On our journey down from Scotland to Northumbria, Linda and I decided to detour by way of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where in the 7th century a monk arrived from the monastery on the west coast island of Iona, to bring Christianity to the area. He was St Aiden, who founded the first monastery on Lindisfarne. The ruins of the much later priory built on or near to the original are visible and visitable on a site to the south of the village, with a new-ish visitor centre alongside.
Reaching the island itself has to be a well-timed event as the way across from the mainland is by causeway over the tidal sands. There are two open periods each day, and if you choose the right times you can spend a decent time there, though of course you can stay longer in one of several B&Bs or hotels. You really do have to be careful of crossing before the earliest and after the latest advertised “open” times as the tide comes in very quickly and stealthily and you can get caught out. There’s a shed on stilts part way across – just in case! You’ll be safe, but your car will probably be written off!
However once you are on the island it is very wander-able, the village being very attractive. There are pretty cottages and beautiful gardens that sometimes stray beyond the garden walls, and little corners where you don’t always expect to find something so pretty.
.As well as the village and some lovely craft and coffee shops, not to mention the grocery store, you can visit the Lindisfarne Mead shop, and pick up a bottle or two of the stuff originally made by the monks, and still produced today, or some of the myriad bottles of Lindisfarne wines, a rather recent innovation. I just realised these bottles look clear but the mead – made from honey – is a pale honey colour.
A shuttle bus runs from the village to the castle built on the highest point of the island, a volcanic feature of the landscape. Originally built in the 16th century it was redesigned in the early 20th century by Sir Edwin Lutyens. We didn’t have time to visit it or the garden nearby, designed by Gertrude Jekyll but those can wait for another visit. I’d like to visit the harbour too to see the upturned boats that are remnants of a local fishing industry. Nowadays they are used as sheds. Maybe in the spring or next summer I’ll book a few days at a B&B on the island and do some exploring.
Further down the mainland coast at Bamburgh is another castle that you can see for miles. Bamburgh was the home of an 19th century heroine who along with her father carried out an incredible rescue of shipwrecked sailors, whose ship, the Forfarshire, had gone aground on rocks off the coast. A museum dedicated to Grace has been set up in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution near to her birthplace and opposite the graveyard where she is buried, the figure being portrayed with an oar lying alongside her.
Further down the coast are the ruins of yet another castle, at Dunstanburgh. It was the largest and most impressive of the Northumbrian castles, built in the 14th century but already largely ruined by the 16th. I loved this view of it, even if I didn’t get the rest of the castle into the photo!
Along the coast which we explored a little, are a number of small towns, and I have to say I was sure I would remember which was which Huh! That’s what thought did! Anyway this is Dunstanburgh Harbour, right,but I can’t remember where the next one is at. I’ve looked at Googlemaps but can’t pin point it at all You’ll notice the concrete blocks along the beach. I wrote about those before. They were placed all round the coast of Britain in WWII to hopefully prevent enemy tank landings. The next photo was taken at Beadnell Bay,
where we watched these kite-surfers. So our short break was almost over. We were glad we weren’t driving south as the rain of the last few days had caused a great deal of flooding. Going north was fine, and we headed up to Berwick-upon-Tweed before returning home.
Berwick is an old Scottish town, that now belongs to England due to numerous boundary changes. It has changed hands 13 times in its history! On the right is the old bridge over the river Tweed - the same river Tweed that flows past my windows in Peebles, while the tower rises above the market hall in the town centre.
Strange to think that Berwick in England is further north than Peebles in Scotland – but that’s the way the boundary goes! Pop goes the weasel!