|The whole day was great, but fraught with small problems. It was great to see 100 people interested enough to want to visit this island and help keep it alive. I'd like to go again, but with more knowledge of these problems, and either on a longer day trip, or to stay for several days.
Be warned, traffic in Barnstaple can be a nightmare, especially if you need to get through Barnstaple to get to Illfracombe. Cars stretched along the A3125 back from the centre to the A39. After a while in a jam I realised the car in front had a sticker that read 'Barnstaple - Home of the Traffic Jam'. Nice one!
Parking info for Illfracombe was poor. The letter with my ticket said info would be given when you arrive. When I phoned up I was given a vague "long term parking is on the other side of the quay". It seems stupid to give this info out just before the ship sails when people are trying to book late tickets, collect tickets etc. And then the advice was dodgy, sending us up to a £2 car park a long way up the hill opposite the quay, whereas I learnt later that the car park at the bottom of this hill was only £2.80 a day, which if you ask me is worth the extra 80p, especially if the Barnstaple gridlock has made you later than you expected. If you come before mid May, or later in the season, there is also a chance you could park in one of the Illfracombe streets for free. Check the restrictions.
The boat trip is currently (2004) £28 for a day return (£25 concessions, including National Trust members). Or £42 for a period return. Helicopters run in the winter for £69. All these are for adult prices. Fine website (see link below) including online booking facility for day trips.
The road/path from the jetty on Lundy is long and steep. Not surprising really considering Lundy is like a huge slab of granite plonked in the ocean, but I thought I'd warn you all. The top of the island is mainly a plateau (120 to 140 metres above sea level), however, even this plateau is undulating and although the coastal paths are quite obvious, not all the paths are. Luckily you can walk just about anywhere you want as long as you abide by the common sense country code and close the few gates that are around. There is also a 4x4 track running the length of the island, which you might prefer to use to get places. It is quite rocky but still easier walking for some than the smaller paths. Lundy and the boat (MS Oldenburg) have no special disability facilities, however they say they will try to help and adapt as best they can for people with disabilities.
Weather conditions change rapidly and even on a nice day (like my day) you can still have bad sea (or land) conditions. It took us 20 minutes to dock and only later I heard there had been a strong possibility that we wouldn't be able to get off the boat. So don't assume anything and be prepared for possible changes / disappointments.
The boat says it takes up to 267 passengers. I'd hate to see it with that many on it! Most places to sit (inside and outside) were taken with only 120 people on board and on a nice day. The booking section on their website tells you how many tickets have been sold so far so you could use this to pick a quiet-ish trip, however I'm not sure how accurate it is.
The boat also seems to make up the rules as it goes along and doesn't always tell you things. We were clearly told the boat would leave at 3.30pm (incidentally, slightly earlier than we expected when booking) and you can embark from 3pm. So, as I returned through the village at 3.05, knowing I'd make it by 3.10/3.15 I felt pretty happy with my timing. But no, I was told by the shopkeeper they were sailing at 3. Rush etc! I was met by a Land Rover on the coast road that took me the last 500 metres, and was given the impression by some people that I had held everyone up. In reality we had actually left 15 mins early. What they don't tell you is that once everyone expected is aboard they will leave, so 3.30 was the latest time, not necessarily the actual time it will leave. I'm not saying they would have left without me, but I was narked for having to feel like I'd been late (I'm a pretty punctual person), and for having to worry that they might leave without me! Half of me felt grateful they had 'waited', half felt annoyed they made me look like a latecomer and people were asking me 'what happened?' Note - remember that most people just go for a quick walk on the south bit of the island and settle down in the village. Most won't go wandering like I did (and you might).
And the shopkeeper had said "Didn't you hear the foghorn blasts? That means they are ready to leave". Well, fecking sorry if my father didn't give me a seafaring lesson when I was 4 years old! How am I supposed to know things that I'm not informed about? I'm an intelligent enough person. Inform me of something and I'll do my best to understand it and ask questions if I need to, but this assumption of knowledge / lack of info was really annoying.
A National Trust leaflet called 'The Archaeology of Lundy' was available on the boat for 50p. Apparently a more substantial booklet might be available at the Island shop but I never got the chance to find out more due to the above problems.
A free Lundy leaflet, advertising the island and the boat schedule, includes a slightly magnified version of the 1:25,000 OS map, so no need to buy the OS map unless you really want to.
This post appears as part of the weblog entry Not a perky puffin in sight
Posted by pure joy
10th April 2004ce
Edited 10th April 2004ce