On our first day touring the county of Northumberland, we decided to head northwards from our B&B to Holy Island, not far from the larger town of Berwick upon Tweed, near the Scottish border. When we left our B&B that morning, we left beautiful blue skies with the sunny shining, however as we drove northwards, we were met with nothing but sea fog, that potentially covered any of the spectacular views we were expecting. Nonetheless, we kept our fingers crossed that the sun would eventually burn off the mist as the day went on (this was not to be the case at all!).
As you head northwards on the A1, Holy Island is well signposted, through the village of Beal. What you need to remember however is that access to Holy Island is by a causeway which is covered by the sea twice each day, and thus it is essential to either check the online timetable of when the causeway is accessible before you go, or consult the timetable that is available before you may cross any causeway. I would advise that you do your homework in advance and have a written copy of the timeable of crossing the causeway to allow you to plan your day, as you need to leave sufficient time to get back across, otherwise you will simply be stuck on the island until the next day, as there is no other way in or out.
Thanks to our trusty timetable, we knew the causeway would be accessible at the time of the morning that we arrived. as we appraoched the causeway, we saw many hikers, cyclists and even groups. Since it happened to be Good Friday when we visited, there seemed to be some sort of pilgrimage to the island, with large groups carrying wooden crosses across the causeway and onto the island itself.
Unfortunately due to the awful oppressing fog, we saw very little whilst we were crossing the causeway, which apart from one place on the road, allows two cars to drive at the same time. It was actually quite eerie when we crosses the causeway, as we literally had this road in front of us, and complete mist and fog on either side of it, blocking out anything else, you wouldn't even have known there was sea beyond the causeway, with the exception of the sand at some part of the road along the side.
When we got across the Causeway, visitors are directed to a large carpark, where you can pay a parking rate dependent on how long your intend to stay on the island. There is no way to avoid this car park fee, and this in fact is the only actual admission fee to the island. Just be warned the parking machines do not give change, so unless you want to lose money, come prepared.
Due to the fog, we had to get kitted out in our coats before leaving the car, since it was actually quite cold. We then headed up towards the centre of the village, where there is a large car park for the disabled and for coaches, and where there are also toilets. Within the village itself, there is a selection of small shops, a post office, a pub and hotels, and several cafe's. There are also some bed and breakfast facilties around as well, good if you end up getting stranded by missing the causeway back. You can pick up a visitor map in the car park as you leave towards the village, although it would be quite difficult to get lost here in this small village, and also, everything is well signposted including the castle and priory.
Most people who come to Holy Island do so either to visit the Castle, the Priory, to spot the wildlife, or simply to walk and enjoy the views. With the scenery being somewhat limited on the day we visited due to the fog, the shops were probably a lot busier. The castle itself is a short walk on a flat even surface - however there is a shuttle bus that will take those who cannot or do not wish to walk, to the edge of the castle grounds. From here however, is probably the worst part of the walk, that is, if you want to see inside the castle, as the entrance is up a rather steep hill.
Rather than take in the castle, we decided to have a leisurely walk around the island, enjoying being away from the crowds that flock towards the castle and then head back to the village. Lindisfarne Castle is dated from the 16th century and according to the literature we received has been carefully preserved and converted. Beyond the castle, where you actual walk on the path behind it (no climbing involved) you will reach the old lime kilns. It is then a short stretch on good path to the Crooked Lonnen, which is a lane way that lead you the whole way back to the coach car park. It is possible to take an extended walk of the Island and in fact, further along there is a lough, however with the lack of views and it fast approaching lunch time, we decided to head back towards the village.
As we walked through the village we took a couple of minutes to enter the grounds of the Priory which are free, although there is an admission to the actual Priory. This according to the literature is home to one of the ost important centres of British Christianity, founded in 635 AD. If you get a nice day on the island, sitting in the grounds of the priory is very peaceful and calming. We didn't linger however, and headed back to our car to get some lunch. On our way back we were able to get up close to some birds of prey which had been rescued and were being exhibitied by two knowledgeable hosts on route to the carpark.
All in all, we would have loved to have spent longer on the island, but due to the grim fog, that disrupted any chance of views out to the sea, and the cold air that it brought with it, we didn't stay as long as we had anticipated. If you get a lovely day, there is plenty to do for walkers, cyclists and even picnicers.
Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island is one of the most unusual of English Heritage's sites in my experience. Separated from the mainland by a causeway, even access is unique before we finally reach the site. It was one of the most important places in early Christianity in old England and still draws a very deeply religious following today.
The monastery was founded in AD 635,
St Cuthbert, Prior of Lindisfarne was a missionary and lived for a number of years as a hermit on Farne Island, finally becoming Bishop before dying on Farne is 687.
Buried in the priory, his remains were transferred to a pilgrim shrine there after eleven years, and found still undecayed, apparently a sure sign of sanctity.
There is a museum and numerous displays and information boards which give clear details on the 1,300 year history of the venue.
The whole island is unusual, because it is isolated, because it's feature is the priory and because of it's nature. It's sea bound so that restricts the locals somewhat, which cultivates a dependancy on the island, apparent in the way they regard one another.
There are a multitude of gift shops and this is one of the places you can buy the famous Lindisfarne Mead, which I highly recommend.
It's not the easiest place to access if you have difficulty moving around, much of it is grass sited. However, the whole island is still worth a visit.
For maximum value for money, tr to go on a day an event is being held at the EH property.
The causeway is cut off twice a day by the sea, which is good or bad depending how you look at it. On the one hand it gave us a damn good excuse to go to the pub, on the other if you HAD to leave, you can't.
It's covered in honeysuckle and I hate the smell and the taste, I find it cloying and sickly so it spoilt things a little for me.