“ Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 2SH Tel +44(0)1289 389244. Open: Easter - Sept. „
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.
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.
I have to warn anyone with mobility problems that it is very steep to climb up to the castle and it is cobbled and can be slippery too when wet. Once inside the castle the steps are not the easiest to negotiate and it is not wheel chair or pushchair friendly at all. No dogs are allowed unless guide dogs, there are very low doorways and there is an emergency only toilet so go somewhere else before you visit the castle .
The castle was bought in 1902 by Edward Hudson who was the founder of Country Life magazine. There is obviously more money in magazines that I ever thought especially way back in the early part of the last century. In 1903 Sir Edwin Lutyens was employed to convert the castle into a family holiday home and later Gertrude Jekyll created a walled garden across a field from the castle which was completed in 1911. I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed by the walled garden and certainly wouldn't have paid extra to go in there. We looked at it from the iron gates and decided it was fairly unspectacular and not worth paying extra to go into. Maybe it looks better in summer but it looked a bit like a walled allotment to me.
The castle had some pretty important visitors over the years but some were not so thrilled by the accommodation. One who was less than impressed was Lytton Strachey who was famous for a biography of Queen Victoria, describes the castle as " very dark, with nowhere to sit, and nothing but stone under, over and around you, which produces a distressing effect - especially when one's hurrying downstairs late for dinner - to slip would be instant death."
The castle was obviously expensive to maintain and by 1944 it was given to the NT. The main garden is actually pretty natural and you can walk right down to the shore where the seabirds called fulmers are usually seen and if you are lucky you might see a grey seal, we didn't. In summer puffins and guillemots also pass the shore. It was VERY windy and not that warm when we were there so we didn't hang around too long and returned to the more sheltered castle.
Inside the castle is far more like a home that a castle and Lutyens was very clever in his ability to keep the originality of the castle building while making it into a pretty amazing and unique holiday home. Huge fires warmed the ship room which had curved ceilings like an up turned boat or a tunnel but I imagine nowhere would be that warm and cosy and maybe the family used it more in Summer.
Parts of the building joined to bits of the original fort and yet from inside it was impossible to tell which parts were original and which were 'new' built additions. In one part of the castle there was a model. The guide asked us to point out on the model where we thought we were. We were so wrong. He also took the model apart to show us the huge middle section which was added to the original fort and that was where we actually were standing.
The bedrooms al had great views out to sea and the original turn of the century beds, hand wash bowls and chamber pots so it was pretty basic where plumbing was concerned. It wasn't until the NT took over that mains electricity and an artesian well provided water. Prior to this it was collected rain water stored in underground tanks and pumped up that provided water to the castle.
As you enter the castle the entrance is very castle like with a huge fire place and above that is a decorative sort of barometer which displayed the wind direction on a huge ornate design. It was controlled somehow by workings on the roof and down into the bedroom just above where the fireplace was. It was very clever and also pretty amazing as a picture too.
The kitchen was large and set up as an early 20th century kitchen with a large range and huge wooden cabinets with china and cooking equipment that would have been used to create feast for the family and their guests.
Each room had a few laminated information sheets pointing out things of interest in that particular room. This is such a great idea as you can quickly see anything of interest but huge piles of waste paper is not created as every visitor doesn't need an individual information sheet. There were also NT volunteers in each room to tell you a bit of an interesting story or to answer any questions you might have. They were all really lovely and obviously felt a great deal of pride in the castle and wanted to share their knowledge with you so that you might get the most from your visit too. They pointed out tings you may not have noticed, explained what some of the strange things were in the kitchen and pointed you in the right direction to get out onto the viewing roof section and so on.
IS IT WORTH VISITING?
Yes I would say so. This castle is only one of a number of places worth visiting 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.
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Lindisfarne Castle is one of the prettiest little castles in the whole of England. Perched on top of a conical whin stone hill, it is set against some of the most spectacular views of sea and sky, and could have been plucked straight from the most romantic fairy tale.
The castle is built on Holy, or Lindisfarne Island, in Northumbria, and can only be accessed without a boat twice a day via a causeway, when the tides are low. There are well publicised tidal times all over the island and surrounding villages, and there is a certain frisson as you race to get to the causeway before the tide covers the roadway. Photos of cars up to their door handles in seawater remind you of the consequences of ignoring the tides!
The castle was built in Tudor times, for the usual purposes of self defence and warmongering. Some of the stones from the, then defunct, Lindesfarne Priory were used to build the walls. It was, somewhat unusually, converted into an Edwardian holiday home in 1901, by the owner Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life Magazine. Hudson intended to use the castle for high society entertainment, inviting his artistic, musical and creative friends to spend time there. With this in mind, he commissioned his favourite architect, Edwin Lutyens to make it really special. Lutyens worked his unique magic on the castle, keeping the strong stonework and heavy doors, but at the same time adding delightful touches of colour and design. Lutyens worked with his old friend Getrude Jekyll to create a lovely walled garden to add interest to the exterior of the castle.
The castle is reached by walking along a tiny road from the car park. The symmetry of the rock outcrop and the dramatic nature of the castle can really be appreciated as you approach. The entrance to the castle is equally dramatic; a steep, cobbled path winds around the base of the rock to take you through the heavy doors into the entrance hall. Blinking in the darkness, you start to make out fat stone pillars, a huge stone fireplace, and a maze of doors and corridors leading in every direction.
I immediately walked into my favourite room in the castle - the kitchen. The kitchen is dominated by a magnificent Lutyens designed piece of furniture; a 7 foot high curved wooden bench which doubles as a storage cupboard. This was created to keep out the drafts that issued forth from the scullery. It cradles the huge stone fireplace with its large black stove, and makes a very cosy place to sit and keep warm. Photos of Lutyens sitting next to the fire with his daugher re-create life in the early 1900s. The draft is mainly caused by the portcullis winch, which is rather strangely located just behind the sink in the scullery.
The dining room has a very gothic feel, with a vaulted roof and a floor which is covered with narrow red tiles, laid in a herring bone pattern and designed by Lutyens. This room is actually inside the old Tudor fort, and you can feel the age in the stone wall around you. It was used to store ammunition in previous times. One arched wall at the end of the room is painted in a deep Prussian blue - totally unexpected in a castle room such as this, and giving a rich and decadent feel. The long oak dining table was designed by Lutyens, and is beautifully made, even having the underside carefully sanded to a glass like finish so it did not catch on the ladies dresses.
The next room is also an old Tudor vault; the Ship room is a general lounge and is dominated by the little window alcoves with their window seats that allow you to sit and look across the beautiful sea to the mainland. This room is called the Ship room because of the intricate model ship that hangs from the middle of the ceiling. The deep green walls in this room give it a peaceful feel that, together with the upholstered chairs and sofas, make a cosy and relaxing retreat.
The bedrooms all have heavy oak doors and contain the traditionally sturdy Lutyens oak furniture for a special touch. Lutyens designed some winding narrow corridors between the rooms to give an air of excitement and mystery to this part of the castle. On the upper floor, a long gallery runs the width of the castle. Designed for entertaining large crowds, the gallery has a raised platform at one end, where Hudson's famous guest Madame Suggia would perform on the Stradivarius cello to entertain the guests.
The whole castle manages to be both cosy and magical - every view out of the window is breathtaking. It must have been a fantastic retreat for Hudson and his friends.
Outside the castle, a winding path leads to the walled Gertrude Jekyll garden, which is kept tidy and gardened in the style and spirit of the designer by a team of volunteers. The path leads down to the sea and past the well preserved lime kilns, which have informative plaques to explain exactly how they worked.
I found the whole castle both an inspiration and a delight, perhaps enhanced by the fact that we came over the causeway on the early crossing, and had the place more or less to ourselves so that we could linger and imagine living there 100 years ago.
The castle is now owned by the National Trust, who maintain it beautifully. With younger children in mind, the National Trust provide quizzes to keep them amused. We were there close to Halloween, and there were various spooky spiders, witches and ghosts hidden in every room for the children to spot. The curators were happy to spend time giving us many intimate and unusual details about the history and design of the castle, even explaining to us how they pack the castle up for the winter, with blackout blinds and acid neutral protective drapes. It is an enchanting place to visit, and one that I thoroughly recommend.
The castle is free to National Trust members. £5.70 for an adult, £2.80 for a child, and £14.20 for a family.
It is open on various days and at various times during the year because of the tides and they fly the National Trust flag to show when the castle is open. I would recommend checking the website before you visit (www.lindisfarne.org.uk) or contact them: 01289 389244
Fax: 01289 389909 Email: email@example.com