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Lundy Island - the UK's Galapagos?

As you walk along the north Cornwall coast path, on a clear day you should be able to make out a small, but distinct island - Lundy.  Lundy is the largest island in the Bristol Channel. At its nearest, it lies just 12 miles (19 km) off Hartland Point, about a third of the distance across the channel from Devon and Cornwall to South Wales.

In a 2005 opinion poll of Radio Times readers, Lundy was named as Britain's tenth greatest natural wonder. The entire island has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it was England's first statutory Marine Nature reserve, and the first Marine Conservation Zone, because of its unique flora and fauna.

The sea area that surrounds will be well known to sailors and Radio 4 listeners as it is a feature of the daily shipping forecast.

It is managed by the Landmark Trust on behalf of the National Trust and Lundy has a resident population of 28 people (in 2007); these include a warden, a ranger, an island manager, a farmer, bar and house-keeping staff and volunteers. Most live in and around the village at the south of the island. Most visitors are day-trippers, although there are 23 holiday properties and a camp-site for over-night visitors, mostly also around the south of the island.

The name Lundy is believed to come from the old Norse word for "puffin island" (compare Lundey), lundi being the Old Norse word for a puffin and ey, an island.  However, the puffin population on the island almost became extinct in the late 20th century and is slowing recovering now.

Although only three miles in length, and half-a-mile wide, the Island offers an amazingly diverse range of things to do for day-trippers.  Its 4,000 years of human history comes to life through the 42 scheduled monuments and its clutch of listed buildings.  Because of its isolation the habitat for wildlife is often compared to that of Galapagos. This is all set against a backdrop of stunning natural rugged beauty, making it a walker’s paradise.

Most day visitors travel on Lundy’s own ferry and supply ship, the graceful German-built MS Oldenburg, which is an experience in its own right.  Built in 1958 the vessel retains many of her original brass and wooden fittings providing comfortable heated saloons, a bar, buffet, a gift shop and an information desk.  In fine weather there is plenty of space on deck, and if you are lucky you may be treated to the company of a playful pod of dolphins who often delight in following the ship.

The ships sails at least three times a week from either Bideford or Ilfracombe and the crossing takes about 2 hours each way, allowing between 4 and 6 hours to explore the island depending on the day you choose to travel.

Whether you live in, or are just visiting North Cornwall, a day trip to Lundy makes for an unforgettable experience.

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Updated on January 27th, 2013

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