Lindisfarne or Holy Island, Northumberland
This little island off the Northumberland coast can only be accessed when the tides are low and the causeway is above water level. Any visit to the island therefore needs to be carefully planned around tide times as you do not want to risk getting stranded on the island or worse getting washed away into the North Sea. There are 150 permanent residents on the island as well as a small primary school, post office cafes, hotels, guest houses, holiday homes, a couple of shops and of course the Castle, Priory and some local wildlife.
Once you arrive on the island you have to park your car in the car park which is pay and display and then you have to walk where ever you want to go. At certain times there is a shuttle mini bus to the castle but it didn't operate on the day we visited. If you are staying on the island or live there I believe you can drive and park outside you house or on the driveway.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ALL DAY?
We were a little concerned when we realised we would be trapped on the island for at least five hours without being able to drive in the car so that if it rained we would be out in the rain. However we were lucky and the rain held off and in fact there was plenty to see and do so we need not have worried.
ST CUTHBERT'S ISLE
We decided to head down to see this little islet off Lindisfarne as we were a little early for the opening times of other sites. We had been told about these small fossils known as St Cuthbert's beads and so went to the beach to see if we could find some. It was pretty hard especially as we had no idea what we were looking for however we did manage to find about ten of various sizes. We know they were the real thing as we asked a lady in the hotel later when we had a coffee there.
From the beach you could see the little island and the stone cross standing proud. St Cuthbert apparently lived as a hermit in a hut on this island for years before going to live on Farne Island where he died.
The entire island shores and dunes are protected by English Nature so that flora and fauna unique to the island are preserved for future generations.
THE MANOR HOUSE HOTEL
We were so cold after our time on the beach that we went to find a coffee in the Manor House Hotel. The hotel had a great view and the bar and restaurant area was newly refurbished and very pleasant. The lady who brought us our coffee confirmed that we had in fact found several Cuthbert beads so we were quite happy with a beach finds. I also found lots of very pretty sea glass and bits to use when making greeting cards. The rates for the hotel seemed very reasonable so it might be a good place to stay if you wanted to spend longer on the island. The hotel, bar and restaurant are open from mid February through to December each year. The price of a basic double or twin room is £95,however rooms with a view make a price increase to £120 and you can pay up to £150 but they all include a full English breakfast.
THE LINDISFARNE PRIORY
This is open from 9.30- 17.00 from April to September, it closes at 16.00 in October and then you can only visit from 10.00 till 14.00 in November, December and January but they do suggest you check the winter opening times if you want to visit then. Admission to the Priory is £4.80 for adults, Concessions £4.30 and children are £2.90. Interestingly you can go into the shop for free! If you are a member of English Heritage then you can use your membership and go in free.
This priory is now pretty much a ruin but you can see what a stunning place it once was by walking amongst the ruins. This priory was once the most important centre of British Christianity and even today is considered to be one of the holiest places for Christians.
THE LINDISFARNE CENTRE
This again costs extra, £3 for adults and £1 for children but you can go and look in the shop for free. This is a sort of mini museum which tells the story of the island and also contains a very modern touch screen version of the famous and very respected Lindisfarne Gospels.
While you are in here you can watch the film which tells about the Viking raids in 793 AD and after that explore the artefacts and pictures. Once again it has been very well done and is the work of the Island Community Trust so all money raised is put back into the community.
This little centre is open from 10 am till 5pm from April till September. It closes at 4pm in October and the times vary from November 1st through to Mar 3st so it is best to phone to check.
THE GOSPEL GARDEN
This is another project created by the Island Trust and is almost opposite the Lindisfarne Centre. This is not a large garden but it is packed with flowering plants which really are a joy. At the far end of the garden is a brown sort of wall/ decoration which could be either metal or painted wood as I didn't get close enough to examine it. Behind this dividing decoration is a large 'sun' or flower with the petals or rays in a semi circle in the centre of the wall decoration. In front of this are beds full of flowering plants which were colourful even in April when we went.
A bit nearer the entrance but still near the back of the garden is a wooden cross which is a sort of modern interpretation of an Anglo Saxon stone cross except this is made from recycled wood or even drift wood. That was my interpretation and apparently the broken wheel on the top represents the broken journey of St Cuthbert as he was carried by monks from Lindisfarne to Durham where his body now lies in the cathedral there. It is a sculpture by an artist called Fenwick Lawson.
It is once again designed to be a place where you can go and sit in peace and quiet while enjoying a really very beautiful garden which combines plants and artwork. Had it been a little warmer and not quite so drizzly I would have stayed in this very pretty little corner of the island for some time.
The Island Trust project is run by volunteers and since its creation in 1996 it has been responsible for a number of projects that have benefitted both visitors and local people as well. I was impressed with what I saw and they have also been instrumental in building affordable houses for local people as well as renovating the old Coastguard lookout Tower for people to visit so well done to this group of people.
This was originally an Elizabethan fort and on days when the shuttle bus is not running this is quite a long walk although until you get to the actual castle the road is pretty flat and accessible and follows the coast so you have lovely views across to the mainland and back to the island harbour, Priory and just generally of the village.
The castle is open 12 March until 30th October from Tuesday to Sunday except bank holidays. It is also open every day in August. The opening times are dependent on the tides and will either be 10 am till 3pm or 12pm till 5 pm. You know when it is open as the National Trust will be flying. It is a NT property do members get in free otherwise you pay £6.95 for adults, children are £3.50 and a family ticket for two adults and two children under 18 is £17.40.
ST AIDEN'S WINERY
This was really a modern shop just next door to St Cuthbert Centre and a church. The shop sold local mead which you can taste, local beers from Northumberland and also Scottish whiskeys and wines from various places. They also sold shortbread, fudge and jams, pickles and other bottles local produce. Not all that was in there was from Lindisfarne or even Northumberland but a lot of it was which was nice. We bought some mead and a couple of bottles of Delavals' beer - two different types for my husband.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST THAT WE DIDN'T VISIT
Most of these required long walks into the wilder parts of the island and we neither had the time nor the footwear required for that kind of exploration. I think if you want to see the more remote parts of the island you might need to stay on the island and some places are accessible with bicycles too.
Sandham Bay to the north of the island is a good place to look out for grey seals but must be at least two miles away from the village and so a good walk. On the way you pass the Lough where there is s new bird hide built by the Island Trust group once again. Easier to access is the causeway where you can see many different types of wading birds. There are many places where you can see wildlife and rare flora as well in the dunes and the protected Whin grassland which is unique to Northumberland but again you need to walk and also be sensible about the way you walk in these very special areas but you may see field garlic, Autumn Gentian and Rough Clover which only grow in this habitat.
Lindisfarne is part of the Northumberland coast with its varied and considered amongst the finest in Britain. It is designated officially as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and this coast stretches from Berwick through to the Coquet estuary
IS IT WORTH VISITING?
Yes I would say so. There is more than enough to fill a day and should you choose to stay on the island then it is a perfect place to explore the natural scenery and wildlife, ride bikes, walk or just relax in some of the beautiful places like the Gospel Garden or on the beaches. It has enough to keep a day visitor busy whilst also offering a place of peace and tranquillity should you choose to stay longer.
There are a number of different cafes and restaurants as well as outside eating places with tea/beer gardens which looked amazingly uninviting the day we visited but I am sure it is had been a lovely sunny day would have been much more of a draw to people.
This is a unique island with a fascinating history and I would certainly recommend a visit of at least a day but if I had known how special this place is I would probably have booked a night in the hotel there so we could have explored further into the island.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted in part or as a whole on other sites under my same user name.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a small island with a population of less than 200 people off the Northumbrian coast. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and this is the only way you can get there either by car, bus or on foot. You can only cross at low tide when a road becomes visible and safe to drive across, safe crossing times are published on various internet sites and beside the crossing itself. It is also possible to walk to the island over the sand, there are raised boxes at various points of the crossing in case you get stranded when you are on foot and there are also pictures showing flooded cars to remind people of the importance of sticking to the safe crossing times.
If you arrive on the island by car you are directed to a car park outside Holy Island Village and instructed to park there as the island infrastructure cannot cope with a large volume of traffic. Disabled drivers are the only ones permitted to enter the village by car and there is separate parking for them too. It is only a few minutes walk into the village from the car park and it is on even ground so it is an easy walk for most people.
Holy Island has been inhabited since at least the year 635 when Aidan founded a monastery there which was to become the base for Christianity in the North of England. It was also home to St Cuthbert and in the 700s the Lindisfarne Gospels were produced here. Many of the visitors flock to the island as it is known as a place of healing and quiet contemplation.
Holy Island village itself has only a few streets but is bustling with life. The first place we visited was the famous priory which are the ruins of the former monastery which you can explore. It sits beside St Mary's Parish church which is a beautiful old building with lovely stained glass windows. The church is still a place of worship today and visitors are welcome to attend services. When the church is not being used then you are able to wander around, there are a lot of guide books for sale for a very reasonable price telling the history of the island.
Lindisfarne is also famous for producing mead, a honey based liqueur which is reputed to boost fertility. The visitor centre is very generous with the mead samples when the owner is away and his teenage son was left in charge, he also let us sample many of the flavoured vodkas and beers on sale and I staggered out from the centre rather tipsy and also having spent a fortune on alcohol!
Lindisfarne is also a nature reserve, there is a small beach right next to the village and those with more time might want to walk around the whole island. The beaches are outstandingly beautiful and very peaceful and it is lovely to just sit and relax and watch the world go by. Amongst the wildlife you can spot are seals and many varieties of sea birds.
I had been looking forward to visiting Lindisfarne Castle and there are buses from the main car park which will take you to the other side of the island to the castle entrance for a small fee. The bus was however not running the day I visited which was disappointing, we could have walked to the castle fairly easily as it is only about a mile from the village but as we only had around 4 or 5 hours on the island before it would be unsafe to cross the causeway we realised if we visited the castle we would not be able to see any of the other attractions. I am sure that I will visit another time and make the castle the top of my list of things to do.
Holy Island is a lovely place to visit both for the natural beauty and sense of history. Because of the tidal times I did not get to spend nearly as much time on the island as I would have liked and am planning to go back in the future to spend some more time there.
I recently spent a few days in Northumberland, and took the opportunity to return to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as it is probably better known.
Locally, the island is rarely referred to as 'Lindisfarne'. The signposts mostly state 'Holy Island'. Following on from the murderous and bloodthirsty attack on the monestary by the Vikings in 793AD, it obtained its local name from the observations made by the Durham monks: 'Lindisfarne - baptised in the blood of so many good men - truly a 'Holy Island'. Its more appropriate title is 'The Holy Island of Lindisfarne'.
Travelling along the A1 south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, you will notice Holy Island signposted. After turning off from the A1, a short drive brings you to the causeway which you have to cross to reach the island.
The causeway is open twice daily, dictated by the tides, so if you are planning a trip there it is essential you look up the times it is safe to cross the causeway. Info can be found at www.Lindisfarne.org.uk.
Tourist Information centres will also provide you with a print-out of crossing times.
On the day of my visit the causeway was not safe to cross until 4pm which meant a late visit, but I witnessed a spectacular sunset whilst there, so that alone made up for not being able to visit earlier in the day.
After crossing the causeway you come to a large car park, where you can park and catch shuttle mini buses to the castle, or you can choose to walk, but it is quite a distance to the castle.
A few minutes walk brings you to the village, where you can visit Lindisfarne Priory.
Building on the Priory began during the late 11th century, and is regarded by many to be the 'taster' for the building of Durham Cathedral. The Priory was built on the ground east of St Mary's Church, where late in the 7th century the church of St Peter stood. Saint Cuthbert amongst other 'northern' saints were interred within the church.
It is also here that the famous 'Lindisfarne Gospels' were produced.
We also visited the Lindisfarne Centre and heritage shop where you can buy souvenirs and find out more about the island's heritage.
Whilst visiting Holy Island you may want to taste the famous Lindisfarne Mead, which is a honey-based fortified wine dating back some 1300 years to a time when mead was first produced by the monks of the Priory. You can also buy bottles of Lindisfarne Mead to take home.
There are cafe's and a couple of pubs on the island, so plenty of places to stop for a drink or something to eat.
We noticed walking around the island there are many signposts reminding you not to leave it too late to cross the causeway before the tide changes. I wondered how many people have actually found themselves stranded after leaving it too late to cross! The tide comes in really quickly and at the start of the causeway it tells you not to cross if water can be seen at a certain point.
We chose to take the mile walk to the castle at the northern end of the island, which guards the entrance to the harbour. The view across the bay to Bamburgh Castle is stunning.
The castle was built in 1550 as an artillery fort during the reign of Henry VIII, it was bought in the 1880's by Edward Hudson and restored as a holiday residence. Renowned architect, Sir Edward Lutyens converted the fort to a home. The walled garden was created later.
It is said that the castle was constructed with stone taken from the Priory, however, the Priory remained standing well into the 17th century when it collapsed through neglect. Also the number of stones comprising the castle is considerable compared to those that would have been available on the site of the Priory.
The castle is now managed by the National Trust, and sits atop a volcanic mound known as Beblowe Craig. The views from the castle are amazing!
If you are a member of the National Trust then entry to the castle is free, otherwise the prices are £5.70 for adults and £2.80 for children. The castle is open daily except Mondays. We chose not to enter the castle on this visit due to it being late in the day, but throughly enjoyed the walk, the views and taking photographs.
Lindisfarne is also a National Nature Reserve whose mudflats, sand dunes and salt marshes are home to a variety of plants providing the habitat for migrating birds and wildlife.
Returning across the causeway the sun was going down and the scenery was beautiful. The reflection of the clouds in the pools of water on the mudflats, and the colours of the sky made for some lovely photographs.
Indeed there were quite a few photographers clicking away at the beginning of the causeway to return back to the mainland.
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Holy Island again as it was a number of years since my last visit. It is a place that I feel always has a sense of peace and tranquility no matter how many people are visiting. We learned on our visit that around 160 people live on the island, but 650,000 people visit it each year!
In my opinion no visit to Northumberland is complete without a visit to Holy Island, just make sure you observe the safe crossing times!
My boyfriend took me to Holy Island In October as I'd always wanted to go there - I was not disappointed. We booked to stay at the Ship Inn on Marygate for 2 nights. Getting there from the south was dead easy - up the A1 about an hour past Newcastle and then turn right (signposted) and keep going until you cross the causeway. The causeway is open at set times and these were provided by the hotel we stayed in. The times vary on a day to day basis so if you want to go just check the times first, although they're well publicised on boards leading up to the causeway and on the Lindisfarne website but if you book to stay on the Island they will advise you of the times too.
When you cross the causeway (which is about 3 miles long) you come to a public car park on the left. If you're staying on the Island don't pay for long stay as when the causeway closes you'll probably find plenty of places to park your car for free. When you come out of the car park you turn left and walk towards the village. The first hotel you come to is the Lindisfarne Hotel, which looks quite big. If you continue walking you turn left into Marygate and the Ship Inn is about 2/3 of the way down. If you continue straight on you come to the Crown and Anchor Pub and the Manor House Hotel. Turning right brings you to the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre. If you continue straight on through the village you come to the Castle which is situated on a hill and is the sight that people recognise from pictures of Holy Island. Turning right at the Manor House Hotel brings you to the Priory ruins and museum. Be aware that the Castle is owned by the National Trust and the Priory is owned by English Heritage.
On the Island there are 2 or 3 shops plus the Heritage Centre and a couple of coffee shops. There are also a few guesthouses and holiday cottages to rent. The shops seemed to shut at about 4pm but I think that's partly because the Island empties when day tourists go back over the causeway. Also, if you are eating in one of the restaurants they seem to finish serving very early. We ate at The Ship and The Manor House and last bookings for both were at 7.30pm. Both the Crown and Anchor and the Ship serve real beer (doesn't mean much to me but my boyfriend was impressed).
The beaches around Holy Island were gorgeous, even in spite of the fact it was late October. They are wide, clean and deserted for the most part and there are many bird species to see and the odd seal if you're lucky. You can walk around the Island on the beaches which involves some uneven ground and climbing but it's well worth it.
For those staying on the Island the most special part is the evening when the causeway is closed and there's not many people about. As it was October it got dark early so it was great to go for a walk after dinner and it was silent, with no cars and very few people around. It was also very special being able to walk up the street and look up to see a clear night sky full of stars. This is truly a magical place and I can't wait to go back.
Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, offers something of interest for all who visit the island - Scenery, sites of historical significance, wildlife or sailing, it's all here. I have been fortunate enough to be a regular visitor to Holy Island for over forty years, although when younger I didn't really appreciate it. Why don't you pay a visit to the island with me?
Lindisfarne was the name given to the Island by the first Anglo-Saxons to live here. Historians have been unable to discover the meaning of the word.
Holy Island was designated as a Nature Reserve for its Flora although its immense variety of bird life continues to draw keen ornithologists throughout the year. Visited briefly by hundreds of birds during the migration periods, many species visit and remain throughout the Winter. Geese, duck, waders and the occasional rare Northern Gull are regular visitors, sometimes in staggering numbers. There is tightly controlled Wild-Fowling on the Island.
Holy Island is linked to the mainland by a causeway, covered by the sea twice daily. The causeway regularly causes problems for those who disregard the safe crossing times, or believe they can beat the tide. A small, raised hut is provided at the highest point for those who misjudge it. As a small child I clambered enthusiastically up to the hut to see what it was like - basic, cold and damp as I recall. Those who have spent a few miserable hours in the hut, watching their car slowly being covered or gently bobbing away into the distance, must hope never to repeat the experience. However, I can guarantee that it will happen again and again - some people always know better!
Stretching across the sands, forming a straight line from the start of the causeway to the island, is the Pilgrims Way, named for the visiting pilgrims who still make the trek across to the island on foot.
Arriving on the island proper, the shoreline curves to the right - this route will eventually bring you to the harbour - it involves scrabbling up and down between the shore and a narrow footpath running parallel with the fields behind the village. To the left, an easier footpath leads to the far shore, with some incredible, unspoilt dunes and sweeping beaches. This part of the island is normally very quiet, as it is quite a walk to the dunes. It can be fairly hard going, but it's well worth the effort. You should come across an abundance of rabbits scampering around - they are everywhere on the island despite suffering badly during the Mixymatosis days - I'll never forget finding a hideously deformed rabbit staggering around - it gave me nightmares for weeks afterwards. The sea can be heard from a distance, crashing over the rocks onto the shore. If you can, do this walk in the winter when the winds up, you will be treated to an awesome display of natures power as wave after wave pounds the shore.
Let's head towards the village - On the corner is the Lindisfarne Hotel - a warm, welcoming hotel, privately owned and family run, it does some great afternoon teas, the hot chocolate being a particular favourite - an ideal place for granny to get her breath back. Slightly further on, a large unsightly hut looms into view - a cafe catering for the dozens of coach parties that descend upon the island. Decision time. Down the picturesque narrow street to the castle and harbour? Right, to the island post office, or head along to the Village Square? Lets head right, past the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre (home to an electronic version of the Lindisfarne Gospels, now 'owned' by the British Museum after their 'removal' or theft as we call it, from the island). Further up the village Post Office offers newspapers, sweets, a range of local books, postcards and stamps. Almost opposite used to be the Castle pub - it's now a B&B. I have good memories of this pub - I remember one afternoon, my brother and I were in the Castle, and the landlady decided to close. This is somewhat of a rarity on an Island that has it's own, very loose interpretation of licensing hours. We were chatting with her when there was a knock at the door. Moaning, she answers it to some sinister looking leather-clad figures pleading for a drink. 'I'm afraid we are shut', she states, then as an afterthought, asks 'How many are there? 'About 20' is the reply. Suddenly the pubs open again and it's jumping! This really is typical of the island - welcoming, hospitable, but also acutely aware that a living must be made too.
As we wander to the top of the road, the village school is set back to the right - currently 2 pupils and a teacher!. The school has barely survived, due to younger islanders leaving the island and caters only for primary age children, and it looks likely that this will be an ongoing fight. The older children tend to travel to nearby Berwick or Alnwick (daily travel is not always possible) so most tend to board.
Bear left and we have the ubiquitous craft shop, selling all the usual bits and pieces - shells, celtic design rings, postcards, soaps, plastic things etc. As with most of the tourist shops on the Island this opens at Easter and closes in the Autumn. As you can see, we are between two rows of cottages. These cause some resentment among the Islanders, as most are second homes to people who contribute nothing to the local economy or community. The Islands popularity as a holiday home location exploded and property prices spiralled. People who were scraping a living from fishing, farming and tourism really did receive offers they couldn't refuse. Consequently, younger islanders couldn't afford property on the island - however, in recent years, properties have been constructed specifically for these islanders, with prices fixed and various clauses included to safeguard these properties.
We'll wander straight down here, passing through the cottages, down to the shore. The road winds past the church (we'll pop back this way in a few minutes). On the shore, and the tide is out - let's clamber over the rocks to St Cuthberts island - all that remains are the ruins of his hermitage, and a small cross to mark its presence. Cuthbert ran the monastery and was an active missionary. He was 'called' to be a hermit to fight evil while living a life of solitude. He used this tiny islet for short time before moving to the 'Inner Farne' where he built a hermitage and lived for 10 years. He then became a bishop at the Church's and Kings request .
Having strolled back up the lane, we come to the parish church of St Marys, thought to be built upon the site of the original monastery. This beautiful church can be traced back to 1066. It is a living church, holding three services a day, as well as extra services for the large number of visitors who use it. It is still used for the baptisms, marriages and funerals of the Island people. My parents recently re-took their wedding vows on the day of their Ruby wedding and did so here - the day was glorious, with the sun streaming through the incredibly detailed stained glass windows, church full of flowers and most of the islanders along to help celebrate the event.
Leaving the church we literally stumble into the 11th century Priory. Contrary to popular belief it wasn't built on the site of St Aidans original monastery - in fact, evidence suggests great efforts were made to remove all traces of the old order. It is an incredible feat of civil engineering and is particularly well preserved, with a host of unique features . The well usually proves to be of great interest to the younger generation - I can't work out how the countless stones dropped down this well don't reach the surface by now - where do they go?
Gazing out of the Priory , you can see Lindisfarne Castle, perched high on Beblowe Craig. If we head through the graveyard towards the village square, you can see examples of the harsh reality of life on the island - graves mark the deaths of whole families and infants, bringing home how hard life must have been. Strangely, going back in time, we can see that many islanders far exceeded the average life expectancy of their times. Must be something in the air. I find this graveyard absolutely fascinating, wondering whether heroic tragedy resulted in the deaths of entire families, or whether simple diseases were to blame.
The village green in summer is magnificent - as we leave the churchyard, you can see a stunningly picturesque cottage, covered in roses and greenery. This was the village shop. I loved this place as a kid but was also slightly scared of it - it was dark, full of nooks and crannies and run by two of the oldest, scariest women I had ever seen. These ladies were incredible - they ran the shop well into their late 80s, and never knew a price in their life - How much was it last time you were in? They would ask - I think I told the truth on most occasions! It truly was the end of an era when they shut the shop for the last time.
The green has also been the site of the funniest sight I have ever seen on the island. An islander had purchased a pig to fatten up and sell at market. However, he had nothing to transport it to market, so he borrowed a trailer. Having loaded up the pig, he stopped in the green, at which point the pig made a bid for freedom. It was pursued energetically but totally ineffectually by everyone present. Think Ealing films and you'll get the picture. It eventually escaped, ending up in the dunes, where it spent nearly a week, and was the basis of many stories of strange sightings and noises coming from the shore.
The Manor House Hotel and the Crown and Anchor pub are separated by about 5 feet at the corner of the green - I've spent many nights (and much money) in both of these establishments and can recommend them unreservedly. Both the Lindisfarne that we passed earlier and the Manor stock an incredible range of Whisky, but don't try and sample them all - I was once challenged to do so, managed it over a week and wasn't right for about 3 months! Nice at the time but.....
If we cut through this little gap between the pub and the hotel, we'll head over the field and towards the harbour. The castle to one side, Priory to the other, it's likes stepping back in time.
Lindisfarnes nautical history can be traced back over 1300 years. Its two lifeboats were responsible for some heroic rescues in some of the most dangerous seas around Britain. Unfortunately, no lifeboat station exists on the island today, due mainly to economic pressures. The harbour is known world-wide by pictures of the large, upturned fishing boats, covered in pitch that line the beach. These were work sheds for the small group of remaining seagoing islanders. Many began life as part of one of the largest Herring Fleets to sail off the east coast . The fleet operated from Holy Island harbour until the turn of the 19th century. Sadly, only one working fishing boat remains harboured here, and even that now struggles to bring in a living for its owners.
The views from the harbour of the tremendous seas breaking over the other Farne islands during severe Winter gales are absolutely spectacular but during the Summer months as well, there is nothing more peaceful when the tide is in, visitors have left, than strolling around the harbour.
It is often claimed that the first oak-smoked Herring was prepared in the adjacent Herring Houses. These have now been converted into flats and cottages and form the basis of my most surreal Holy Island experience. I must have been about 9, and my parents didn't have a property on the island, so had rented the Herring House for the Summer. I woke one morning to the sun streaming into the bedroom, and pulled open the curtains - there was Angela Ripon, standing in mid air talking into a microphone! Closing the curtains (I was naked), I pulled my jeans on and had another peek - sure enough it was her. It turned out that a BBC production was being filmed on the island and she was actually standing on top of van doing her commentary. I waited until they were gone before leaving the house due to acute embarrassment.
Look at the spectacular view of the Castle here - on a clear day, you can see the other Farne islands as well as the magnificent Bamburgh Castle, perhaps the most famous of all the Northumbrian coastal defences.
Lindisfarne castle itself sits on a volcanic mound and is one of the most distinct and picturesque features of the Island. Built in 1550 following the dissolution of the monasteries, to defend against attack by Scotland and in pursuit of their Spanish allies, it was constructed from stone taken from the Priory. It has recently been renovated - using of Yak hair in the render. The view from the top of the castle is truly magnificent. Behind the castle are disused lime kilns which were in use until the turn of the 19th century - slaked lime featured highly in the Island's economy.
Now we are at the Castle, lets catch the horse drawn bus back to car, taking one last look at the castle, the priory, and the harbour, savouring the peace and quiet beauty of the Island.
I hope you have enjoyed your visit and hope you get the opportunity to visit this historic, beautiful place and judge for yourself.
This review also on Ciao under my name MarkKerr
Lindisfarne is one of several different islands off the coast of Britain that is also known as Holy Island. This particular island lies a few miles south of Berwick upon Tweed, and is connected to the mainland of Northumberland via a causeway across tidal sands that flood twice daily. Indeed, this is likely to be where the name came from: lindo fearran, meaning the land of the tidal water in Irish. Living only around an hours drive away from Lindisfarne, in Newcastle, I had long intended to visit the island, but had been thwarted on several previous occasions by the variations in safe crossing times for the causeway. However, on Good Friday, sunny weather, a day off and an almost perfect safe crossing period lasting between 8.30am and 4pm combined to make Lindisfarne an excellent prospect for a day trip. Due to the considerable daily variations of the tides, it is very important that anyone thinking of visiting the island checks the tide tables for the day (accessible at www.northumberland.gov.uk/vg/tidetabl.html) and sticks to the official safe crossing times given for the causeway; for two hours prior to high tide and three hours following it, the causeway is flooded under several feet of water and becomes impassable. There is nothing to physically stop travellers attempting to cross the causeway outside of these safe times, but tide tables are posted at either end of the causeway and all over Lindisfarne itself, so it is each persons responsibility to cross safely.
The island itself has a wild and rugged beauty, and is a haven for wildlife. The Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve occupies large parts of it, and there is only one small village with approximately 150 inhabitants. The road from the causeway brings you directly into the village, passing a large visitor car park just on the edge of it; it is advisable to park your car here rather than attempt to block the narrow streets of the village with your vehicle, even though you have to pay (£2.20 for 3 hours, or £4 for an all day ticket). From this car park, it is a walk of less than 10 minutes into the village, and you can also pick up the castle shuttle bus to visit Lindisfarne castle should you feel disinclined to undertake the mile or so distance on foot (£1.30 return for this service, departing every 20 minutes). I recommend walking while on the island, though, to fully appreciate the beauty of the place. Alongside the spectacular natural assets of the island, the village itself is charming, being made up of an eclectic mixture of different building styles and home to a cluster of hotels, B&Bs, cafes, two rather fine looking pubs (that alas I didnt have chance to sample) and a generally friendly and welcoming atmosphere. It is also incredibly neat and tidy in a way you really appreciate living in a scruffy city suburb!
Historically, Lindisfarne is a more significant site than perhaps its small size would suggest, with its importance principally stemming from the Anglo Saxon era. In AD635, King Oswald of Northumbria requested that a group of monks from the priory on Iona in the West of Scotland come to his kingdom with a view to converting the North of England to Christianity. A party of monks duly came, led by an Irishman called Aidan (later Saint Aidan), and founded the first monastery on Lindisfarne. Lindisfarne was a perfect location for the monastery, being within sight of (and therefore protected by) the Kings of Northumbria, across the bay in Bamburgh castle, and offering a suitable amount of isolation for the monastic community due to being cut off from the mainland at high tides. Northumberlands patron saint Cuthbert was a monk, and later Abbott, at Lindisfarne, and his (supposedly undecayed) body was kept as a holy relic on the site after his death. The monastery also set up the first known school in the area, introducing the arts of reading and writing to Northumbria, and in time the scriptorium became renowned for its skill in producing beautiful illustrated manuscripts, the most famous of which are of course the Lindisfarne Gospels (currently in the British Library in London, much to the disgruntlement of many Northumbrians).
In AD793, Lindisfarne witnessed the first Viking raid on Britain; the vulnerability of the site from sea raids was cruelly exposed by the Norsemen, with the attacks continuing on a regular basis well into the following century. In AD875, the monks eventually abandoned the island, taking with them the body of Saint Cuthbert, and for many years wandered the North of England before eventually settling in Durham in AD995, where Cuthberts remains still lie. After the Norman Conquest (AD1066) Lindisfarne priory was re-established by the Benedictine monks of Durham as a cell (outlying monastery controlled by the cathedral), and the second monastery was built on the island. It never held the same power or influence as it did the Anglo Saxon Golden Age, however, and was beset by troubles, especially during the wars between England and Scotland. Eventually the monastery was suppressed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, and the monastic community left Lindisfarne for good, leaving King Henry to raid the remains of the priory to build his castle on the island. Little is known of the history of Lindisfarne after the monks left for the last time, although substantial remains of the second priory are still visible on the island, and the only feature that suggests an involvement in the violent border history of Northumberland is said wonderfully rugged castle.
Given this history, it seemed only fair that the stating point for my visit should be the priory itself. Situated on the edge of the village, the priory is owned and run these days by English Heritage, who have a small exhibition and shop next the ruins of the monastery. The exhibition, which tells the history of the priory, has recently been refurbished, and the newness of it is apparent (although not a great deal of design flair has been put into presenting the history of site, significant as it is as a cradle of Christianity in England). The exhibition is designed around a series of panels on the walls, which are unimaginative but clear and could be followed quite easily by older children and adults alike, and they do help put the site in a historical context for visitors. A small number of objects (pottery mostly, but also a few more visually appealing objects) are huddled together in two cases at the end of the display, and there are some examples of carved Anglo Saxon stonework on show which as an archaeologist I can appreciate, but as a visitor I found it none too exciting to merely read translations of the inscriptions. It would have been nice to read more about why they were important, I think: enthusiasm is no bad thing in an exhibition.
Having been introduced to the site in the exhibition, I made my way outside to the priory ruin, which sits dramatically in one corner of the island with stunning views across the sea, to Lindisfarne castle in one direction, and to the mainland in the other. The buildings are the remains of the second monastery, with impressively high sections of the church walls still standing, and the bold round pillars and distinctive Norman arches of the nave arcade still presenting a daunting spectacle in their weather-tinted red stone. Even the remains of the Normanesque designs carved into the columns (similar to those at Durham Cathedral) can still be seen in some places. Less than a hundred years after the second monastery was completed, fortifications had to be added to the site as it was in a vulnerable position during the Scottish Border Wars, and the defensive structures are also visible amongst the ruins. The image of this powerful, dark red priory fortress surrounded by religion and mystique, must surely have been a formidable one in the Middle Ages. During these troubled times there were likely to have been only five or six monks occupying the site at any one time, and it is easy to imagine the harshness and isolation of their life. The ruins are interpreted in standard English Heritage fashion, with a scattering of low-level text panels to help you make sense of what remains of the site. I found these panels to be helpful for orientation and interesting, but I would have liked to seen them at a slightly more comfortable reading height than they currently stand; I think this would do little to damage views across the priory, but would considerably help many visitors.
The visitor facilities are limited on such a small site. The shop sells few things that arent available in all other English Heritage shops and the refreshment section (drinks and ice creams) was conspicuously empty, although it was early in the season when I visited. There was also notably no toilet on site for visitors, although there are facilities a short walk away in the village (including accessible toilets). Access to the exhibition building was level and there was ample room for pushchairs/ prams/wheelchairs to manoeuvre around the displays, although anyone with mobility problems would likely find the uneven ground of the priory ruin difficult to get around.
Opening times: April to September, 9.30am to 5pm, daily
October, 9.30am to 4pm, daily
November to January, 10am to 2pm, Saturday to Monday
February to March, 10am to 4pm, daily
Prices: English Heritage members free
15% entry discount to groups of 11 or more
Further information: www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConProperty.132
A visit to Lindisfarne just wouldnt be complete without calling in at the Lindisfarne Winery, would it? Situated in the centre of Holy Island village, the winery has been open since 1968 and tempts some 200,000 visitors into its shop each year with the promise of free tasters of the mead that it is justly famous for. Lindisfarne Mead is a unique fortified wine produced exclusively on the island; mead is its simplest form is just fermented honey and water, but this particular mead is vatted with grape juice and herbs to give it a distinctive flavour. Mead has for centuries been renowned as an aphrodisiac, and the word honeymoon is apparently derived from the ancient Viking custom of having newly-weds drink mead for a whole moon (month) in order to increase their fertility, and therefore their chances of a happy and fulfilled marriage. I did partake of a free taster of the mead and found it to be very rich and smooth (and rather strong), but a bit too sweet for my tastes so I declined to buy a bottle despite its intriguing claims.
Also on offer was a free taster of St Aidan Cream Liqueur. Never one to pass up a free sample, I gave it a try and found it to be absolutely delicious, similar to Baileys but slightly creamier and less strong (well worth trying).
The winery shop is of a good size, and sells not just the mead and cream liqueur there is an excellent selection of locally brewed beers, Lindisfarne fruit wines, preserves, confectionary (including Lindisfarne fudge) and an impressive array of Scotch and Irish whiskeys. I settled on a bag of cherry fudge for around £1.50 (which I highly recommend) and a jar of marmalade with Lindisfarne Liqueur (at a not unreasonable £1.79). At the time I was visiting the premises was undergoing major building works in preparation for the summer season, so I did not perhaps see it in the best light, but given the excellent (and largely fairly priced) stock, this is certainly worth popping into while youre on the island. You can see the range of products and buy online at: www.lindisfarne-mead.co.uk. I could not find any information on opening hours, but I suspect that this varies depending on when the causeway is accessible, and would expect it to be open daily as with other island attractions.
Impressively sited atop a volcanic mount known as Beblowe Craig, Lindisfarne castle manages both to be ruggedly stunningly and romantically picturesque at the same time. On an otherwise fairly flat island, the castle is visible for a considerable distance around, and commands an impressive view over Lindisfarne village, the bay and surrounding coastline. Following the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII, the castle was built in the 1550s using stones from the demolished priory (just typical of Henry, really). The Tudor fort was built to secure the bay where English ships sheltered during the wars with Scotland. The accession of King James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603 united the two kingdoms and brought peace to the borders, so Lindisfarne Castle lost its importance as a fort within decades of being built. However, a small garrison remained at the castle until the late 19th century, and Im sure they were less pleased than the monks at the isolation of it.
In 1901, Edward Hudson (founder of Country Life magazine) discovered the castle going to ruin and negotiated its purchase from the Crown, with the intention of turning it into a holiday home. The famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens was brought in for this work in 1902, and began his conversion of the castle to create the Edwardian country house that the National Trust now owns. The castle is also well known for its walled garden (originally the fort's vegetable garden but re-designed by noted landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll in 1911 as part of the conversion), which lies some 500m to the north of the castle. Her plans were recreated by the National Trust and re-planted for the 2003 season. The garden was intended to be enjoyed over the summer, when the castle was occupied as a holiday home, so in early April all that was visible was a few tufts of daffodils. Photographs suggest it is a wonderful sight if you visit at the right time, though.
Ever a fan of castles, I was keen to visit this one, especially given its association with two of the Edwardian eras most noted designers. The castle lies about a mile outside of the village, and is best walked to; if I had not been on foot, then I would have missed the seals playing in the bay! The approach to the entrance is made up a steep slope, and once you have climbed it, you then have to negotiate your way past the rather hefty entrance price and some terribly enthusiastic National Trust employees on a recruitment drive to actually reach the entrance. The castle itself is fairly small once you get close up, and is decorated in the Edwardian style of Lutyens, with only limited references to the earlier history of the building. I felt the interpretation was lacking; discreet laminated cards in each room merely listed the objects that could be seen without telling the visitor anything about them, and there were only three stewards on duty, making accessing further information from them difficult given the fact it was a busy day. I appreciate what the National Trust is aiming for it the minimalist interpretation it uses in its properties, but I find it frustrating that I am expected to cough up for an expensive guidebook if I want to know any more than the fact the mirror I am looking at is a Chippendale. It is the so what factor: why are these things interesting and important, what about the people who lived and worked here? It is a Chippendale so what? I was a little disappointed by the castle and was rather glad that as a member I had not paid to get in although having said that, the views across the bay to Bamburgh castle from the mount were truly breathtaking.
Also to be seen at the castle is one of the islands quirkier landmarks: the upturned boat sheds. The use of old boats as sheds once their sailing days are over is an East Coast tradition that has survived on Holy Island alongside a small fishing industry (there are many spots on the island selling Lindisfarne crab to visitors, which my Other Half assures me is delicious). The National Trust has sourced and recently reopened suitable replacements for the boat sheds, one of which has a small display in it about the significance of the boats to the local community, and is worth a look in after visiting the castle.
The castle site is unfortunately as lacking in visitor facilities as the priory, with only an emergency toilet (the mind boggles ) available and the NT shop being situated back in the village. Anyone with mobility problems would struggle with the steep entrance and narrow staircases of the castle, and I am doubtful that any visitor in a wheelchair could get any further than the entrance. Opening hours vary according to the tidal causeway crossing times, but the NT flag flies from the castle when it is open.
Opening times: 17th March to 28th October, times vary, Tuesday to Sunday
27th to 30th December, 10.30am to 3pm, daily
16th to 24th February, times vary, daily
Open Bank Holiday Mondays, including Scottish Bank Holidays
Prices: National Trust members free
Garden only £1 adults, children free
Further information: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-lindisfarnecastle/
Ultimately, I had a wonderful day out on Lindisfarne and was very lucky with the weather I really wouldnt have fancied attempting the causeway in the fog that often hangs around the island. Having said that though, I bet the island takes on a whole new level of mystery when it becomes wrapped in mist, and the setting becomes even more dramatic than it is in sunshine. It was well worth the wait for a day with good crossing times, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the village, seeing the historical sites, and walking around a truly gorgeous stretch of coastline. There was a visitor centre in the village with displays about traditional island life and the Lindisfarne gospels that I would have liked to visit, but I ran out of time to leave before the causeway was flooded, and so I think that will have to wait until a future visit. And I certainly will visit again, although everything suggests that peak season is perhaps not the most pleasant time to do so as I would imagine the island could get congested quite easily. Visitors are well catered for on Lindisfarne, with plenty of food at a range of prices on hand, a large and well-maintained car park, and quality souvenirs to be bought (and drunk). It really is a must for anyone in this area interested in history, especially Christian history, and I can appreciate the religious significance of Holy Island, even though I am a little heathen at heart. On the downside, you do need a car to visit, the crossing times can sometimes be awkward, and it is not the best place for visitors who couldnt really manage to be walking all day. It is also quite pricey for anyone isnt a paid up member of the National Trust and/or English Heritage.
Still, I would happily recommend Lindisfarne for a day trip for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Just go easy on the mead!
General visiting information: www.lindisfarne.org.uk
Tide tables: www.northumberland.gov.uk/vg/tidetabl.html
I was down in the NE last week, and visiting Lindisfarne, or Holy Island seemed to be the most fitting end to a wonderful week, which consisted of the most motivational four day course that I have ever attended in my life. I had wanted to go to Lindisfarne for some time, and I also want to go and visit Iona in Scotland. It seemed foolish not to make the most of the opportunity while I was in the area and so I checked out the safe crossing times and decided to go. To access Lindisfarne, you need to make your way to the A1, about half way between Edinburgh and Newcastle, to the village of Beal. You will be about eight miles from the Scottish Borders at this point. Lindisfarne is clearly marked. The road heads towards the coast for a couple of miles, until you reach the causeway. You might have to hang around for some time if you don?t plan your visit and the times can vary quite a bit each day. Once the sea has receded, you can cross the causeway by car or on foot or whatever other method of transport you choose. If you think you would like to walk over the water, then bear in mind that it would be about five miles to The Village on Lindisfarne, and you will need to consider this together with the amount of time you have available. If you choose to take the car over, then you will find a clearly marked car park, which is a Pay and Display and will cost £3 at 2003 prices. It is then about a half mile walk to the village. The locals ask for respect when visiting the Islands, their magic attracts over half a million visitors each year, and they don?t want the place clogged up with cars, or anything else for that matter. You will find that cars will start to creep across the causeway as soon as they feel it is safe to do so. If you do this, do not proceed any further than you are completely comfortable with, given that the causeway is narrow, and cars from the other side may also try to do this. You can also see the original Pilgrim crossing,
and you can cross this on foot, although you should only do so with a guide who knows the area. There are several attractions on the Island that you might want to visit, although you could just go over for a little bit of reflective time, and stay away from the beaten path. I visited on Friday 11 July, crossing quite soon after the causeway was safe at 425pm. I did not find the island crammed with tourists so I am not sure where they all disappeared to. I felt like I had many parts of the Island to myself at times. The first place I visited was the Priory. This is an English heritage site. Entry is a respectable £3 and a guide book cost £2.99. The attraction consists of a display area giving you some history and timelines about the Priory and the Religious and spiritual purpose of the Island. The island itself was founded by St Aidan, and the monastery he established rapidly became known. St Aidan founded the monastery in 635AD. St Cuthbert?s body was enshrined in the church, however the island was invaded by the Vikings in the eighth century and the monks needed to shelter on the mainland, taking St Cuthbert?s body with them. The Island became a religious community once again in the 12th century and the new monks built the priory at that time. You can wander around the ruins of the Priory and graveyard and begin to imagine the simple lifestyle that the monks had. You can also view the priory ruins from atop the high walls and cliff top. The second attraction I visited was the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre. The entry cost for this attraction is £2.50. The highlight of the Heritage centre is the Lindisfarne Gospels. Rather unfairly the original of this magnificent document is contained within the British Library, however the BL have commissioned some high quality copies and have donated one to the heritage centre. The centre also shows a great deal of information about wildlife on the island and the sandy flats which for
m the Lindisfarne Nature reserve between the mainland and the Island. Lindisfarne Castle, which sits about ¾ mile from the village all alone, was built in 1550. It is in private hands but you are still able to visit it. The opening hours vary, in line with the tides, but most unfortunate for me, it is closed on Fridays. Nevertheless, I was able to take a stroll through the harbour, and view the lobster pots all stacked on top of another, fishing being a major part of daily life on the Islands. The village does contain a few shops, including a general store, post office and craft shops. There is also a meadery and several pubs/hotels. I did not stay on the Island, but the website www.lindisfarne.org.uk will be of use if you want to stay for a couple of days, as there are several B&B accommodations too. So next time you have to go dashing up the A1, if you can fit it in, then take some time to cross the causeway to Lindisfarne and allow your batteries to recharge and reflect. I highly recommend a visit. Helen Bradshaw July 2003
Having visited Lindesfarne a number of times I am always in awe of it's natural beauty. If you are thinking of making a visit to the island then you must consider the tide, it can catch you out very quickly, always give yourself plenty of time to get across the causeway, as at high tide the road is covered by the sea. There is a refuge halfway across which is a hut on stilts, but your car wouldn't be much good after a few hours submerged in salt water. Once on the island there isn't really anywhere to drive to, so you have to park the car and walk. This adds to the peace and quiet of the whole island, it really is a place to get away from it all. There are some beautiful beaches that even in the height of the summer can be deserted. There are only two guest houses but both offer cheap accomodation, there are also a couple of small hotels. Lindesfarne, also known as Holy Island, has a religious history that will interest everyone, not just people who go there for religious purposes. This is the place where christianity was supposed to have started in England, it's local church, St Marys is well worth a visit as is the castle that dominates the Island. This was origanilly a tudor fort, and the views are fantastic over to Bamburugh Castle on the main land. Being on the east coast the weather can be wild during the winter, but in the summer warm but breezy. This place is definately worth a visit if you are in the area and have a day to spare.
Holy Island, formerly Lindisfarne was given its name in the 11th century because it was one of the main centres of Christianity in the Dark Ages. The island was given to St Aiden in 635AD. In the Church of St Mary's there is a copy of the famous Lindisfarne Gospels and next to the church are the remains of Lindisfarne Priory built in 1083.
However it is Lindisfarne Castle which dominates the island,originally a Tudor Fort. From the upper Battery there are fine views over the island and the Farne Islands.
Holy Island is reached by a causeway which is covered by tides twice a day. Before setting out on a journey here you need to check the tide times as a number of people have been caught out. Tide times are given in the local press and also from tourist information offices. If you are caught by the tides there is a refuge provided (a shed on stilts) but this does not help those who have travelled by car.
For those wanting to stay on the island or for those that have to there are one or two B&B's and a couple of small hotels providing accommodation. If you do stay you can watch the sea surround the island with you on it. I found this quite an experience.
I have visited Holy Island on several occasions and find it a truly awesome place.