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Scuba Diving in Northumberland

The dive sites near the Northumberland coastline offer a unique opportunity to dive with grey seals and experience deep diving around historical shipwrecks.

This help guide contains information about the top diving spots in the North East of England and marine creatures that live in this region of the North Sea.

Best Months to Scuba Dive Northumberland

There's no shortage of famous dive sites in England. Even so, the Farne Islands is the number one destination to dive with grey seals.

Plus, the chequered seafaring history of the British Isles means there is an abundance of sunken wrecks for deep sea divers to explore near the Northumberland coast.

Here's the thing:

North Sea temperatures rarely get above 4° Celsius (39° Fahrenheit) in winter, and hover around 14° Celsius (57° Fahrenheit) in the summer.

It's fair to say that some "hardy" divers will feel comfortable diving in a thick neoprene wetsuit as an exposure suit during the summer months (June through to the end of September).

Even so, almost all of the Northumberland dive shops recommend wearing a drysuit and having the PADI Dry Suit certification, especially with depths between 15 and 35 metres.

Marine Life in the North Sea

The area covers around 570,000 square kilometres and contains more than two hundred species of indigenous and introduced species. Some of the most common North Sea fish species and aquatic creatures that scuba divers can see, include:

A-Z Northumberland Dive Spots

Abyssinia Wreck Dive

It's fair to say the north-east coastline of England has been a dangerous area for ships and for the shipping industry.

One of the biggest vessels that came to rest on the seabed is sitting twenty metres below the surface. In fact, the German steamship called the SS Abessinia has become one of the best wreck dives at the Farne Islands.

Here's the deal:

A popular route for scuba divers to reach the Abyssinia is through the open ravine sheltered by hard stone walls near Knivestone.

Following that, you can see the boiler room, some rusty remains of superstructure, some broken ironwork, and a resident colony of grey seals for companionship.

Pro Tip: SS Abyssinia grounded at Knivestone Reef, close to Longstone Lighthouse (formerly known as the outer Farne Lighthouse), on the 3rd of September 1921 during a planned journey to Leith in Scotland from Hamburg, Germany. The crew survived the incident, mainly because it stayed afloat at low tide, until she eventually toppled off the reef and sank into the sea.

Acclivity Shipwreck

It may not rank among the top 10 wreck dives in the world. But the remains of a 389 ton small British steel motor tanker create an unusual opportunity for wreck diving in Northumberland.

Built in 1931, the Acclivity carried vegetable oil and wine to various ports around the Mediterranean Sea for more than twenty years. It was thirty nine (39) metres long, with a six (6) metre beam.

Several historical reports suggest that the vessel collided with the "upward slope" of an underwater mound.

Whether that is true or not, the Acclivity sank on the 20th of January 1952 close to the Farne Islands - with no loss of life.


The two dive sites at Beadnell tend to be more popular during the summer months. Beadnell Point (North) gets a lot of shelter from the prevailing currents.

Whereas, the shallowness of the Lady's Hole dive site, and the sandy bottom around ten metres, means it's an ideal spot for conducting the scuba skills training of the Open Water Diver course.

Big Harcar

Experienced drift divers can enjoy hovering at 8 knots for almost two miles and reach a maximum depth of 30 metres at Big Harcar, North Wames, and Piper Gut.

These popular Northumberland dive sites provide an ideal opportunity to catch sightings of ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta), coalfish (Pollachius virens), and several different species of crabs.

Note: Another segment contains some useful drift diving tips and how to become a specialist at handling strong underwater currents.

Blue Caps

This underwater cliff plummets all the way down to twenty five (25) metres at the bottom and the descent usually takes place in crystal clear water.

Dive deeper still, and you should find Crawford Gut dive site situated at the far end of a small reef system that creates the ideal habitat for shellfish on the seabed close to Clove Car island.


It's fair to say that the sheltered bay at Brada is one of the lesser known dive sites near the Farne Islands.

The water entry for scuba divers usually takes place among a large colony of seals around four (4) metres below the surface. Even though the playful seals like to take a nibble on your diving fins, new divers to this area should expect to see them behaving in a diver-friendly manner.

Farne Islands

A boat journey from Beadnell Bay to the nearby Farne Islands takes about ten (10) minutes. Remember to use adequate thermal protection to avoid the risk of hypothermia if you decide to dive the Farne Islands in the winter.

However, the cold months of January and February are the best time to dive with thousands of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and their pups.

Other sea creatures, marine mammals, and interesting points of interest for scuba divers and snorkelers, include:

More than thirty (30) small islands and rocky outcrops make up the Farnes. This area is less than four (4) miles from north Sunderland Harbour (Seahouses).

Farne Islands dive sites appear as two distinct groups, and Staple Sound is a 550-metre stretch of water that separates them. Thus, this area is prone to strong currents, especially during spring tides, so having the Drift Diver certification would be an advantage.


Even though there are powerful tidal swings on each side of slack water, Knivestone dive site is one of the popular destinations for wreck diving.

Besides the collections of wreckage scattered around the seabed (maximum depth 25 metres), you should also expect to see common sunstar (Crossaster papposus), giant plumose anemone (Metridium farcimen), octopus, and a variety of crustaceans (e.g. sea urchins).

Northern Hares

The face of the reef shelves down the western side of Longstone island to a depth of fifteen (15) metres, so it's ideal for conducting Open Water scuba training dives.

Watch out for the large boulders at the base and the remains of some rusty ruins from several wrecks that met their demise in this part of the North Sea.


Some of the local dive shops in Northumberland launch their diving boats from Seahouses harbour, also called North Sunderland harbour (south of Berwick upon Tweed).

Scuba diving destinations tend to be quite deep (around 35 metres) and prone to strong currents. Hence, having the Advanced Open Water Diver certification and PADI® Dry Suit Diver Specialist are both highly recommended.

In the past, these shipping routes were treacherous for mariners. As a result, the sunken remains provide ideal habitats for octopuses, dead man's fingers, sea anemones, and several different wrasse fish species (e.g. the cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus)).

SS Somali Cargo Ship

St Andre

Staple Island

The Hopper

Whirl Rocks

Related Information and Help Guides

Pro Tip: The short video [13:13 seconds] presented by "Ayaan Chitty" contains some amazing footage for anyone who is interested in diving with grey seals at the Farne Islands.

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