Cut off by the tide twice a day, Lindisfarne makes for an unforgettable trip. The island is only accessible at certain times, across an atmospheric causeway, which made it a natural fit for a solitary monastery.
The priory was founded by St. Aidan, an Irish monk, in 634AD. He was granted the island by Oswald, King of Northumbria. The remains visible today are from its later occupation in the 12th century. The original monastery comprised mainly wooden buildings. Lindisfarne is most famous as the home of St. Cuthbert whose life there was immortalised by the Venerable Bede.
The remains of the priory are undoubtedly the main site of historical interest. Understandably as they are the dictionary definition of a picturesque ruin! The still standing ‘rainbow arch’, which dates to c. 1125-50 is particularly impressive.
The arch as photographed in 1864 by Stephen Thompson
The ruins are supported by a small but excellent museum which along with telling the story of St. Aidan and Cuthbert also explores the day to day life for a monk at the monastery. A short walk from the priory is St. Cuthbert’s Island, where he is said to have retreated for extra solitude. Be careful of the tide as you may end up having to take a paddle! If you’re lucky you may even spot one of St. Cuthbert’s famous ducks, also called Cuddy ducks, which he is said to have befriended.
View of the priory from St. Cuthbert’s island
Aside from this, the island also sports a church where you can see replicas of the Lindisfarne Gospels, a 16th century castle (unfortunately closed for conservation work at the moment but you can still walk around the outside freely) and a small nature reserve where you can learn about the wildlife on the island.
The island boasts a selection of cafes (which we took good advantage of!), craft shops and even a winery where you can try some of the famous Lindisfarne Mead. Lindisfarne is an incredibly beautiful island and the relatively dull day of our visit only added to the atmosphere. It is worth visiting just for the drive across the causeway; on the return journey we were able to see the beginnings of the tide coming in to cover it once more. Dr. Susanna Phillippo’s warning that if we missed the bus we’d be stuck there overnight didn’t really seem much of threat!