Just off the mainshore of Northumberland, England is an island we always wanted to explore and got the chance to step foot on it on a trip to this beautiful part of Northern England. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is the island’s name but locals call it either Lindisfarne or Holy Island. The best way to get here is to drive and is pretty easy to get to. Just take the A1 (the main road from London to Edinburgh), and the island lies about a fifteen minute drive south of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Just follow the signs. However there is a snag to all this, check on the internet when the tide comes in. This is because when the tide is in, the main road in and out of the island is flooded and there is no way to cross unless visitors have boats.
Lindisfarne Island is surrounded by beautiful scenery which includes views of nearby Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands to the south-east. Whilst on the island, check out the birds, the flora and fauna. Seals from the Farne Islands can often be spotted in the waters around Lindisfarne according to locals, however we were unlucky and didn't see any on our visit.
The island has quite a bit of history going for itself and was first recorded in the books in the sixth century (AD). At that time, the island was an important centre of Celtic Christianity before the Vikings came in and invaded as well as the Norman conquest of England. But going back before the invasions, the island was named after the Latin word Medicata Insula, which means ‘Healing Island’. This is because the island also had a reputation for growing medicinal herbs. After the invasions, a priory was established and a small castle was built.
After taking on the calming views of the North Sea whilst driving on the causeway, the first thing we and all the other visitors to the island have to do is park the car up in the main car which is on the left hand side (all signposted and it’s a pay and display car park, CASH ONLY), tip: do not go pass this point to park the car as the village folk need their car parking spaces as the place is so small.
From the car park the first thing to do is to walk to the castle which is the island’s main landmark. The castle (known as Lindisfarne Castle) was built in 1550 which was about the time when the nearby Priory went out of use. Stones were used from the priory to provide extra bricks which were needed to build the castle. The castle is built on the highest point of the island which is a hill known as Beblowe, however the castle is not really that big and in my eyes, it’s more like a fort.
The castle was built because the English kingdom were fearing battles were forthcoming from the Scottish kingdom. But then history took a turn when James VI came to power and took the throne of England. As he was already King of Scotland, he was the king of two kingdoms, so he decided to combine both thrones. At that point, the need for a castle wasn’t needed and was left to rot. Well, not really, the castle still was used to defend the tiny town of Berwick and protect the nearby harbour, nothing major to be honest.
After walking back into the village, it was time to check out the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory. The monastery of Lindisfarne was founded around 634AB by an Irish monk called Saint Aidan. After the priory was founded, Aidan remained here until his death in 651AD. Walking around the ruins, we just love looking at the stones which were used to build the priory and checking out some of the graves in the graveyard next to the ruins (which also has a church which is still in use). There is also a statue (a modern one of course) of Saint Aidan in the grounds which faces the monastery which we thought was kinda nice.
It was here we were learning more about the history of the island. Not about the English and Scottish kingdom, it was about the vikings which for me personally, I find rather interesting. After discovering Viking settlements and places of interest on the Orkney Islands a few days earlier, we found out the Vikings eventually conquered the island around the ninth century, however it wasn’t the Vikings from modern-day Norway, it was the Vikings from modern-day Denmark who sailed across the North Sea to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent and then worked their way up the Northeastern coastline of England. The Vikings head chief Ragnald and his tribe was very successful at beating up the locals, taking towns, raping woman and taking riches. As well as taking the island, the Vikings took over the Roman city of York and named it Jorvik. We know it sounds bad to be interested in what Vikings did to locals but for us, their sailing routes, their sagas etc. The Viking history appeals to us but we don't agree on burning houses and raping woman.
Walking around the village we saw beautiful stone built houses and noticed there is a museum, a couple of pubs, a couple of bed and breakfasts and a shop. If we were just walking around the village, we could probably do this in ten minutes but we kept stopping to look at the beautiful flowers in the local’s gardens. Nearby is the beach and from here the views of the mainland are just simply stunning. We came on a sunny (with a bit of cloud) summer’s day but the wind of the sea can be a bit strong but this didn’t stop us looking out over the sea, taking it all in, thinking about the history and listening to the quietness. Lindisfarne Island is simply perfect and a nice trip to take in for a few hours. (However, if thinking about walking around the whole island, this can be done but just remember to check out the tide times to get off the island unless staying here for one night).
The island is definitely worth hitting up and is a great trip to do whilst staying in Northumberland or nearby Newcastle, or even Edinburgh. For us personally, we would recommend going by car unless anyone is hiking the coastline and diverts onto the island. We will never forget the beauty of this island, wandering the streets of the village and digging into the viking history.
Tips for visiting Lindisfarne Island
Make sure you have the right clothes for a visit on the island. Even in the summer it can get a bit chilly because of the island's location in the North Sea. I would advise a raincoat and an umbrella in case the rain comes in.
I will always say, wear good shoes and waterproof ones at that!
Check out the views from the lookout tower. This offers the best place for views across the island and the Northumberland coastline.
If driving, do not forget about checking the tide times. Don't get caught out.
Always carry cash. This is espeically important for the car parking.
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