Lundy Island - A view from our expert author

Lundy Island Devon England UK by Diana Mower Shutterstock
© Diana Mower, Shutterstock

Why do people come to Lundy? For the character of the island itself, and the tranquillity that is found there.

Lundy lies about ten miles north of Hartland Point in the entrance of the Bristol Channel where it meets the Atlantic. It is a granite island measuring three miles long and about half a mile wide. Just over two dozen people live there – all employees of the Landmark Trust which leases the island from its owner the National Trust.

Until 1969 Lundy was in the private ownership of the Harman family and upon Albion Harman’s passing the future of the island looked bleak indeed. Previous owners had included the Heaven and Christie families, as well as the Sovereign, and it had also been in the lease of famous Devon names such as the Grenvilles. Lundy’s history is steeped in tales of enforced slaves living there, of plots against the king and of being a stronghold for pirates. In 1969 the National Trust acquired it after Sir Jack Hayward donated the asking price at auction; the island’s future was secure. The Landmark Trust took on a 60-year lease and the responsibility to repair buildings, manage the land and employ the staff. Lundy inspires much interest, both nationally as well as further afield, enjoying, as it does, an unspoiled habitat (both terrestrial and marine) and a wealth of archaeology. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (north of the Quarter Wall) and the first National Statutory Marine Reserve, with a No Take Zone. It is the only place in the UK where you can find all five British species of shallow-water cup coral.

While the sea and its shore abound with life, there are almost no indigenous terrestrial mammals. The pygmy shrew and pipistrelle bat seem to be the only creatures that have always been here. There are no reptiles (perhaps St Patrick stopped off here on his way to Ireland) but there are plenty of rabbits, with a disproportionate number of black ones. They were introduced here by the Normans, and Lundy became one of the first Royal Warrens in the country. More recent introductions, by the Harman family, are Sika deer and Soay sheep. There are also some feral goats. The tough Lundy ponies are of mixed ancestry: mainly New Forest, Welsh Mountain and Connemara.

Atlantic Puffin landing Lundy Island Devon England UK by Mark Caunt Shutterstock
An Atlantic puffin landing in Lundy Island © Mark Caunt, Shutterstock

Since 1929 Lundy has had its own stamps (‘puffinage’) introduced by the owner at that time, Martin Coles Harman, and for a while it also had its own coinage.

Archaeological interest ranges from Bronze Age huts and enclosures at the north end to Romano-British inscribed stones in the burial ground near to the Old Light. There are also the remains of the Victorian granite quarries on the east side. On and around Lundy there are no fewer than 14 Grade II listed buildings and 41 scheduled sites and monuments, plus two scheduled wreck sites.

Lundy is divided by three main walls: Quarter Wall, Halfway Wall and Threequarter Wall. Land in between these walls differs considerably; farmed fields round the village at the south end, rough grazing in the middle, and bare granite encrusted with heather and lichens at the north end.

There are many letting cottages available for holidays, as well as facilities for campers, and the availability of winter transport by helicopter from Hartland means that the year-round occupation rate is high. All accommodation is self-catering and handled by the Landmark Trust. The island shop is fully stocked to meet all visitors’ requirements, while the Tavern caters for all meals and provides a social centre. Dogs are not allowed on Lundy.

Why do people come to Lundy? For the character of the island itself, and the tranquillity that is found there. For birdwatching, rock climbing or diving; for interest in the plants, the fungi, the lichens, or the archaeology and history; for walking; or simply for a rest with a few good books. One thing is for sure – after one visit most people are caught by the Lundy spirit and return time and again to this special corner of North Devon.

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