Despite living in North East England until I was 18, and visiting regularly until my parents retired and moved away in the early 90s, I had never been to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne until our recent weekend in Northumberland. Neither had John or my friend Valerie – I went to school with her, so you can guess where she comes from. Only her husband Kenn, a southerner, had been before and that was – ahem – a few decades ago. I am ashamed. Lindisfarne, often known simply as Holy Island, is wonderful. There’s also a lot more to it than I thought. I imagined a small island with a priory, but there’s a village, a castle and more trails than we had time to do.
It’s a tidal island, so you have to be careful when you cross. We parked in the main car park (fee) and walked down to the village. Our first port of call was the priory – to reach it, we passed St Mary’s Church, to which we would return, and the statue of St Aidan. We also admired the views over to the castle.
Aidan, an Irish monk, founded the monastery of Lindisfarne around 634. It became the base for Christian evangelism in the North of England and Northumberland’s patron saint, Saint Cuthbert, was a monk here and later abbot. There’s a statue of Cuthbert within the priory grounds.
After the priory, we explored St Mary’s Church. The sculpture here is of monks carrying Cuthbert’s body.
Next, we climbed to the old Coastguard Lookout from which there were good views down to the priory and across to the castle.
A different path took us back to the village – and lunch – before we set off for the castle. Along the way, we came across this lovely building, Window on Wild Lindisfarne, part of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. John’s picture shows it better, but I rather like my iPhone silhouette of him and Kenn.
The castle approached – a steep climb up and we were in!
Lindisfarne Castle is an old fort that was converted to a holiday home by Edward Hudson, founder of Country Life magazine, in 1901. Obviously he pulled in all his connections, because the architect was Edwin Lutyens and the garden was designed by Gertrude Jekyll.
The first thing you notice in the Entrance Hall is the wind indicator, painted by Max Gill. A weather vane on the roof powers the central needle via a mechanism in the chimney and turns it in the direction of the wind. I’ve not seen anything quite like it before.
Moving into the kitchen, I was impressed at how many artefacts were lying in the open rather than behind glass or a rope barrier. I asked the guide on duty and she said this was now policy and so far no harm had been done. I was also struck by the parcel addressed to Austin Reed, which was poignant because the company had just gone into administration.
Some of the rooms were closed for conservation, but there was plenty to see. I absolutely loved this bijou castle – it must have been a joy to stay in. Not only that, the guide leaflet had such engaging stories to tell about Hudson that I think I’d have liked him too.
Before we left the castle, we spent some time on the Upper Battery which had great views over the island.
Below the castle, someone had been having fun making art from stones. The other castle you can just see across the water is Bamburgh which I’ll be taking you to in a couple of post’s time.
Finally, we walked across to the garden but it hadn’t been planted for the season yet so there wasn’t much to see. There were other trails we could have followed back to the car, but by this time there was less sun, more wind and a definite nip in the air so it was decided to take the same route back because it was quickest.
This was a wonderful day out – and remarkable cheap! The priory is administered by English Heritage and the castle by the National Trust, so our Historic Scotland and National Trust for Scotland cards got us in free. Even if you don’t have these memberships, I’d say they were well worth visiting at £6 and £7.30 respectively. Just don’t forget to check the tides…
Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – lots of walks this week ranging from Poland to Canada.