When I was (very) young, I first knew Lindisfarne as a Geordie folk band who had a 1970s hit album “Fog on the Tyne”. I later found out that the band took their name from an island – a holy island off the north east coast of England, connected to the mainland by a causeway at low tide, but completely cut off at high tide. I learned that this was one of the earliest centres of Celtic Christianity in England. A Priory was built in the 7th century and illustrated gospels were made here, which are now housed in the British Museum in London. At the end of the 8th Century, a Viking raid destroyed the religious settlement, much to the shock of the Anglo-Saxon English kingdoms. I had been fascinated by this history, but had never visited the Holy Island – until now.
We left Seahouses driving north along the coast road that runs parallel to the beach. On approaching Bamburgh, I had to stop the car to take a few photos of the imposing Bamburgh Castle. Once home to the Kings of Northumbria, the castle was destroyed by the Vikings and then rebuilt by the Normans. Its situation on a cliff overlooking the sea couldn’t be more dramatic.
After the photoshoot, it was onwards to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. We had checked the tide times, ensuring we could cross the causeway. On arrival, we parked the car and set off to explore on foot. We discovered there’s a village on the island, with a primary school for young children. It made me think how difficult life must be when you are cut off for so much of the time. How do older children get to school, or adults get to a job on the mainland? It’s amazing this community can still thrive.
Our first stop was the Lindisfarne Exhibition Centre. This is a museum and an audio visual experience which gave us more information on the history of the island and life today. The local economy, once based on farming and fishing, is now more oriented towards tourism. The Exhibition is run by a community development trust, which helps raise money for affordable housing and community projects on the island.
We proceeded to view the remains of the priory, before setting off on a walk around Lindisfarne.
On the way to the castle (only a few hundred years old, making it positively modern in these parts) we stopped a while at a little beach. Bamburgh Castle could clearly be seen across the water. How did they miss those Viking raiders all those years ago?
We continued our walk around Lindisfarne Castle and came across another beach where there were many pebble sculptures that people had made. While we had a couple of hours to kill before the tide went out, we didn’t have time to compete with the best. We made an effort though!
A while later, we came across a bird hide overlooking a small lake. We dallied a while, but I must admit, I don’t really know what I’m looking for in these places. We continued our walk through some large fields, which made it clear that farming still takes place on the Holy Island. I understand barley is grown, some of which has been sent to Scotland for whisky production.
After a pleasant walk that burned off a few calories, we returned to the village for some refreshments. A little browsing around the gift shops took us to the perfect going home time – in other words, a time when going home is possible.
We enjoyed our day and it was worth going for a walk to get away from the village, which can be a bit touristy. Having said that, I didn’t begrudge spending money there, as a lot of tourist income goes to support the local community, which could easily die out without it.
Driving back across the causeway that had been covered by the sea an hour earlier, away from the village, the castle and the priory, the mystic quality of Lindisfarne was very apparent. It’s the sort of place you could name a band after.
Lindisfarne is off the coast of Northumberland in North East England, UK
The island is off the A1 road between Newcastle and Edinburgh, about 13 miles south of Berwick. Car parking is available on the island but you cannot drive around it. It is important to check tide timetables as it is only accessible at low tide. The nearest mainline train station is Berwick. Buses from there are irregular for obvious reasons
Accommodation and refreshment
Accommodation, cafes and pubs serving food can be found in Lindisfarne village. For further information on accommodation, click here