Where is Gun Rocks?
Gun Rocks is located within a group of islands, located off the Coast of Northumberland, called the Farne Islands. Inner Farne is the closest island to the coast and lies c3.8km from the village of Bamburgh. Although Bamburgh is the closest urban conurbation, the islands are generally accessed from the harbour town of Seahouses, located just 4km to the south.
The Farne Islands consist of 33 islands, islets or rocks. At high tide this number of exposed areas reduces to about 23. The islands can be roughly divided in to two groups; Inner Farnes and Outer Farnes. Gun Rocks lies on the south western point of the Outer Farnes, just on the eastern side of an area known as Staple Sound. The Sound channels some quite strong currents as the tide runs north-south or the reverse on this coast.
Location of Gun Rocks:
The Farne Islands are the most easterly point of what is known as the Great Whin Sill; a 30 metre high seam of igneous rock, generally comprised of dolerite, which can also be seen along the spectacular route of Hadrian’s Wall. As well as the fascinating geology of the Farne Islands, it is also very important for wildlife. The Farne Islands are owned and administered by the National Trust and are considered to be an absolute dream for visiting ornithologists. For divers these islands are also a special place where you can dive a large number of wrecks, play with seals and see some beautiful reefs.
Gun Rocks is now marked with a white buoy, and can be found on the south west side of the rock at: 55 37.815N 001 37.750W (Degrees, Minutes, Decimal).
How do we get there?
There is only one way to get to Gun Rocks and that is by boat! You can use your own boat and launch from Seahouses slip. For information about North Sunderland Harbour (Seahouses) please visit the Harbour Website. Here you can find up-to-date information about launch charges, berth charges etc.
You can also reach Gun Rocks by launching your small craft from the beach at Beadnell bay beach launch. All you have to do is park up your boat on its trailer. A tractor then takes it down the beach for you. When you return from diving the tractor will recover your boat back on to the trailer and take it back to the car park for you – easy!
If you don’t have a boat of your own, then there are a number of dive operators who run hard boats out of Seahouses. This list may not be exhaustive and if you are an operator and don’t see your name here, please let me know, so I can add you.
Air is available from the boat operators, whether you sail with them or are using your own rhib. Fills are £4-5 pounds a pop. Sovereign even have a shop so you can buy bits if you need to, or browse the shiny things while your tanks are being filled.
When can we dive Gun Rocks?
Gun Rocks can be dived on slack, or on the flood tide, when the tide is running from the north to the south. Slack on the Farne Islands occurs about 1hour 30 minutes to – 2 hours after high, or low, tide at Seahouses. If you can’t find a tidal calendar for Seahouses (North Sunderland) then you can work the tides out based on the Port of Tyne. High or low tides at Seahouses occur about 45 minutes before they do at Port of Tyne. Tide tables for Port of Tyne can be downloaded here.
When the tide is on the ebb, there is no shelter on Gun Rocks so diving is not advisable. If you did jump in then you would end up at Holy Island rather quickly! On the flood, in the lea of Gun Rocks, you can have quite a nice dive on the cannon. But beware, if you stray out of the large eddy created by the rocks, you can end up shooting south, down through Staple sound. If this were to happen, “blob up” as soon as you can. 🙂
Guide books featuring Gun Rocks
The Dive North East (Shaw 1988) guide describes the dive site as follows:
“There are two main wreck sites in position 55o 37’ 51” N 01o 37’ 39” W. The sea bed is mainly rock, in 10 – 15 metres of water. Quite a lot of wreckage is to be found on the south side of the rock in about 10m. Three or four different kinds of cannon are to be found, with cannonballs encrusted in the rock. This makes an excellent dive for beginners, shallow and much historic interest. The west side of Gun Rocks has a nice cliff face with depths dropping away to about 20m at high tide.”
The Farnes and Holy Island (Young 2012) describes the site as being:
“…on the south side of Gun Rocks in 7-10 metres, but you really have to look hard to find the rusting concretion under the thick covering of kelp. Even the remaining cannon are not as obvious as you might expect because they lie half-buried, with some even concreted into the surrounding the rocks. The first time I visited the site in the early 1970s, I swam right over them, and at the time the guns were all over the place. The site is fairly sheltered on the bottom half of the flood tide, but the current is exceptionally strong away from the rocks in the sound.”
The North East Diving Site which is internet based and provides a free source of dive site information, describes the site as:
“This is an old site (circa 1700), so old in fact that there’s no wreckage just cannon and a few cannon balls. The area where the cannon are – the south side – is very shallow (4m) and heavily infested with kelp although a few metres to the west it drops rapidly into Staple Sound – more than 20m deep. This channel is scoured with strong currents – do not descend into it!
“This can be an interesting dive with the ever present hope that you might discover something of historical importance. As it’s usually a second dive – used to “finish off” a bottle – it’s invariably spoilt by divers being under-weighted, I’m sure you know the formula:- buoyant cylinder + shallow water = bums in the air. Quite a lot of archaeological work was carried out here in the ’60’s, sword hilts and other assorted bits were found including a small bronze cannon but alas, of the wreck itself nothing remains with the result that nobody can say with any certainty what nationality it was or how it came to be here.”
What is the trail like?
The trail was installed on the 4th May 2018 using a blue rope – though it will likely fade to white with time. The trail as shown on the map HERE starts at the pile of three cannon, (to which the shot is attached) then spiders out in three directions. Each time you swim out along the trail, then return back to the pile of three cannon before heading out on the next leg. Just after the trail was installed in early May, a video was taken of the trail, so why not click below, and enjoy an armchair dive: