Stepping into a 'thin' place...
We're sure you'll want to venture across the causeway to Lindisfarne. But please, heed the safe crossing times. It might seem unbelievable that people would choose to drive their cars into the North Sea and need to be rescued by the lifeboat, but it happens regularly, as some of the the pictures in the Gallery down below and on our 'Weather & Tides' page illustrate. Make sure it doesn't happen to you, by looking up the safe crossing times on this page.
Lindisfarne has become known as 'Holy Island' because of the important part it played in the story of bringing the Christian gospel to England. Here's a thirty-second catchup: in order to protect him from harm, a young Prince - Oswald - was sent to to the monastery on Iona in the Hebrides. His father was Ethelfrith, King of Northumbria, who was defeated in battle and whose kingdom was eventually ruled over by Penda of Mercia and Cadwallon of Wales. Oswald's brother Eanfrith was killed by Cadwallon as he attempted to negotiate peace with the invaders.
Oswald was converted to Chritianity amongst the monks in the monastery on Iona. Eventually he returned to defeat Cadwallon at the Battle of Heavenfield, near Hexham, in 633 or 634, and he set out to bring the Christian message to his subjects. He asked for a missionary team to come from Iona, but the first team returned home dejected. Colman, the leader of that mission, gave a report back at the monastery, describing the Northumbrians they'd encountered as 'a wicked and barbarous people, unworthy of the gospel of Christ' - which seems a little on the harsh side to me, we're not that bad.
Hearing this report as it was given to the gathering, a young monk called Aidan responded, saying that perhaps Colman could have been more gentle with the natives - and the rest is history, so to speak. Oswald granted Lindisfarne to Aidan so that he could establish a monastery modelled on their home on Iona. The essential spiritual disciplines of retreat and engagement were naturally enforced by the turning of each tide, which isolated Lindisfarne twice every day, then as now. Aidan was eventually succeeded by an even more famous and perhaps the 'greatest' of all the Northumbrian saints, Cuthbert.
There remains something special about the island for visitors and pilgrims today - although the crowds which flock around the island's village-centre on the busiest summer days might make it a little difficult to experience any form of spiritual awakening! But take a short stroll away from the village, and there is plenty of peace and quiet, and space to ponder.
Just as you arrive on the island after crossing the causeway, you'll find the main (Pay & Display) car park. You can buy a ticket for 3-hours, or all-day. You should park here, as there is almost no parking elsewhere on the island. A hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus links the car park, the village and the castle if you don't want to walk, but it's really not far.
Whilst you're on the island, you should visit the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre (01289 389004). Be sure to check the safe crossing times before you go (or try to come back) They're also on the wall in our Cuthbert Room. Please do heed them.
Our frinds Mark & Mary Fleeson run The Lindisfarne Scriptorium on Holy Island, and we can thoroughly recommend a visit to see and buy Mary's artwork. There are also a few other interesting shops, one or two pubs and a few cafes including the very good Pilgrims Coffee House and Roastery.
St Mary's Church is a peaceful and quiet haven, and has a very beautiful wooden sculpture which depicts the monks of Lindisfarne carrying the body of St Cuthbert around Northumbria for over a hundred years - until Durham Cathedral was built, specifically to house his coffin. No really, it's true.
The island can often be busy, but if you want solitude it can always be found - even on the busiest bank holiday weekend - by walking out beyond the castle, past the lime kilns, and turning left. You'll have the place almost to yourself.
The last building you pass as you leave the mainland on your way to Lindisfarne (or the first one on your way back) is The Barn at Beal and we always try to make it a tea-break stop. It's a lovely place, with a great panoramic view across the enormous vista.
In researching your trip , you might want to listen to a BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour feature - which is now very old but is still pertinent - about the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were created and illuminated in the island's monastery. The Gospels is something you should definitely explore, because it's an absolutely amazing and astoundingly beautiful document. The Heritage Centre has an interesting computer-based display about them. Here's a snapshot to whet your appetite, and here's the British Library's site about the Gospels. (The originals are displayed there, and it makes a great 10-minute stop-off when arriving into Kings Cross by train! The Gospels 'came home' to the north-east during the summer of 2013 for an extended stay in Durham. There's a strong feeling locally that they belong up here really.
You may also be interested to know that Lindisfarne has its own species of orchid, which is genetically distinct from any other. So that's exciting, especially if - like one of our recent guests - your mission is to visit and photograph every single species of orchid native to the UK. He was on a very long and interesting journey! Ours is called Lindisfarne helloborine. There's a picture of it in the gallery below. Information about the flora and fauna of Lindisfarne can be found here.
If you have any questions about a visit to Holy Island, then just ask! Did I say that you need to heed the safe crossing times?