Nestled along the rocky coast of northeastern England, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a magical destination that has captivated visitors for centuries. From its ancient monasteries and picturesque beaches to peaceful medieval villages and bird-watching opportunities, this tranquil island offers an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re keen to explore its rich history or just seeking some much-needed downtime away from it all, Lindisfarne is an enchanting place with something for everyone. In this visitor guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about visiting The Holy Island
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Cut off from the mainland by twice-daily high tides, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne feels like a remote sanctuary perfect for escaping the bustle of daily life. However, the Island was a popular spot for 7th Century Irish missionaries who founded the first monastery in AD 635. Since then Holy Island has become popular with pilgrims and tourists alike.
I was lucky to spend a few nights on this beautiful little island last summer. I’d heard so many good things about this place and I wasn’t disappointed! It’s now one of my favourite places to visit in England and will definitely be back again!
In This Post
How to get to Holy Island of Lindisfarne:
Situated just 20 minutes from the beautiful town of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Holy Island can be reached during low tide via a causeway connecting the island to the mainland. The causeway is notorious for unsuspecting tourists who think they can outdrive the incoming tides and then end up stranded waiting for the coastguard to come and rescue them! If you don’t want this happening to you then I recommend checking the safe crossing times here. Please check the tide times before arriving on the island!
The tide comes and goes twice a day leaving you with two opportunities each day to reach and leave the island. However, they don’t always suit everyone’s itinerary. In some cases the safe crossing times may be very early or very late at night, so plan accordingly!
Arriving by Car – As the tide retreats, the tarmac causeway will gradually be revealed and a drive across will give some beautiful views of the local area.
A few pointers for crossing the causeway:
- The causeway is completely free to use, you are just restricted by tide times.
- The causeway is a two-way road apart from a small stretch which crosses a small bridge. You can easily see if there are oncoming cars, you may just need to wait your turn to cross.
- There are a few lay-bys along the causeway where you can park up and take photos or just explore the dunes. Be careful not to park on the non-tarmac’d parts as the ground could be soft and muddy, you don’t want to get stuck!
- Don’t leave it till the last minute to leave the island, you could find yourself in a queue and stuck with the incoming tide growing around you
Parking on Holy Island – Just as you arrive on Holy Island just before the town you will find a huge public carpark on Green Lane. This is the only available parking unless you hold a Blue Badge in which there is parking further into town alongside the coaches and buses.
The main carpark at Green Lane is a pay and display and the postcode is TD15 2SE. You can pay by cash, card or via phone app. Overnight parking is not allowed.
Although you can pay for 72 hours of parking, you can’t park overnight on the island, however, you can use the same ticket to park at Station Yard (Seahouses), Craster, Newton Steads (High Newton by the sea) and Low Newton. If you are staying overnight most hotels have their own free parking spaces.
- £4.50 from 7 April 2021
- £7 from 7 April 2021
- 48 hours £11*
- 72 hours £16.50*
Blue badge parking can be found next to the coach and bus park and postcode is TD15 2SX.
Arriving by Public Transport – Getting to Lindisfarne is a bit tricky by public transport. The nearest town and easiest place to get to is Berwick-upon-Tweed which is easily accessible via train from London Kings Cross (3h35m), Edinburgh Waverley (45m), Newcastle(45m), and all stations in between on LNER
If arriving from the west you can also get trains from Manchester Piccadilly to Leeds or York and then to Berwick (3-4hrs)
For timetables and booking trains, I recommend using The Trainline.
You can also get buses to Berwick from most UK cities with National Express.
From Berwick is where it starts to get tricky! There is only one bus service the 477 that runs from Berwick to Lindisfarne, however, its timetable as you would expect is dictated by the changing tidal times. Services can be limited to certain days of the week and may not run on weekends or during the winter months. For more information check their latest timetables online here.
You’re best bet to getting to the island from Berwick via public transport in my opinion is using a taxi.
- Woody’s – 01289 547009
- 1st Cab – 01289 545007
A one-way trip should cost around £25-30
Arriving by Foot – There are two separate routes for crossing the causeway by foot. The first is to just walk along the causeway, however, please keep an eye on traffic as there is no separate footpath. You can also walk the Pilgrims route which is 3 miles long and marked with white wooden markers. The pilgrim route is considerably longer, so please check the times beforehand!
If walking the Pilgrim’s way do not use the council’s safe crossing times as they are designed for car crossings! If you want to take the Pilgrims route check out this useful guide.
A brief history of Holy Island of Lindisfarne:
The origins of Lindisfarne date back to AD 635 when the first monastery was established by an Irish monk called Aiden by instruction of the powerful Northumberland King Oswald. The King had made Aiden a Bishop and donated the uninhabited island to be used as a monastery. This was to become the base to convert the local Anglow-Saxons of Paganism to Christianity.
However, the monastery was abandoned in AD 875 due to repeated Viking attacks. In fact it is thought that Holy Island was the first place that the Vikings invaded and made the ‘Viking age’ in British History!
For those of you who have watched the popular series The Vikings, The Holy Island of Lindisfarne was the place in which Ragnor first set foot on English soil and captured the popular character Athelstan!
Later in the 12th Century, the second monastery was founded by monks from Durham. The monks living here lived a simple but comfortable life. That was until the region became a hostile militarised zone after King Edward I invaded Scotland in 1296. The monk’s income was lost almost overnight as the main benefactors were across the border in Scotland. This declining income meant fewer monks could be supported and the monastery became quieter.
Then finally in 1537, the priory was closed by the orders of King Henry VIII. However, the priory was saved from demolition as it was seen as vital to the Crown’s defence strategy. Further timber and stone defences were built around the priory and along the harbour.
It was only during the 17th century that the priory fell into disuse and ruin. Initially, the lead was stripped from the church roof which then began a rapid decay of the buildings. By the late 18th Century the ruins had become a popular tourist attraction, especially for artists as the landscape provided a dramatic and romantic scene that suited the aesthetic of the day.
Throughout history, Holy Island has also been a popular pilgrimage with pilgrims walking to the island from all parts of Britain and beyond to pay homage to Saint Cuthbert, the priory’s most popular bishop. Cuthbert arrived on the island in AD 685 and is mentioned in one of the oldest English writings.
Today the island is a popular tourist spot with a handful of hotels, cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Things to do on Holy Island of Lindisfarne:
So once you’ve arrived safely on Holy Island of Lindisfarne what exactly is there to do? Well, this beautiful small island has lots to offer and will make a great day out or overnight stay.
You can either spend the day exploring the beautiful surroundings and taking in the views or you can visit some of the historical sites and learn more about the unique history of the island.
The choice is up to you!
To help you out, here are my top 10 things to do on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne:
1. Lindisfarne Priory and Museum:
Of course, most people visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to visit the Priory and museum. These lovely ruins are defiantly worth a visit and the accompanying museum gives a great insight into the priory history and the island.
The priory ruins look even more stunning on a beautiful sunny day and offer a lovely place to sit and enjoy the peaceful surrounding. You can almost imagine what it must have been like in its heyday.
The Priory and museum are free to visit for English Heritage members and associated organisations. If you are wanting to visit several English Heritage sites then I recommend buying an annual membership that gives free admission to every English Heritage site in England as well as half-price entry for 1st-year members and free entry for 2nd-year members in associated sites in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For those without a membership, up-to-date admission prices, as well as opening times, can be found on the official website here.
2. Go seal spotting:
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a great place for seal spotting! The sand flats around Lindisfarne are part of a national nature reserve in which 40,000 Grey seals call home. If you’re lucky you may even spot a rare Harbour seal.
Although you can usually spot them all year round on the island, the spring and summer months offer the best opportunities to watch them. One of the best places to spot the seals playing in the water is from the vantage point on top of the Heugh. You can also spot them chilling on many of the sandbanks when the tide is out from most of the beaches along the coastline. As the tide rises it forces them back into the water, so keep an eye out for heads bobbing about on the water! A pair of binoculars will defo come in handy!
If you want to have a closer look at the seals (as well as amazing birdlife and Puffins), a trip across to the Farne Islands is a must! Boat trips don’t leave from Holy Island but instead from the nearby town of Seahorses, a 40-minute drive away.
These trips will typically take you to see the seal colony up close first, and also either take you around the islands or land you on one of them. If you’re lucky you might even spot a whale or some dolphins.
3. Lindisfarne Castle:
As you walk around the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, one of the most prominent features is the modern Lindisfarne Castle sitting on top of a volcanic plug known as Beblowe Crag, built using stones robbed/borrowed from Lindisfarne Priory.
The origins of the castle date back to the 16th century, and built to protect Northumberland from the Scots! Completed in 1570, for the next three hundred years, the fort was home to temporary garrisons of soldiers on detachment from the larger force based at nearby Berwick. Their main job was to man the guns, watch the horizon for trouble, and try and stave off boredom with gunnery practice.
In 1901 Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life magazine bought the castle and renovated it into an Edwardian country house. Although most of the castle’s original features were lost during the renovations, you can make out some parts of the original building if you look closely enough! Examples include the original staircase that originally led up to the upper battery and a bread oven and salt hole from the soldier’s time in the dining room.
In 1921 Hudson sold Lindisfarne Castle to a stockbroker who sold it to a merchant banker, who gave it to the National Trust in 1944.
Today you can visit this castle/stately home and imagine what life must have been like for the residents and guests during its hay time in the 18th century. It may not be a traditional castle but it still holds a huge amount of history and is well worth a visit if on the island! As the castle is now owned by the National Trust, members can visit for free, however, you do need to pre-purchase tickets online beforehand. For non-members, it’s £8 per Adult and £4 per child.
4. Gertude Jekyll Garden:
A short walk from the castle you’ll find the lovely Gertrude Jekyll garden. Jekyll was a close friend of the architect Edwin Lutyens, who transformed the Castle into what you see today.
The site was originally used as a vegetable patch by the garrisoned soldiers and transformed by Jekyll into a beautiful garden. A combination of hardy annuals and colourful perennials results in a riot of colour in the summertime and a leafy sheltered oasis in the winter months.
This cosy walled garden was also designed with a dropped wall on one side that provided perfect views of the castle.
The original garden fell into disuse but in 2003 the National Trust restored it to its original beauty. Since then its offered visitors to the island a little oasis, the perfect place to sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings!
5. Lime Kilns:
Most people don’t associate the Holy Island of Lindisfarne with 19th-century industry, however, the kilns on Holy Island are some of the largest examples of their kind in the UK.
Lime burning was a dangerous process, limestone and coal were added to the kilns in layers and then set alight which resulted in the limestone turning to powder. This powder was captured through filters and a grate below the fire and removed from the arches at the base of the kiln. This lime was then used in a variety of industries such as agriculture and construction.
Just a short walk from the castle towards the beach you’ll find these large structures. Unfortunately when I visited you couldn’t go inside but you could still see the impressive arches as well as the remains of the jetties.
6. St Mary’s Church:
St Mary’s Church sits proudly next to Lindisfarne Priory and the two building share a common heritage.
Although the monks left the priory in 875 it’s thought that a Christian community remained and worshipped in an earlier church built on the same site. The church you see today was mostly built in the 13th century although there is evidence that parts date back to the Normal Conquest!
One of the earliest Christianity relics in Lindisfarne can be found on the church grounds. The Petting Stone is a large weathered square stone that now forms the base of a large stone cross and is thought to date back to before the building of the Lindisfarne Priory!
Inside the church, you’ll find a wooden sculpture depicting six rather larger-than-life hooded monks, carrying a coffin towards the entrance. It represents the journey undertaken by the monks of Lindisfarne, carrying St Cuthbert’s coffin after they left the island in 875 and before the community finally settled in Durham in 995.
7. Upside-down fishing boats:
To see an upturned boat is usually a sight you don’t wish to see, however on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne you’ll find many upturned vessels repurposed as sheds.
Fishing is a key part of life for those living on Holy Island. Normally herringbone boats that become damaged would end up in a junkyard. But the fishermen of Lindisfarne came up with a clever way of reusing these damaged vessels, flipping them over and using them as storage sheds. This practice has been going on for more than a century and is a quite common find on the North East coastline.
By covering the boats in tar, they are made waterproof and it’s still possible to see a collection of the quaint structures in varying states of decay when visiting Holy Island. Most can be found dotted around the harbour and along the beach towards the castle.
8. Sample some mead:
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is famous for its mead! Its thought production dates back to when St Aiden arrived on the island in 687 to establish a monastery. Today the island has its very own distillery St Aiden’s Winery.
Mead is thought to be the oldest drink in the world, vessels have even been found in China dating back to 7000 BC! The origin of mead is thought to be honey and water, however, over the years it’s developed into a variety of different flavours. Lindisfarne mead is unique and is based on the Roman approach of using grape juice in the fermentation process.
Take a visit to St Aidan’s Winery where you can sample some mead for FREE as well as purchase bottles to take back home. You can even learn more about the mead-making process and check out some of their other beers, wines and spirits.
9. Climb the Heugh:
A short walk around the back of the priory you will find the Heugh. On top of the Heugh, you will find a lookout tower built 70 years ago for the coastguard as well as a war memorial.
This small mound not only gives great views of the priory ruins but also out to sea.
If you’re lucky you may also spot some seals playing along the coast or basking along the shore rocks. The climb itself is not too strenuous although one side is easier than the other.
10. Go shopping:
You won’t find a huge assortment of shops on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, however, there is some lovely craft, jewellery and souvenir shops that sell some beautiful items. The jewellery shops especially offer some unique beautiful pieces.
If you’re looking for local produce to take home head to St Aiden’s winery, you’ll find a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, local produce, homeware items and outdoor wear.
You won’t find any grocery stores on the island but a Post Office is selling basic items like bread, milk and sugar.
Places to eat on Holy Island of Lindisfarne:
There are several pubs and cafes on the island serving breakfasts, lunch and dinner. However, it’s advised to book ahead especially at the Ship Inn, Crown and Anchor and Manor House Hotel as they are very popular in the summer months.
1st Class Food – The café serves breakfast, great cakes and coffee as well as heartier fare, such as Chilli con Carne and sandwiches. The outdoor seating area is great for people-watching and is a bit of a sun trap
Pilgrims Coffee House – A modern coffee shop, which serves great coffee (roasted on site), scones, sandwiches and cakes as well as lunches.
Oasis Coffee Shop – A traditional café, serving breakfast and lunch with a good selection of cakes and coffees, with lots of Holy Island and nautical nick-nacks. The shop also sells souvenirs and biscuits and sweets you can take away with you.
The Ship Inn – A traditional pub with old-world charm, which has a dedicated dining room and a beer garden to the back. Food options include a variety of fish and local produce on their a la carte menu. They also offer local beers, as well as Holy Island Gin, which is made onsite.
The Crown and Anchor – The locals’ local. offers a wide variety of excellent meals, including locally caught fish. Beer garden to the side of the property and a dedicated dining room at the back of the pub. They also offer takeaway meals, but it’s best to ring ahead to check if they can accommodate your order, as they don’t always have enough capacity to prepare takeaways.
Manor House Hotel – Traditional Pub grub in lovely surroundings. The beer garden gets particularly popular due to overlooking the ruins of the Lindisfarne Priory next door.
Various food vans – During the high season, you’ll find food vans during the day in the main car park and on the road to the castle. They include seafood/crab sandwiches as well as fish and chips.
Where to stay on Holy island of Lindisfarne:
Undoubtedly the best way to enjoy the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is to stay overnight on the island. There are 4 main accommodation options on Holy Island. Camping is not allowed at all anywhere on the island.
I stayed in the wonderful Manor House Hotel for 4 nights back in the summer and can fully recommend it. This lovely hotel offered free onsite parking, the perfect location just a short walk from the Heugh and situated in the heart of the village. The rooms were lovely with some having great views of the castle and priory next door. The beer garden was also a great place to chill with a cold beer after a day of sightseeing!
Other options include:
Lindisfarne Hotel – A comfortable and homely family guest house offering 7 En-Suite rooms including four-poster, super king, twin, double, single and wheelchair friendly.
The Crown and Angkor – The Crown & Anchor is an independently run inn situated at the heart of Holy Island. They have a cosy, dog-friendly bar, restaurant, beer garden and accommodation.
Belvue Guesthouse – Studio accommodation designed to luxury hotel standards. All rooms are en suite, with fluffy towels, rainfall showers, free parking, speedy wifi, luxury toiletries and flat-screen TVs.
For booking accommodation I recommend using Booking.com. This website offers the best-priced accommodation catering for all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements and it will give you a list of available accommodation. Perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&B or even some luxury escapes.
Other useful information:
Public toilets – There are 2 public toilets on the island, one by the Green Lane car park and another next to the Crossman Hall.
Internet – Holy Island enjoys fast fibre internet, and most accommodation providers and food places/cafes offer wifi.
Cash machines – There is no ATM/cash machine on Holy Island, but you can withdraw cash at the Post Office and most restaurants/cafes/shops take card payments.
If you’re interested in history or wildlife then a visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a must! If possible I recommend staying a few nights to make the most of the island. In the evening when the day trippers go home, the island takes on a completely different ambience and it will feel like you have the place all to yourself even in the height of summer!
Take a walk up the Heugh or down to the beach and watch the sunset fall gently in the distance or enjoy a lovely meal or drinks without the crowds. Holy Island is such a special place, as soon as you leave you’ll be already thinking about your next trip!
Thanks so much for stopping by, I appreciate every one of you who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content coming in the next few weeks so make sure you pop back to catch up!