When you are in the area of North Northumberland, the one landmark that sticks out more than any other is Lindisfarne Castle. Visible for miles around, you can't help but notice this beautiful Castle built in the 1500's high on a volcanic mound to protect against Scottish invasion. Much of the stone used to build the Castle came from the Priory that had been deserted centuries before.
Through the 1700's and 1800's the Castle was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and it wasn't until it was bought by Edward Hudson (the founder of Country Life magazine) that something was done about it. He employed Sir Edwin Lutyens, a famous architect to convert the Castle into the massive house that it has now become. The views from the Castle are simply breathtaking, some of the most attractive coastal visions you will ever see, so remember to bring your camera along with you. About 500 metres to the North of the Castle are it's walled gardens which were re-designed by Gertrude Jekyll in 1911 as part of the conversion of the Castle. The National Trust now look after Lindisfarne Castle and they have re-created Gertrude's original plans in the walled Garden once more. Behind the Castle there are also some extremely well preserved examples of Lime Kilns from the 19th Century (pictured below).
The Castle is open to visitors daily from
April to October except for Mondays when it is shut (Excluding Bank Holidays). At other times of the year it is open at weekends and in school holidays. If you are visiting out of season it is best to check whether or not the Castle will be open. It should also point out that the National Trust only provide an 'emergency toilet' in the Castle, there are no public toilets. It is a lovely walk of about a mile from the Village along a coastal path to the Castle, however there is a minibus service available from the two main car parks to the Castle for the less mobile.
It was Saint Aidan that founded Lindisfarne Priory in 635AD at the request of King Oswald. The most famous resident of Lindisfarne Priory is however St Cuthbert. He came out of retirement on the Farne Islands to became Bishop of Lindisfarne in 684AD in a ceremony that is now believed to be modern day Alnmouth. However he returned to his beloved Farne Islands when became ill and died soon after in 687AD and was buried at Lindisfarne. Legend has it that his casket was opened 11 years later and his body was found to be perfectly preserved, a sure-fire sign of his sainthood.
At some point in the early 700's AD, the famous manuscript known as the
Lindisfarne Gospels was created here. It is an illustrated latin copy of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John made in the memory of Cuthbert by the artist Eadfrith who himself went on to be Bishop of Lindisfarne. They are the earliest surviving English copies of the Gospels and although they now reside in the British Library in London, there are copies of this wonderful manuscript on display in The Lindisfarne Centre. The location of the Island and the relative richness of the Priory left it open to increasingly frequent raids from the Vikings and by 875AD the Monks had fled. They took with them the bones of St Cuthbert, who has now laid at rest in Durham Cathedral since 1000AD. The Priory was re-established in Norman times around 1093 until it's suppression in 1536 by Henry VIII, the ruins that you see now are of what the Normans built in 1150. The Priory is located in the centre of the Village, close the Village square where the main Hotels and restaurants are located. It is now protected and managed by English Heritage, a visit to the Priory should include a trip around the visitor centre and gift shop.
The Lindisfarne CentreThe Lindisfarne Centre celebrates Holy Island's heritage and is located in the Village on Marygate. There is a small fee to enter the Centre and inside you will find many exhibitions, the most noteworthy of which being The Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition. The Gospels themselves very rarely leave the British Library, but they have created two artefacts that have been donated back to the Gospels birthplace: The Gospels Facsimile Edition and The Gospels Interactive Turning Pages.
The Facsimile Edition is a physical 'copy' of the beautiful manuscripts and the Turning pages edition is an electronic version where you can admire the vibrancy of colour and intricacy of the original manuscript and it's beautifully tooled cover. Other exhibitions to explore here include Vikings on Lindisfarne, Exhibition of Island Life and the Lindisfarne Gospel Gardens.
St Aidan's Winery - Lindisfarne Mead
Lindisfarne Mead is a fortified wine created on the Island itself from a blend of fermented white grapes, herbs, honey and the crystal clear water from the Island's artesian well. With the nickname 'nectar of the gods' Lindisfarne Mead is famous around the world and the Winery itself has over 200,000 visitors each year. The Shop has been open since 1968 and all visitors are invited to try a free sample of the mead as well as browse the excellent local produce in the well stocked shop. They now export their good worldwide and are available to buy online at their website. The Winery is located in the centre of the Village, close to the Marketplace and i'd recommend visiting here even if mead isn't your thing. It is an excellent place to pick up a memento of your visit or purchase some gifts to take home with you.
Pilgrims Crossing can be seen from the main causeway and is marked by many tall wooden poles in the sandy, muddy flats. It marks the route the Pilgrims used to cross to Holy Island at low tide in the 11th Century and is also known as Pilgrim's Way. It is a popular walk to this day, however it does come fraught with danger to the uninitiated. As you can imagine this path is incredible muddy as it is completely submerged twice a day and should never be attempted during a rising tide. When the sea races across these muddy flats on a rising tide the waters travel so fast that they cannot be outrun, so extreme caution should be exercised. Safe crossing times for this walk are not published for the Pilgrim's Way.
There is a beautiful circular walk that takes in the circumference of the entire Island, it is easy to follow and mainly flat. Details of this walk are available in our complete guide to Holy Island which you can purchase at the top of this page for just £1.99. Holy Island Hikes offer guided walks of various lengths around Holy Island. Their website details a timetable of public walks, each one having a different theme from spotting the Holy Island Orchid to the natural and local history of the island. Private walks of 1 hour or 2 hour duration are also available.
Horse riding is a popular pastime in rural Northumberland and where better to enjoy a ride than the beautiful natural setting that Holy Island has to offer. At low tide the beach here is three quarters of a mile wide! A local stable offers rides on the beaches of Holy Island and up to the Cheviot Hills and moors, also offering lessons and rides of various lengths. Visit their website for more information. Kimmerston Riding Centre
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