It was our second trip to the Farne Islands this year; last time we landed on Inner Farne, surrounded by seabirds, today was a little quieter. Longstone is the furthest out of the island group, although there are tidal rocks a little further off. This was the first island so far where the population has only ever been the lighthouse keepers and their families, there was never any safe option to live here other than in a solid stone purpose-built building. The lighthouse was built in 1826 and automated in 1990.
There cannot be that many people to have ever lived on Longstone but it does have one famous inhabitant in Grace Darling who moved to this lighthouse with her father from an older light on Brownsman Island about a mile away. This light must have been a much more robust building but so much more isolating. Brownsman had space for a garden, Longstone barely has any vegetation. Grace Darling’s fame is, of course, due to her part in the rescue of survivors from the Forfarshire in 1838 when it struck rocks in a storm stranding a few survivors on an even more exposed rocky island.
We had less than half an hour on Longstone, just enough time for a very brief look in the lighthouse and a very short walk out onto the near island. A seal, resting under the building, was a little surprised at the invasion of their remote rocky haven. A few gulls and cormorants flew out of the way but in general all was quiet. Colour was provided by the yellows of lichen on the rock and an odd patch of lesser sea-spurrey clinging on to a small rocky crevice, tiny flowers just minute dots of pink.
Rather quickly we were back at the boat for the return journey to Seahouses. An extra 15 minutes would have made it seem somewhat less of a blur. Then there might have been time to draw breath and take in the remote grandeur of the red and white building perched on sea drenched rocks.