"'A place more venerable than all in Britain'" Lindisfarne by leics
Lindisfarne Travel Guide: 97 reviews and 283 photos
So said Alcuin of York, in 793 AD.
Lindisfarne....Holy Island....lies off the coast of Northumberland, just south of the Scottish border and even now a wildy, windy and sparsely-populated area.
It is a tidal island (have a look at my recent aerial photo for an idea of how the land...and sand..lies), so access across the sands is possible at low tide, although dangerous for walkers because of shifting quicksands (go with a local guide) and treacherous for car drivers because of the speed at which the tide can come in. 'As fast as a galloping horse' they say, and it certainly came in very quickly indeed the last time I visited, powered by a south-easterly gale.
There are four or five helicopter rescues every year of people who thought they could ignore the tide tables. They found out they couldn't......they were saved, but their vehicles were written off. I wonder if the insurance companies agreed to pay up for their stupid actions?
But the history of Lindisfarne goes back long, long before cars were ever thought of, and that is why most people visit.
In 635, St Aidan, an Irish monk from the Scottish monastery of Iona, set up the first monastery on Lindisfarne. Its isolation was ideal. Later, Northumberland's patron saint, St Cuthbert, was first a monk and eventually the Abbot, finally Lindisfarne's Bishop.
The beautifully-illustrated Lindisfarne Gospels were created on the island during the 700s. They are the earliest Old English gospels we have, and are kept in the British Library in London. You can 'virtually' turn their pages here:
In 793 AD the Christian world was shaken by a Viking attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne, and in 875 the monks were forced to flee the island entiely, taking with them the bones of St Cuthbert (now buried in Durham Cathedral, where his coffin, pectoral cross and some textiles buried with him are on special display).
But visiting Lindisfarne is more than just seeing the monastery remains (which have an excellent visitors' centre attached).
The 'castle' is based on a Tudor (1550's) fort, set atop a rocky limestone crag. It's tiny, and not really a 'castle' in the sense on might imagine. The fort was privately-purchased and converted into a country house in 1901. It'sstill worth looking at, though I've never bothered to go inside.....nd there is a pretty restored walled garden opposite, designed by Gertrude Jekyll in 1911.
The tiny village of Lindisfarne has only 160 permanent inhabitants now, with artists and cafes and places offering retreats (when the tide comes in the island is a very peaceful place, with minimal traffic).
The island is an excellent place for walking, with fantastic views across the sea to the Farne Islands and the Northumbrian coastline, and hundreds of birds to watch. The sand-dunes to the north of the islands are especially interesting, as are the salt-marshes covered twice daily by the tides.
And there's the mead (honey wine). Lindisfarne has long been famous for its mead (made of grapes and honey, Lindisfarne water and herbs, and with a pretty potent kick). Well worth trying a free sample in St Aidan's Winery, even if you don't buy any to take away......very warming on a chilly day!
But make sure you get back across the causeway well before safe crossing time ends. There are noticeboards all over the village giving the time for each day, so you have absolutely no excuse not to do so!
I always leave a good hour or so before the end of safe crossing, because the causeway is never fully dry, is often covered by sand (making it slippery to drive) and the tides cannot be predicted with absolute certainty: a strong wind will move the water so much more quickly.
- Pros:Its history and its beauty
- Cons:Can be very busy in summer season.
- In a nutshell:'A place more venerable than all in Britain'
The causeway is only ever properly dry on the hottest of days. It is usual for some quite deep pools of standing water... more travel advice
Don't think you know better than the tide-tables. Don't think your 4x4 or motorhome will be able to get through deep... more travel advice
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