot water bottles. No TV, no mobile signal, just peace and quiet. I read, sewed and sketched while John read the visitor log book, Jackanory style each night to our great amusement.
In the village, a fine tavern called the Marisco (named for one of the Lundy landowner families), acts as the hub of the island. It’s a cafe, restaurant, pub, meeting point, information centre and a cosy, welcoming place to end up at after a wet and windswept walk. A great open fire, board games, mulled cider and chocolate cake…..and good company. We met some lovely people and enjoyed hearing of the good walking, the history and why Lundy is so special that it attracts people back year after year after year. Indeed, one couple there were staying for their 18th time at New Year.
We had a great New Year’s Eve party. The fancy dress theme was Heroes and Villains, so we went dressed as a Villainous Seagull (John) complete with robbers mask and food-filled swag bag – I was the heroic Puffin, there to stop him from nicking people’s chips.
The weather was incredible; if you’ve read my ‘About Me’, you’ll know that I love extreme weather and so I was in my element (pun intended). Put it like this, at one point the wind was making me gallop. I had no choice in the matter. On another occasion, we were caught in a mighty hail, thunder and lightning storm by the landing platform on the quay which made me contemplate, briefly but quite seriously, that we could quite possibly die. But I am a bit of a drama queen….
There is a great, well stocked shop too. We were able to pre-order supplies (including fuel for the burner) which were delivered to our accomodation upon our arrival. And both the shop and the pub ran ‘tabs’ for guests which meant you could settle up on your last day and not have to worry about carrying purses, wallets, cash etc.
So four days of bliss were had. We ventured out every day in gale force winds and rain to experience the thrill of being on such a fantastic place of natural beauty.We trudged across fields and over stiles by torchlight to get back to the lighthouse after a cosy evening in the pub, and then warmed ourselves by our fire with a whisky. We slept like logs. We left Lundy feeling as though we had experienced something truly unique, an adventure. Will we go back? Definitely. I urge you to go too, if you can.
Take waterproof walking boots – there are tracks, but no hard roads except by the pub. Don’t underestimate how wet it can be under foot.
Take good pocket torches- there is no street lighting! Great for star gazing!
Read up on the history on Lundy before you go, and get yourself an info book to read when you’ve had a couple of days there. You will appreciate the narrative once you’re familiar with the island.
Do the ‘Letter boxing’- a kind of treasure hunt for which you can buy a kit at the shop. We only found 4 boxes out of around 27 but will go back for more! It was good fun!
Take a compass – useful for the above!
Read the guest log books in the accomodation – some great tips and funny stories!