“Winter was an unforgiving time on Holy Island. Harsh winds from the North Sea whipped through the cobbled streets between the squat, stone cottages which huddled together as if for warmth. Above the village the Priory loomed, crippled but still standing after a thousand years.”
The Hedgehog and friends recently took a trip out to the Holy Island Of Lindisfarne.
The island is located around 1 mile off the coast of Northumberland, and getting to the island is an adventure in itself. It can only be accessed by driving along a causeway across the sea. The crossing can only be made at low tide. This means that you only have a specific window in which to drive to and from the island and it takes around 10 minutes to complete the full journey. If you ignore the timings and attempt to cross, you and your car will end up at the mercy of the North Sea, the locals will call you an idiot and an expensive search and rescue operation will ensue!
Around one idiot a month is caught out by pushing their luck, and the council has created an emergency (idiot) hut towards the start of the causeway. The hut sits on stilts and is a refuge for those ‘stuck’ drivers to await rescue.
Don't Be An 'Idiot'
Once on the island there is plenty so see and do. An important Priory ruin and church, a Castle, coastal walks, couple of pubs, some local gift shops, a fudge shop, ohh and a mead distillery.
Lindisfarne Priory is a ruin, managed by English Heritage. It has an incredible history and is more recently was the setting for the bestselling novel ‘Holy Island’ by Northumberland author (and Local) L J Ross
The Island get’s it’s nomenclature ‘Holy’ from it’s storied history of being at the epicentre of early English Christian religion. The Priory on Lindisfarne dates as far back as 634ad founded by Irish monk Saint Aidan. Over the subsequent years Lindisfarne became the base for Christian evangelism in the North of England, leading onto St Chads mission to convert the whole of Mercia to Christianity. Some of the oldest recorded English literature was written on the Island with the gospel of St Chad residing in Lichfield Cathedral and the Lindisfarne Gospels safely stored in the British Library, London.
Its a shame that no one seems to have mentioned all this history to the English Heritage staff when I visited. Upon entry to the Priory I mentioned the link to Lichfield Cathedral a person checking the tickets, and was met with a glazed look and an unknowing nod of acknowledgement. The staff member then suggested the ruin was connected to the original priory but wasn’t sure. English Heritage, the clue is in your name need to do a better job of ‘Heritage’ me thinks.
It’s said that the priory itself is a template for cathedrals across the land, and looking at the ruin you can see why. The craftsmanship in its construction is evident. Finely carved columns, the cross shape of its layout, high windows, large doorways. It would have been a majestic celebration of relegion.
Next on our list of visited places on the island is Lindisfarne Castle. The castle is easy to spot as it dominates the Lindisfarne landscape across from the island’s nature reserve.
The castle was built in 1550 and was designed to be a fort. Defending the local harbour and people against the Scots and mauriding vikings. The castle then has a very busy history of being used by Jacobite rebels and more recent coast guard duties. In 1901, the owner of Country Life magazine bought the castle as a holiday home. Since 1944 the National Trust has taken care of the castle and has recently completed a major restoration ensuring the castle is safe for years to come.
Walking back from the castle towards the centre of the island you pass through the nature reserve. Its a collection of salt marsh, mud flats and plants housing wildlife in abundance. The islanders have built a large lookout that allows unprecedented views and explains the scenery with information boards.
Just before we left the Island we popped into the local mead distillery shop. The shop sells a wide range of locally produced mead and all other major spirits. Being close to Scotland it has an impressive scotch whisky collection. We also managed a quick visit to the local fudge shop for some lemon meringue and raspberry ripple fudge, yum
The Silver Hedgehog Final Thoughts:
The Island’s Good Points
- Easy to get to (big car park at the end of the drive across)
- Lots to see on the island and the views are spectacular
- Great for walks
- Great for wildlife spotting
The Island’s Bad Points:
- The castle and priory have to be paid for (if you don’t have the relevant memberships)
- Its a bit hilly so not so good for those with reduced mobility
- Public toilets are best avoided!
- Watch the tide times for crossing.
This gives the Holy Island Of Lindisfarne a
Silver Hedgehog Recommended Rating.
Hedgehog and friends had a fantastic day out exploring the Island. From the adventure crossing the sea in a car through to viewing the amazing landscape. The island may be small but it has so much to see. Its S.H Recommended rating is well deserved and makes a great family day out.
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