Lindisfarne or Holy Island, is an ancient sacred Christian site, dating back to 635 AD. The Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript (early 700’s) was written here. I had first heard about this area from a friend in the UK, and I was glad I had the opportunity to visit.
Traveling to Lindisfarne
The only way to visit this little town, abbey ruins, and castle easily, is at low tide, not unlike St. Michael’s Mount in southern England. It is connected to the mainland by a road, and it is an eerie feeling driving out on the wet paved road over the sandy seabed and seeing lots of tide pools, seaweed, and warning signs about the fast rising tides. If you don’t want to spend the night on the island of Lindisfarne, find out about the tides and plan your visit accordingly. Having no idea of the tide schedule, I lucked out and arrived with about 2 hours to spare before the tide came back in, and it was just enough time to visit the abbey ruins and castle. There is a large car park a short way from the little town center and a shuttle that provides transportation to/from the car park and castle, which is probably a 15-20 minute walk. I took the shuttle given the warnings from the driver about when I needed to leave.
The castle (16th century) is very small, and more of a grand bungalow on a rock mound. With the cold weather and the warm fires inside, I was almost transported back 400 years.
The abbey is in ruins and has a great view of Lindisfarne Castle and Bamburgh Castle. The monks at the abbey had some protection from Viking (and Scottish) raids due to nearby Bamburgh Castle. The area here is windswept and subject to storms and cold weather almost any time of year—even in October.
It gave me a sense of what it would have been like to have lived here 1200 years ago as a monk—working in a silent, cold room copying manuscripts in these frontier parts of England in ancient times.
From Lindisfarne, one can see Bamburgh Castle (12th century) just south along the coast sitting on a volcanic outcropping. Once back on the mainland, it takes just a few minutes to drive to Bamburgh. It is a large castle, with a beautiful wood ceiling in the King’s Hall and various displays in the Keep. I think it’s one of the finest castles in England.
From Bamburgh I headed south back towards Newcastle to spend the night. Newcastle is a great jump-off point to visit Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD. It is 73 miles long and formed the northern border of the Roman Empire at one point. I visited two spots along the Wall, Chester’s Fort and Housesteads Fort.
These sites are Roman camps along the wall that housed the legions. Both camps are worth visiting and have good interpretive signs. Even in October, I saw a number of hikers along the trail that follows the Wall.
From Housesteads I drove through the Yorkshire Dales National Park towards Harrogate, which felt like traveling above the tree line in Colorado—a barren, windswept landscape-so different than most of England.