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.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ALL DAY?
We were a little concerned when we realised we would be trapped on the island for at least five hours without being able to drive in the car so that if it rained we would be out in the rain. However we were lucky and the rain held off and in fact there was plenty to see and do so we need not have worried.
There is the Priory and the Castle as well as the Lindisfarne Centre but I have reviewed them in separate reviews on here.
ST CUTHBERT’S ISLE
We decided to head down to see this little islet off Lindisfarne as we were a little early for the opening times of other sites. We had been told about these small fossils known as St Cuthbert’s beads and so went to the beach to see if we could find some. It was pretty hard especially as we had no idea what we were looking for however we did manage to find about ten of various sizes. We know they were the real thing as we asked a lady in the hotel later when we had a coffee there.
From the beach you could see the little island and the stone cross standing proud. St Cuthbert apparently lived as a hermit in a hut on this island for years before going to live on Farne Island where he died.
The entire island shores and dunes are protected by English Nature so that flora and fauna unique to the island are preserved for future generations.
THE MANOR HOUSE HOTEL
We were so cold after our time on the beach that we went to find a coffee in the Manor House Hotel. The hotel had a great view and the bar and restaurant area was newly refurbished and very pleasant. The lady who brought us our coffee confirmed that we had in fact found several Cuthbert beads so we were quite happy with a beach finds. I also found lots of very pretty sea glass and bits to use when making greeting cards. The rates for the hotel seemed very reasonable so it might be a good place to stay if you wanted to spend longer on the island. The hotel, bar and restaurant are open from mid February through to December each year. The price of a basic double or twin room is £95,however rooms with a view make a price increase to £120 and you can pay up to £150 but they all include a full English breakfast.
THE GOSPEL GARDEN
This is another project created by the Island Trust and is almost opposite the Lindisfarne Centre. This is not a large garden but it is packed with flowering plants which really are a joy. At the far end of the garden is a brown sort of wall/ decoration which could be either metal or painted wood as I didn’t get close enough to examine it. Behind this dividing decoration is a large ‘sun’ or flower with the petals or rays in a semi circle in the centre of the wall decoration. In front of this are beds full of flowering plants which were colourful even in April when we went.
A bit nearer the entrance but still near the back of the garden is a wooden cross which is a sort of modern interpretation of an Anglo Saxon stone cross except this is made from recycled wood or even drift wood. That was my interpretation and apparently the broken wheel on the top represents the broken journey of St Cuthbert as he was carried by monks from Lindisfarne to Durham where his body now lies in the cathedral there. It is a sculpture by an artist called Fenwick Lawson.
It is once again designed to be a place where you can go and sit in peace and quiet while enjoying a really very beautiful garden which combines plants and artwork. Had it been a little warmer and not quite so drizzly I would have stayed in this very pretty little corner of the island for some time.
The Island Trust project is run by volunteers and since its creation in 1996 it has been responsible for a number of projects that have benefitted both visitors and local people as well. I was impressed with what I saw and they have also been instrumental in building affordable houses for local people as well as renovating the old Coastguard lookout Tower for people to visit so well done to this group of people.
ST AIDEN’S WINERY
This was really a modern shop just next door to St Cuthbert Centre and a church. The shop sold local mead which you can taste, local beers from Northumberland and also Scottish whiskeys and wines from various places. They also sold shortbread, fudge and jams, pickles and other bottles local produce. Not all that was in there was from Lindisfarne or even Northumberland but a lot of it was which was nice. We bought some mead and a couple of bottles of Delavals’ beer – two different types for my husband.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST THAT WE DIDN’T VISIT
Most of these required long walks into the wilder parts of the island and we neither had the time nor the footwear required for that kind of exploration. I think if you want to see the more remote parts of the island you might need to stay on the island and some places are accessible with bicycles too.
Sandham Bay to the north of the island is a good place to look out for grey seals but must be at least two miles away from the village and so a good walk. On the way you pass the Lough where there is s new bird hide built by the Island Trust group once again. Easier to access is the causeway where you can see many different types of wading birds. There are many places where you can see wildlife and rare flora as well in the dunes and the protected Whin grassland which is unique to Northumberland but again you need to walk and also be sensible about the way you walk in these very special areas but you may see field garlic, Autumn Gentian and Rough Clover which only grow in this habitat.
Lindisfarne is part of the Northumberland coast with its varied and considered amongst the finest in Britain. It is designated officially as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and this coast stretches from Berwick through to the Coquet estuary
IS IT WORTH VISITING?
Yes I would say 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.