The thing about visiting Holy Island is getting the tide right, so as not to get caught the wrong side of the causeway. You can see the island for miles around, with the castle on the point, and we always saw it bathed in sunshine. We went twice because we were so keen to get the tide right, but we failed to realise the Priory shut at 4pm, the Castle too. The place was almost deserted.
|The Castle at Lindisfarne|
Two days later the car park was almost full, and streams of people were walking to the village and Priory, or to the Castle a mile away.
The Priory is 7thC, founded by the Irish monk Saint Aidan, and Lindisfarne became the base for spreading christianity throughout the north of England. By the 11thC it was known as The Holy Island. St Cuthbert, the 7thC monk who is so evident all over this part of the country, was to become Abbot of the Priory and and then Bishop of Lindisfarne. In the 9thC the Vikings controlled Lindisfarne and the north of England. The monks fled the Priory which was rebuilt after the Norman Conquest. It has always been a farming community, and lime kilns were established in the 19th century.
The Priory was destroyed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and I felt a strange absence of the sense of spirituality I was expecting. Much of the stone from the Priory was used to build the Castle. Henry VIII wanted fortification against the Scots and this work was finally completed in the 1570s but the accession of James I, uniting England with Scotland, made it a somewhat token garrison.
In 1901 Edward Hudson, who owned Country Life magazine, leased the Castle from the Crown and got his friend Edwin Lutyens to make it into a 'holiday home to be proud of'. It is wonderful, very arts and crafts, well propped with furnishings etc. Lytton Strachey stayed there and wrote that the setting of the Castle was perfect, but that it was most uncomfortable and that he dreaded having to hurry to dinner because 'if you fell on all that stone you'd surely die'. Gertrude Jekyll made a garden which is away from the Castle so as to be visible from the high windows.
|Gertrude Jekyll's potting shed|
Nick and I did have to hurry... we suddenly realised that the danger time for crossing the causeway was fast approaching and the crab sandwich we had planned to have at the pub had to go by the board. Shame! We just made it over in time, and headed for Scotland.