Millions of people every year see the distinctive shape of Lindisfarne Castle as they speed by on the main railway line between London and Edinburgh, or drive along the parallel A1 trunk road. But few stop to check out the rich heritage of Lindisfarne island; maybe they are put off by the tide-dependent access to the island.
Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast is also known as Holy Island, recognising it’s religious significance.
I include it in my list of Top Ten Small Islands of the world based on its rich history and unique atmosphere.
It always seems to be cold and misty when I visit, but in many ways I find that adds to the isolation of the place giving it an air of mystery.
Lindisfarne can be reached by a causeway when the tide is low, at other times it is a true island. I find it fascinating to watch the tide slowly covering the causeway and blocking off any retreat from the island for several hours. It is important when visiting to check the Tide Tables.
Car parking is available just outside Lindisfarne village, a 3 mile drive from the causeway. The village itself is fairly small; it is pleasant to stroll around the rows of squat houses leading down to the busy fishing harbour.
For less nimble Seniors, a shuttle bus service is available from the car park to the Castle about a mile away.
My Highlights of Lindisfarne
• Lindisfarne Priory. The island’s unique atmosphere can be sensed when visiting this important centre of early Christianity in the North of England. It was founded by St Aidan and was the home to St Cuthbert for twenty years.
The site is managed by English Heritage and gives a 10% reduction on entry charges for Seniors 60+. Annual Membership can often give better value for money; see: English Heritage versus National Trust.
• Lindisfarne Castle, with its distinctive shape, is visible for many miles from the mainland. Although built many centuries ago as a fortress, the present interior was designed by Edwin Lutvens as a holiday home for a wealthy Edwardian bachelor.
The Castle has a small walled garden and nearby there are some ancient lime kilns.
The Castle is managed by the National Trust. There is no discount for Seniors. Annual Membership of the National Trust can make good sense if visiting a few sites each year.
• Lindisfarne Mead, a drink made from honey, herbs and fermented grapes. Mead was apparently popular with newlyweds in pre-Christian Europe, hence the term ‘honeymoon’.
The mead is produced on the island and can be tasted, and purchased, at St Aidan’s Winery in the centre of the village. Why Lindisfarne? Well traditionally mead was the drink of monks, so although they are long gone from the island, their recipe remains.
• Pilgrims Coffee House. You could easily pass by the small entrance to this coffee shop, but please don’t! The coffee beans are roasted and ground on the spot, with rich odours floating over the walled garden seating area.
Add to that the homemade scones, either cheesy, or plain with cream and jam, and a tasty local ‘Red Kite’ ruby beer. And for entertainment, the local sparrows will quite literally eat the food off your plate.
• Island Walks. For the more sprightly, there are walks along the coastline with great views over to Bamburgh Castle on the mainland and out to sea. A cold wind always seems to blow, so even on a warmish June day, I needed a warm coat.
Large colonies of seals are often seen on the sandbanks producing strange ‘barking’ noises which echo around the island.
If you wish to stay over in Lindisfarne, there are several houses and small inns, such as Bamburgh View and the Ship Inn, although all have to be booked directly. The alternative is to stay nearby on the mainland, where accommodation can be obtained via booking sites like trivago.