Do you live somewhere that has a kind of ‘tourist hotspot’ but you’ve never actually been to yourself? It would be like living in London, but never going to Trafalgar Square I guess? Well for me, I’ve lived near to Holy Island for about 3 or four years now, but I’ve never actually been to the place – I’ve driven past it loads of times (you can see it from the A1 as you drive North from Berwick toward Edinburgh) but just never gone there – until last week. A couple of months ago I went to France as part of a ‘town twinning’ thing we have here – the family that we stayed with were really nice people and the guy who we stayed with is a coach driver for a local company. Anyway – he came over last week with some pupils from the local (to him) High School. He came round our house one evening and said that they were going to Holy Island for the day and wondered if I wanted to go along with them – well a day off from work is a day off isn’t it? So I jumped at the chance. I live in Greenlaw, making Holy Island around 50 minutes drive by coach from my house – or maybe half an hour from Berwick. So, I met up with everyone and off we went. In order to enjoy Holy Island I think you’d need some pretty good weather – a wet and windy day out is always a pain, but the drive to the island is pretty pleasant as you meander through the countryside. We soon arrived at the road to the island. Now, the fact that it’s called ‘Holy Island’ kind of indicates that it is an island, but to get over there you just drive across when the tide is low – it’s really weird, you have the beach with a road going right through the middle of it all! Really strange! Before you start to go over this road you will see signs warning you about tidal times etc. so it’s well worth making a note of them – otherwise you could fin d yourself stranded on the island! The island is far from being a barren little place though – it’s a thriving little community with plenty to interest the visitor. First up there is Lindisfarne Priory – although all that remains of this ancient priory are the ruins it really is worth taking a walk around. Tours are often available during the peak summer season too. Just a short walk from the Priory is the Lindisfarne Castle. You can see this old building for miles around and it certainly looks very imposing – the type of ancient castle you might expect to see in a movie like Braveheart! Now, you can take a look around inside the castle and entrance is free to members of the national trust otherwise you will have to pay an entrance fee. Personally I love old buildings, but due to time constraints I only had time for a quick look at the outside of the building - but I’m determined to go back in the future! What else does Holy Island have? Well there are plenty of little craft shops, many of which sell celtic-inspired objects such as candles, wind chimes etc. (basically the type of ‘faff’ that my mum loves!) and also a little tourist centre. This centre is pretty good actually – there are plenty of local guides and maps available as well as detailed booklets about the history of the island and it’s buildings. Before we headed off I popped into the local pub for a quick coffee. It’s a really nice place – big open fire, oak beams etc. and served a fair variety of meals as well as drinks – the staff were really friendly too, so well worth popping in for a quick pint. Now to explain the title of the opinion – we decided to meet up with the rest of the party on the beachfront just near the harbour, now, when we got their there were a group of old biddies (no offence to any old biddies reading this!) and all the French schoolkids were there too . In the harbour were a couple of harbour seals swimming about. Now, the French for ‘Seal’ is ‘Phoque’ which is pronounced, erm – how shall I put this? It rhymes with ‘muck’ apart from one letter. So the sight of a load of teenage kids pointing at the harbour and yelling ‘Phoque! Phoque!’ was hilarious (yes, my sense of humour really is that low). The look on the faces of all the locals was pretty priceless too! Going to somewhere like Holy Island does depend on the weather – the beach was pretty cold with the wind coming in off the sea, but on a warm sunny day I imagine it’s a great place to go to for a day out. If you think that Holy Island is the type of place you’d like to visit, why not check the website below? http://www.lindisfarne.org.uk/general/index.htm This is a great website – it gives links to everything you’ll need to know – including those vital tide times! A quiet, peaceful place – I’m really glad I had the opportunity to visit the place and I’d urge you to do the same.
Lindisfarne or Holy island - The cradle of Christianity in this country - the jewel in the crown of Northumbria, and in its glorious history, a haven to Saints and Bishops. To do true justice to the Lindisfarne experience I am going to let you into a secret. Come and visit out of season. It is no use whatsoever visiting the island at the height of the summer. Although you will see the priory and the castle in the warmth of a summers day, you will not get the feel of the island. Nothing is to compare with the experience of standing on the foreshore on a winters evening, looking back towards the mainland, watching the sea slowly creep across the causeway and listening to the cry of the oystercatchers. If the mists are just right, you can imagine the monks as they returned from their journeys on the mainland. If at any time you are planning a visit to Scotland, think of stopping over at Lindisfarne. It is only 3 miles from the A1 and is ideally situated for a break on the journey south or north. Why not visit and stay at one of the hotels or boarding houses on the island. You can stay at the excellent Lindisfarne Hotel, or how about the Retreat or Wild Duck cottage details and prices can be found at: www.lindisfarne.org.uk/accommodation.htm It is important that you give consideration to the state of the tides on your arrival and departure. Never ever try and beat the tide. Many have and to their cost have found it not worth the risk. What is it then that makes this little island so special? Many small islands around our coastline have been called holy island for various reasons. The majority have had a hermit or holy man who isolated himself from the trials and tribulations of the outside world. Lindisfarne is the greatest and the only true holy island that we have in this country. Its dimensions are, three miles in length and one and a half miles wide. It is only an island at certain times of the tid e. The fact that it is accessible by car at all other times draws thousands of people to it every year. Although a holy island in the Christian sense, it attracts visitors from all faiths, and beliefs. It was described at the court of Charlemagne as a "place more venerable than all in Britain." In 570, it was known as Inis Metcaut, which translates to "island of strong winds". The history of the island began in when King Oswald of Northumbria asked monks from Iona to found a monastery on the Northumbrian coast. St. Aidan, a monk-bishop agreed and founded his see in 635. As time passed, Lindisfarne became the centre of all great Christian activity and was also the seat of sixteen successive bishops. The venerable Bede thought highly of Aidan, and wrote the following: "He never sought or cared for worldly possessions, and loved to give away whatever he received from kings or wealthy folk. Whether in town or country, he always travelled on foot, unless compelled by necessity to ride, and whenever he met anyone, high or low, he stepped and spoke to them. If they were heathen, he urged them to be baptized; and if they were Christians, he strengthened their faith and inspired them by word and deed to live a good life and be generous to others." In 685, Lindisfarne was ruled for 2 years by none other than St. Cuthbert. His book called the "Lindisfarne Gospels" is preserved in the British Museum Library despite pleas to return it to its rightful home on Lindisfarne, or to Durham cathedral. The ruins of the priory are in excellent condition despite raids from Vikings and Danes. It is easy to imagine the monks going about their daily lives as you stand in what remains of the cloisters. At the southern end of the island is Lindisfarne castle, which is perched atop a rocky windswept crag, facing out into the North Sea and presents an exciting aspect. It was ori ginally a Tudor fort, and converted into a private dwelling in 1903 by non other than Edwin Lutyens. The decoration and design of the small rooms have been faithfully preserved. A walled garden at the rear was designed by the world renowned Gertrude Jekyll. The castle is open daily from 31 March to 31 Oct. Admission is £4.20; family (2 adults, 2 children under 17) £10.50. Small shops on the island sell various tourist items as you would expect and there is also the Lindisfarne mead company, which makes and sells the famous Lindisfarne mead and various other products. As I said earlier, my advice is to visit out of season and to enjoy our Northumbrian hospitality. You will leave being satisfied both physically (Northumbrian beef has to be tasted to be appreciated) and spiritually. For a deeper insight into the people who lived here try walking barefoot across the old causeway at low tide, but do so with reverence, remember that you walk in the footsteps of saints.
Lindisfarne, or Holy Island is a tiny island just off the shore of Northumberland. It can only be reached by way of a causeway that can only be crossed at low tide. The causeway is reached via Beal, off the A1. There are tide tables at both ends and you should consult these carefully before starting to cross. Cars have been caught by the tide on more than one ocassion because the drivers didn't check the tide times. This is one of the oldest Christian centres in Britain and it retains its air of sanctity and remoteness. A monastery was founded here by Saint Aidan in 635 and Saint Cuthbert became the Bishop in 684. The monastery is most famous for the Lindisfarne Gospels which were produced here around the year 800. These are now kept in the British Museum in London. A Benedictine Priory was established here after the Norman Conquest. The ruins can still be seen today and they are quite a spectacular site set against what is usually a steely grey sky. There is a tiny museum here too and it houses some pre-Christian carved stones. The 16th century castle was restored in the early 20th century by Edward Lutyens and belongs to the National Trust. Much of the island is a nature reserve and it attracts a wide variety of sea birds in particular. If you go here out of season you will find it very quiet, almost eerie and a rewarding experience, but check those tide times and if the weather is at all uncertain take warm, waterproof clothing with you. This can be a very cold place even in summer if it rains!