On our way up to Scotland to drive the NC 500 a stop on the Northumberland coast gave us the chance to visit Lindisfarne at last.
The holy island of Lindisfarne is a tidal island a mile off the coast. It is reached by a causeway at low tide. The tide tables are easily available but apparently about one car a month has to be rescued by the coastguard. I don’t know why but the locals don’t want a barrier, it seems like a good idea to me. There is a little hut on legs to shelter in if you get stuck but I think that would be pretty scary, its eerie enough driving over what feels like it should be water anyway.
In 1550 a tiny castle was built on the highest point of the island using stone from the then declining priory. It was to defend the harbour from the Scots. Our National Trust guide gave an amusing talk about how the castle was used in the following years. However in 1901 it was bought as a holiday home and renovated by Edward Lutyens making it the most comfortable and attractive holiday home I have ever seen. At the moment it is in the middle of a three million pound renovation and has no furniture as the walls have been re-plastered and are drying out. Instead there is an art installation by Anya Gallaccio in many of the rooms. She is a Turner prize nominated artist. It mostly consists of blankets dyed with stewed plants and draped over staging. You are invited to express you view of this. JP declined (it wouldn’t have been favourable!). Some rooms did look like they held the sleeping bags from a 70’s festival but it was an interesting concept. If you go down all the steps you arrive in the amazingly well preserved lime kilns. Here only one hundred and fifty years ago up to thirty five men worked in appalling conditions producing quick lime used for building and slaked lime used for many things including whitening sugar!
The much older and now ruined priory was built in the twelfth century and was an important early Christian centre in Anglo Saxon England. It still attracts pilgrims today. Its at the end of a long distance walk starting in Melrose, Scotland sixty two miles away called the Saint Cuthbert’s Way. Next to it is the church of Saint Mary’s. The interior is worth a quick look, the south aisle has a powerful sculpture by Fenwick Lawson carved by chainsaw from elm showing monks carrying the coffin of Saint Cuthbert.
Time to get back to the mainland before the tide comes in.