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Nick and friends do Lundy

7 adults and 2 children on an island on a week's holiday May / June 2000. 

It's a challenge to call this a travelogue. As soon as you get to the island, what's there to see? A handful of renovated cottages, a church, and a pub, sheep, goats, deer, rabbits, chickens, pigs, cats, seagulls, seals, ponies, caves, cliffs, ruins,...  

For the boys, Jack 11, Tobias 13, this was going to be traumatic: No computer games, no television.  Would they be climbing out of their skulls by day three?

For Andrew and I - there's no Chinese or Indian restaurants - would we survive?

The Players

Andrew Your co-webmaster and partner to luscious Laura

Jenny, and her children, Jack and Tobias.

Nina (Naughty Nympho Nina, Queen of Sex) mother to Jack and Tobias

Jennifer the wicked evil step mother, and partner to Jenny

Bernie a friend to all

Nick your co-webmaster and author

Comments? Email me!

Friday 26th May

Getting everybody together

The problem with adults is they all want to do their own thing. Kids are reasonably easy to manipulate: they can be overtly bribed, or shouted at. Any sulks evaporate quickly. With adults, well, we compromise.

Today is a Friday before a Bank holiday weekend. Aiming for an early start I squawk parrot-like "Let's get down there early, and enjoy the delights of Ilfracombe without rushing." (Buffoon.)

Bernie arrives from Cambridge, complete with the children at 13:00. (OK - we can still make it in daylight - easy.) Laura arrives with son, Barry, at 13:30. (OK - still make it: it's still light at 22:00.) We all end up in the local pub for lunch, but we stay far too long. (Food, and chat was good - why get "aggy" ?) So yes, I'm responsible for being late too! We leave at 16:00. (The hotel at Ilfracombe has a night porter - we let them know we'll be late.)

Journey - on a Bank Holiday Weekend!

A34, via Oxford, M4, M5 jct25 to collect Andrew from Taunton. ARRRGGH tail backs. 3 miles at 5 m.p.h. on A34, and an hour of stop - start on the M5! Andrew phones and demands to be picked up at 20:30 at Taunton Railway Station. Bernie and Laura get there a mere 20 minutes late.

Ilfracombe isn't far. Er, yes it is - over 50 miles! We split. I go the proscribed fast way via Jcn27 (longer, but with dual carriageway). The others take the direct scenic route via the Exmoor National Park. 

Petrol Stations close early in North Devon.

We finally meet at the hotel at 23:00 - relived and amazed - for the last few miles our cars had been running on empty - not very relaxing!

Jenny flew in from Peru, to be collected by Nina and Jennifer at Heathrow at 18:00. The plane arrived on time, but the M25 crush got them:  Jenny was collected at 21:00, and they finally made it by 02:00 Saturday morning.

Imperial Hotel, Ilfracombe

The hotel is entirely adequate and cheap. Ideal for our stopover. It's a large rambling building, geared up for coach parties and the blue rinse brigade.

Night Life in Ilfracombe

Friday Night at 23:30 in Ilfracombe consists of a kebab shop - we couldn't find any other places still open.

Saturday 27th May

The Ferry to Lundy 

After meeting and greeting each other at breakfast we head for the docks, well, quay side wall. This means some faffing. Luggage has to be brought down to the docks, and cars returned to the hotel "car park" road. (Nina gets a ticket!)

Our tenth member, Matthew, can't make it: his father passed away on the previous Thursday. Bernie and I compare notes on this. Nothing like a sobering chat to start the holiday! 

The CrossingWe slip the quay at 10:30. "... going will be Moderate to Rough" the First Officer firmly announces. White sick bags are issued. We all feel green. My trick of going topside and fixing on to the horizon works. 
Yes, the MS Oldenburg is throwing up spray, and belching diesel fumes, but I get to the island without regurgitating. Jack throws up. Poor Jack. 
Laura and Jennifer join me on top - preferring my company and the salt spray to that of the smell of fresh acrid puke downstairs. Jack's not the only one unwell!

South Lighthouse St Helena's Church Old Light North Lighthouse Lundy

9 miles to Lundy

Jennifer and Laura waiting for their beer and red wine.The boat travels to the lee of the island and the calmer water makes everyone feel much better. 

By the time we've tied up, Jack's telling me how he enjoyed it all. 

We disembark at 13:00 - Dry land is wonderful!


The Isle of Lundy is an unusual brick shaped island surrounded by cliffs on all sides. The only landing place for boats is a man-made harbour: a large section of cliff blasted away on the island's southern tip.

The Cliff Walk

There are no roads on Lundy, only rough tracks. No royalties to Mr Macadam here! The accommodation clusters on top of the island, a 1/4 mile walk up 140 metre cliff to get there. (Notice how I'm not quite metric!) A Landrover takes the sick and infirm to the top. (My dig at poor Laura - she suffers from back pain - so she's happy to take that lift up.)

MS Oldenburg unloading at the harbourI watched our luggage being unloaded from the distant Oldenburg onto a tractor and trailer. The Landmark staff are very flexible: they unload at the quay, work behind the bar, and reappear again as cleaning staff.
I walk up the cliff on my own, the others go on ahead. The climb was pleasant and peaceful, the only time I was away from the rest of the party during the holiday.
Rhododendron bushes on the east side of the island The air is fresh -  sun intermittently shines from dark clouds - ideal picture taking weather! A leisurely walk, swapping lenses on my film camera. (Non of that digital rubbish - its not there yet!). 
Lundy has large patches of vivid Rhododendron bushes. They must be a problem for the island management - yes they are spectacular, but they are also a weed.

The Quarters

Our home for the week is a prefabricated builder's hut named "The Quarters". This is warm and comfortable with six single and two double bedrooms. The kitchen and lounge are large. In fact the kitchen is OTT - fitted out for feeding workers in the 1970's refurbishing the original stone buildings.

The major criticism with the Quarters is elephant footed kids and suspended wooden floors don't go! Really noisy!

The location is ideal: we're near the shop and the pub!

We take over 12 bottles, just in case.Our luggage is delivered and we unpack. Our case of wine ends up at the pub - that's easily recovered. (That probably gives the amused Landmarkees a hint that we're a bunch of piss-heads!)

We're here - We can now relax!

Sunday 28th May 

A late start

It's the beer, or the fresh air. I don't know! I get out of bed at 9:00 - that's late for me. Jenny hides in her bed all day - jetlag. 

To the Beach

Nina, Bernie and I test the beach. We walk down back to the harbour where we landed the day before. Although designated a recreational beach, it's not. Lots of rock pools, and stones to skim into the sea, but no sand, no amusement arcades.

Nina and I put on our knotted handkerchiefs and go for a paddle. The water is clear and cold. 

This was good - no crowds, no litter.

South Lighthouse

South lighthouse SV and wind poweredWind TurbineJennifer, Bernie and I explore the South Light house. Fine solid white admiralty building. The interior is like a Victorian vicarage and school combined - glazed tiles and large skirting boards. The functional light is now a small automatic device on one of the outhouses.

Forbidding signs saying "Keep Out", and "Private Property". We acknowledge these.

Bernie and I admire the fine array of solar voltaic panels. Free samples from the major manufacturers? Deutsch Aerospace, AEG-Telefunken, and BP Solar.

Monday 29th May

East coast amble 

Nick, Jenny and JackFramed JackThe east side of the island is gentler than the abrupt harsh exposed west side. 
We scramble up to the ruined Quarterwall Cottages. The roof's gone, only solid granite walls remain. 
Sheltering Jack sheltering with Laura and Andrew We shelter in the ruin during a sudden squall. 
Bernie doing something suspicious in the shack.Further along the path is a shelter. This is an old ruinous cottage, with limited repairs. Tin roof and glazed. A fireplace exists - so could be a real life saver if someone was stranded there in winter. I take pictures - my devious plan is to tease my sister, Judith, who has planned to stay on Lundy later this year. This is her place for a week. This is a typical Landmark Property. I'll show her pictures the damp floor and benches. 
(Laura astutely comments that Judith would be quite happy here also.)
Fragmented group with in front of bird trap.We come across a peculiar bird trap - used for monitoring the bird population we guess. There's a large open wire-netting funnel one end, with a small wooden box the other to grab the retched trapped bird. There's a window set in the box, with apertures for gloves. 
What kind of deviancy do these Landmarkees get up to? 

Boat Trip

An enterprising Welshman and his mate offer trips around the island for 8.50 a head. Bernie, Jennifer, Laura, Andrew, Tobias and I go for the 15:30 trip. 

We pair off. I walk with Tobias as companion down the cliff. We spy round the outside of Millcombe House (12 people) Potential to rent for another trip.

We sail on the Jessica Hettie up up the east (lee) side of the island, the boat slicing through the waves. Memories of the Oldenburg ferry came back - but we were toughened by now. No vomit today!

The boat stops near a inlet. A family of seals is inquisitive - 6 black faces bobbing up and looking at us.

The boatman asks how sturdy we are:
"Are we OK? Turn around?"
"No! Keep going!"

The tide is slack is at the north end - the water a curious flat calm.

Lundy is a tor  - a pillar of granite surrounded by the Bristol Channel. There are two small beaches, the rest of the coast is towering cliff. 

Devils SlideCastle The Devil's Slide is spectacular. This is Lundy's most popular climb: a 400 foot (120 Metre) slab climb and a true classic. 

An hour after we start we're back at the harbour. The weather has been ideal - lots of sun - we get burnt!


We conclude that the entrepreneurial boatman doesn't enjoy the hourly rate as a computer contractor. He can't be doing it for the money, and must just enjoy what he does.  

Tuesday 30th May

North of the Island

PoniesWe plan an epic walk of six miles round trip to the north of the island. We kit ourselves with sandwiches, biscuits, Pringles, chocolates, from the pub.

Laura, Andrew make their way up the middle of the island - an easier path. They befriend the island ponies on the way, but the beasts stampede when a helicopter flies overhead.

Bernie, Jennifer, Jack and I follow the east coast route. We pass the Old Hospital looking for a secluded beach - Jennifer has plans on a "nudey" swim - fortunately the water's too cold and the beach rocky. 

Seal watchingI watch the others explore the beach from my vantage point by a Rhododendron tunnel. Jack examines rock pools - totally unaware of a seal watching him a few yards out - head bobbing. 
Jack - who sees everything - was outsmarted this time.
Nick and Jack on the rocks. Bernie, Jennifer, Nick, Laura and running child.We climb up the cliff and head for the central track to the north of the island. Meeting up with Laura and Andrew, we devour our sandwiches. We sit near the edge of the cliffs overlooking the lighthouse.

Jack and I scour the rocks for treasures.

The South Wales Pembrokeshire coast is clear - we see distant towers and cranes. We guess these are probably Milford Haven docks, 35 miles away.

Jennifer and Laura awaiting our returnJennifer and Laura bask in the sun - staying put, while the rest of us explore.

Andrew and Jack climb down to the beach and are greeted by six seals in the water, only ten feet out. 


North LighthouseBernie and I explore the lighthouse - similarly decorated with " keep out" signs and solar panels as its southerly twin.

The weather really is very pleasant and sunny.


Jenny, Bernie and I play radios. Jenny, Bernie are "class A" radio amateurs. We attempt to get a station running on 80 metres. We're not planning on this being a "DXpedition" or anything serious - just a shout to friends back home.

There is an ideal site in a field behind the Quarters. There's a 4 metre square concrete plinth with earth stake. Very useful. (The plinth was originally used for a wind turbine installed in 1982, but since removed.)

A kite is flown, pulling a long wire. This looks splendid. But tuning the aerial fails. Duff ATU? Try Top Band - No  match. 

As a mere "class B" I suggest using a useful book on growing tomato plants. "There's a copy in the Quarters bookcase". 

OK. Cut the length of aerial wire to form a simple quarter wave on 28 MHz. Now this should be dead easy. No.

50 Ohm dummy load - fine - lots of power.

What can be wrong? Give up. Get more beer! Complete abject failure! 60 radio amateur man years of experience. Probably the simplest component to design  - a short wave aerial - and we fail!

The moral - preparation!


Round of the evening by watching the sunset over the Atlantic (21:14) then beer in pub.


Astronomic twilight is all night long at this time of year at this latitude - the clear black moonless starry sky was littered with satellites. I dismissed flashing trails as aircraft navigation lights - until Bernie corrected me: these were spinning satellites. Their rotating solar panels reflected sunlight back. The flash really was a sinusoid. 

We unpacked Jenny's 8 inch Celestron reflector and set it up outside. There was just an incredible number of stars!

The finderscope was not fitted, so setting the polar alignment accurately was not easy. We'd leave that for another night when we would be clear-headed and sober. 

Tough! This was to be our last cloudless night!

Wednesday 31st May


Eyam with TobiasWe caution Jack about "Mixy" bunnies. Apparently there is myxomatosis on the island. We don't want him nursing sick bunnies. 
Our teaching has some effect. He make friends with a pet lamb. He names it "Eyam" after the plague village in Derbyshire.
Piggy 1 and Piggy 2On the way to the pub, there's a field with a couple of inquisitive Vietnamese Potbellied pigs. They totally ignore my offer of cabbage and other kitchen scraps. See if I care! 

Old Lighthouse

The Old LightNina, Jenny, Jennefer, Bernie and Tobias at the top. Jack and I walk up the west side of the island. Entry to the top of the tower is by an internal cavernous spiral staircase. Jack has no problem with heights. He stares down through a hole in the floor! That really scares me! I explain my unease with heights, and wimp out after climbing to the first floor. 
Jack thinks I'm being stupid - but understands. His only concern is being left alone at the top, the door locked with him trapped inside.
This gives me the creeps. This is the view from the hole in the first floor.Laura walking uo.View to the southLaura and Andrew climb the staircase with no qualms. He says the scariest bit is the steep bit before the first floor: I passed that bit - I should have carried on!

The Old Light was made redundant soon after completion: its light was too high and was often in cloud. New lights were built at either end of the island, lower down.

The Old Battery

The Old Battery is a roofless ruin. 2 rusting cannons remain. They used to be fired every 5 minutes in fog. I'm amazed what the 11 year old can spot - egg cases, shells, incredibly small flowering plants on bare rock. He gets really keen to get to nesting gulls on the cliffs! I have to say "No!"

Jack loosing with his GameBoyJack and I return, and rain sets in. That's the end of our good weather for the holiday. 
Thank God for Game Boys!


While Jack and I were meandering around the lighthouse and battery, a there was a more gripping drama happening at the North of the Island.

Nina, Jennifer, Jenny, and Tobias had trekked to the the North Lighthouse, where the rest of us had been yesterday. Nina, Jenny, and Tobias were keen to swim : they had their togs and towels. Bernie, being a keen runner, kitted himself out in shorts and joined them a short time later.

The seawater was cold.

Tobias tested the water and said "No way!" and stayed out. 

Jenny half entered carefully, though cautiously. She retreated "So cold."

Nina dived in, and was playing and swimming with the seals. 

Bernie, not into swimming, was looking on, basking in the sun. He was lying on a large flat rock near the lighthouse jetty. Jenny was hovering nearby - should she dive in too?

A large wave surged over the rock, and that was it: Bernie had been swept off. He was out of his depth, struggling to get back on the rock

Without hesitation, Jenny dived to Bernie's rescue. Seconds later he had been propelled back on the rock.

No real damage. Both Bernie and Jenny grazed their knees. "Those bloody rocks are bloody sharp, covered in bloody barnacles!"

What a little heroine Jenny is!

Thursday 1st June

A quiet lazy day

Too wet to be adventurous. The pub provides all.

Jack and I criticise each other's cooking skills. His scrambled eggs would be better without the shells, my porridge without being flooded in cold milk.

Extreme ProgrammingAndrew and I read and discuss the book
Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change

Yet another answer to the nightmare of software development and delivery.

Tobias and I teach Jack the rules of Rummy - Jack will be a mean player when he's older. (Not just playing Rummy!) 

Tobias attempts to practice "WWF" wrestling moves on me. I use the word "attempts".

The Pub - the Marisco Tavern

The Beer is actually brewed off the island, even though it boasts the Lundy name.

Some personal scoring on the beer

  • Experience 7/10
  • Smooth 4/10
  • Old Light 8/10- my favourite.

The food is OK - but they really need a gourmet chef. We think Landmark punters could easily afford it.

A comfortable pub to relax in. Cliff, the landlord, does a good job. 

Next time we'll get some official looking "reserved" labels printed: our favourite table was sometimes occupied by others! {Balcony, near window.}


We all play the card game "Scruples" till late into the night. Bernie is perturbed at the ease we all lie and deceive each other.

Friday 2nd June


Jack and a friend.Jack and I venture out to a small pond - a flooded quarry on the east cliff- called the "Rocket Pole Pond". Armed with bread, we entice the fish. They are really stupid - very easy to catch by hand. Jack's dilemma - hold on to and examine the fish, watching the gills gasping - or release it. A few seconds later - splash, freedom. 

We leave. No dead bodies were left floating on top.

Jack will work with animals when he's older - either as a vet or in an abattoir.


The Landmark holiday guide has a few features that need correcting:

Waterfalls - these are open drains running down the cliffs. You can hear the water gurgling under the bracken - but not the foss you get in  Norway!

"We do not exist"Puffins. "Over 60 breeding pairs exist" says the guide.
There are no puffins. 
Only stuffed, embroidered, printed on stamps, or blow up puffins exist.

This bird is entirely extinct. 

The last one was shot in 1922, and was stuffed and mounted. This is on display over the entrance door inside the pub.

Bernie's 40 something birthday.

The pub cooks us a (soggy) cherry birthday cake. (Personally I like soggy cake - the others don't.) Icing and a solitary candle complete the effect.

Back at the Quarters, Jenny cooks for us  - vege-burgers and mash - very nice! 

Jack rounds off the day singing  "Children; Children; Future;  Future; we are the future yea yea yea." or some such ditty. After a few hours of his incessant singing we send him up the road to get someone else to shut him up.

Saturday 3rd June


An early start - an 8:00 breakfast in the pub.

Jack and Eyam - goodbyeJack says goodbye to Eyam, and we're out of the Quarters at 10:00. The cleaning staff are waiting to get in. 

All our luggage is collected - we don't have to worry about it. 

We have to keep ourselves occupied until 15:30, when we are due to board the Oldenburg. The weather is a damp penetrating mist. We bagged a big table in the pub, and ate, and drunk. The drivers stayed dry for the drive later in the day. This is interspersed with short damp forays to the castle, church and shop. 

We squared up our tabs with the pub and shop - a lot cheaper than we imagined.

Jenny, Bernie and I leave for the harbour early, planning to have one last look at the south lighthouse. 

Down the cliff, the harbour is brighter and warmer - even sunny! We leave the mist on top as low cloud. A last chance to explore caves and stare at seals. 

We board at 16:00, and sail at 16:30. The sea is calm, and we arrive at Bideford at 18:15.

We play a game of  "how many people are there on the boat". Jack and Tobias walk round counting people. Jenny counts people walking down the gangway when we dock. I ask the first officer for an official answer: "201 and a horse". I win.


There are extra delays here - we have arrived at the "other" port, not Ilfracombe where we had parked our cars. We're not too sure why the ferry uses different ports, is it the tides? The more cynical think this is a ploy by the tourist board to drum up extra custom: Bideford is picturesque - but we just want to get home.


A coach gets us back to Ilfracombe for 19:30. We collect cars, and hug as our party splits. Andrew, Laura and I head for Milton Keynes, whilst the others head straight to Cambridge. 


We tried looking for inspirational restaurants in Barnstable. We failed. The next town was Tiverton.

Here we find a splendid Chinese - the Golden Panda, 18 Newport Street - almost Peking standard. Busy but good food.

Back Home

We shared driving, and were home by 1:30 Sunday morning. No traffic delays at all.


BrothersWe all enjoyed the break - and we each promise to return. 

The boys survived their week with no television - they enjoyed the experience.



Food at the pub could have been more adventurous - entirely adequate for campers and day trippers - but residents hiring some of the more expensive properties could easily stump up the cash for a more varied menu.


All the Lundy (Landmark) staff are very friendly.

Images N G Hubbard, A N Hartland June 2000