Days Out

HOLY ISLAND OF LINDISFARNE

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.

Once on the island there us 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, and was a setting, (along with the island itself) for the bestselling novel ‘Holy Island’ by Northumberland author L J Ross.

The Priory 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. St Chads mission to convert Mercia to Christianity has its beginnings in the priory. 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 Lichfield link to the person checking the tickets and was met with a glazed look and an unknowing nod of acknowledgement. The staff member then suggested it was connected to the original priory but wasn’t sure. English Heritage, the clue is in your name need to do a better job me thinks.

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 islands 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 rebles 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 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 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.

Hedgehog Score

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Overall We really enjoyed our visit to Holy Island Of Lindisfarne. The unusual drive across the sea through to the local sights made for a very memorable day out.

Useful Links

English Heritage lindisfarne-priory

National Trust lindisfarne-castle

Crossing Times holyislandcrossingtimes.northumberland

Mead Distillary lindisfarne-mead

L J Ross ljrossauthor

Credit photos Jenny.

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