Lindisfarne Priory


Lindisfarne Priory is the official end of St Cuthbert’s trail so we went to have a look shortly after we arrived on Holy Island. These days the ruins are cared for English Heritage who have a small museum telling the history of the site and putting it into context.


This structure didn’t exist at the time of St Cuthbert. The original Celtic Christian Monastery was abandoned in 875 following the Viking raids. These are the ruins of the Norman Monastery that was founded in the 12th Century., the church being constructed around 1150. Consequently it was a Romanesque building and was modelled on Dirham cathedral.

The Priory was closed in 1537 during the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and, as was generally the case, the buildings were used as a “quarry” . Stone from the Priory is known to have been used during the construction of LIndisfarne Castle, for example.


Although you can get a good look at the buildings from St Mary’s churchyard, the adjacent field and from on top of the Heugh, we paid our entry fee that allowed us to get close up to the ruins and allowed entry into the museum.

We entered from St Mary’s churchyard through the West Front


This is the West Front, seen from the inside. Typically Romanesque with it’s rounded arches and thick masonry. It was originally flanked by two towers; there are substantial remnants of one of them

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Battlements and cross-shaped arrowloops were added in the mid-14th century when the whole priory was fortified in response to the outbreak of war with the Scots.

This is the north aisle of the Nave. The rounded arches are supported by massive piers, very typical of Romanesque churches. They’re decorated in a style similar to some of the later piers in Durham Cathedral.


A view from the east of the end of the nave


This is the “rainbow arch”, a surviving rib from the Crossing where the main tower of the church would have stood.


These are the remains of the Presbytery at the east end of the church. It was rebuilt in a more Gothic style with large windows pointed arches and exterior buttresses supporting the walls.



There are only limited remains of the monks’ living quarters to the south of the church. It wasn’t a large community.


This bronze sculpture of St Cuthbert, which stands at the south end of the site, was created by Durham born sculptor, Fenwick Lawson


Holy Island


We arrived on Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne, around midday. We could have picked up the car and our luggage and headed home but had decided to stay the night on the island and had rooms booked in the Ship Inn. Due to the tide times we couldn’t leave until just after midday the next day, so we had about 24 hours to look around. Luckily the weather held with rain overnight and early morning, but it had finished by the time we’d had our breakfast, checked out and loaded up the car so it was dry while we spent our last few hours mooching around.

Holy Island is a major tourist attraction and gets very busy during the periods when travel across the causeway is possible. However once the tide starts coming coming back in the hordes depart leaving the island very quiet indeed. Wandering around in the evening and morning rather reminded me of the time we spent at Portmerion in Wales where hotel guest have the village to themselves after the day visitors have left.


Lindisfarne, as the island was originally known, was an isolated island off the coast of an isolated region – Northumbria until a monastery was founded by the Irish monk Saint Aidan, from Iona off the west coast of Scotland  at the request of King Oswald. The monastery became an important base for Christianity in the north of England which might seem strange given its seemingly isolated position. But it must be remembered that in those times travel over land was extremely difficult and communication was largely by sea. Lindisfarne was well positioned for that.

St Cuthbert came to Lindisfarne in around 665 as prior. In 684 he was made bishop of Lindisfarne but by late 686 resigned and became a hermit, initially on St Cuthbert’s Isle, traditionally located just of the main Lindisfarne island and then on Inner Farne Island (two miles from Bamburgh, just down the coast), which was where he eventually died in 687. He was buried at Lindisfarne. Miracles were soon reported at St Cuthbert’s shrine and Lindisfarne was quickly established as the major pilgrimage centre in Northumbria.

12th century wall-painting of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral (Source: Wikipedia)

Lindisfarne remained an important Christian centre until the Viking raids started in the 9th century. In 875 the monks abandoned the island taking with them the body of St.Cuthbert, together with other relics and treasures which had survived the Viking raids. After the Norman Conquest a Benedictine community was established on Lindisfarne, which now also became known as ‘Holy Island’. The current Priory dates from this period.

This statue to St Aidan is located inside the churchyard, outside the Priory walls


Here are the priory ruins (more about this in a later post)


This is reputed to be St Cuthbert’s Island where his hermitage was located before he moved to the more isolated Inner Farne


There’s a small community that lives on the island but I guess that a good proportion of the attractive buildings are holiday cottages.






Lindisfarne Castle, which is owned by the National Trust, is currently undergoing major restoration work so we couldn’t visit.It was built on the highest point of the island, a whinstone hill called Beblow, between 1550 and 1570 as a fort and was home to temporary garrisons of soldiers on detachment from the larger force based at nearby Berwick. In 1901, long abandoned as a military outpost, it was bought by Edward Hudson,  the owner of Country Life magazine, for use as a holiday home. He had it refurbished in the Arts and Crafts style by Sir Edwin Lutyens.


He also had a walled garden created by Gertrude Jekyll, who was a friend of Lutyens, between 1906 and 1912. It’s a short distance from the castle building and had originally been the garrison’s vegetable plot. It was open and free to visit (although we are members of the National Trust) so we went and had a look.


Being early in the season for such a bleak and windswept location, the flowers were only just starting to come into bloom. It will look better in a few weeks time.


I liked this little monument to Gertrude Jeckyll


After we’d looked around the garden we continued along the path towards the sea. We were quite amazed to see lots and lots of small cairns and other structures made from rocks and pebbles from the beach which had been built along a grass ridge running next tot he beach.



There was even a mermaid


and a dolphin

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We made our own modest contribution to the vast collection, and then carried on down to the beach.

It was a fine day and we could see Banburgh Castle and the Farne Islands over on the horizon.

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Turning back inland towards the castle, we could see the old lime kilns.


There had been small scale lime production on the island since the end of the 18th Century and these much larger industrial scale kilns were constructed in 1860 and were operated until the beginning of the 20th Century.


Being interested in industry and industrial history it was good to get inside and have a close look.


It would have been like Dante’s inferno working on the kilns with the high temperatures, dust and fumes.

We headed back past the castle returning to the village.


Time for a welcome cold drink at the Ship Inn


The next morning we had a couple of hours to look round the island before the causeway opened.

We had a look around the harbour. I rather liked the way upturned boats were used as huts! Rather like Great Expectations.


Lobster pots piled up.


We walked over to the Heugh, a rocky outcrop.


There were good views over the Abbey and over the sea to the mainland



We walked past St Mary’s church


and had a look inside (another post, I think!)

and then past St Cuthbert’s United Reform Church


I rather liked this sculpture on the outside of the building


We walked into the village and had a look round some shops and then went for a coffee in an excellent little coffee shop.



Watch out for the sparrows and other small birds in garden. They’re not shy at hoovering up crumbs and trying to pinch food from the tables.

After we’d finished we could see delivery vehicles arriving in the village. It was time to return to the car and drive over the causeway and head back to Morebattle where we’d started our journey to pick up D’s car.

I’m glad we took the opportunity to stay on the island rather than rush back after we’d finished our walk. It allowed us to explore properly and enjoy the peace and quiet while the day visitors had gone back over the causeway.

A Long Walk–Part 4


The final leg of our journey – a few miles that would take us from the Lindisfarne Inn over to Lindisfarne, or ‘Holy Island’ itself. Purists would have walked back the couple of miles to Fenwick and rejoined the official route over to the causeway. However we decided we’d take the direct route, down the road through Beal.

We were a little early as the tide had only started to recede, so we had a little wait before we could join the causeway.


There are two options for walking over to the island. Down the causeway or along the ‘Pilgrim’s Route’ following a line of poles across the sand. I quite fancied the latter but knew it was the more difficult choice in many ways, even though it is the shorter route. It would be difficult underfoot (it’s best to go barefooted and with shorts or trousers rolled up) and we would have had to wait a couple more hours before we could set off before the water had receded enough to risk it. So it was down the causeway for us



We passed the refuge built for foolish drivers who don’t pay attention to the tide tables, or think they can beat the tide.


The island was in view.


We had to dodge the cars, vans and lorries, some of them driving too fast and recklessly and it would have been quite miserable, I think, if it was raining and windy as there’s no shelter. Luckily for us the cloud was clearing and the sun started to come out.

Eventually we made it across.


I diverted across to the Ship Inn to check that my car was still in one piece – it was (phew!)


and then cut across to the Priory, the official end of the route


A Long Walk–Part 3


The third day of our walk was to be the longest leg. The stage from Wooler to Fenwick was 13 miles but as we were staying at the Lindisfarne Inn we had a couple of extra miles to walk along a minor road. It was a bright and sunny when we set out and it stayed like that for the rest of the day. The best weather we had during our walk.

Wooler is a small, pleasant town in the Northumberland National Park. It’s isolated position means that it isn’t swarming with tourists and it’s a little old fashioned, which isn’t a bad thing. Facilities are rather behind the times, though, and it’s a bit short of quality places to eat.

We bought ourselves supplies from one of the local bakeries that sold freshly made sandwiches and pies, and from the Co-op and set out on our way. The guidebook promised us that there were no steep climbs during this stage. Well, that wasn’t quite true as after leaving the outskirts of the town we had a steep climb up to a ridge that overlooked the town and the surrounding countryside


It was worth it. The views on this bright sunny day were outstanding.


The ridge rather reminded me of the gritstone ridges in the Derbyshire Peak District



At the end of the ridge we descended down to Weetwood crossing the old bridge over the River Till.


We then had a trek along several miles of minor roads and gravel farm tracks through pleasant rural countryside.


Walking on tarmac on a warm, sunny day with minimal shade made it a little hard going at times. But the scenery was beautiful.


At one point we came across a WWII pillbox by the side of the road. It was part of the defences built when Britain was threatened by invasion in 1940.


After 3 or 4 miles of road walking we came across St Cuthbert standing by the road!


There was a group of walkers taking a break and as it was about 1 o’clock by now it seemed like a good idea to do the same and eat our dinner. I took a group photo of ‘the Platoon’ by the statue and they returned the favour.

We’d started to come across groups of walkers since the second day. In most cases when they were overtaking us! Often we’d have a brief chat, exchange pleasantries and and swap stories. We’d then often bump into them again later during the walk, sometimes several times. That was the case with ‘the Platoon’ as we came across them a few times during the next couple of days.

Moving on, we had another stretch on a minor road,


eventually turning off and walking up through fields and along the edge of woodland until we came to St Cuthbert’s Cave



When the Vikings invaded Lindisfarne, the monks took St Cuthbert’s body in his coffin and took it on a journey across Northumbria.

once they’d spotted those dreaded dragonships crashing up and down on the roaring mists and foaming spray. They gathered up their most precious belongings and, taking the advice of their hallowed saint, the Community of St Cuthbert left their holy island for what was destined to be a seven-year journey that helped shape England and keep alight the flames of Christianity that were in imminent danger of being extinguished. (source)

This cave was allegedly one of the places they stopped

We stopped a while to talk to take a look at the cave and chatted with some other walkers who were taking a rest. This included ‘the Platoon’ (another group photo taken) and a trio of real pilgrims from Chester University.

There were some interesting ‘cave paintings’ painted on the roof of the cave.


Setting off again we climbed up towards the top of a ridge


from where we could see right down to the sea and our final objective, Holy Island.


The path then took us north through woodland for about 2 1/2 miles, finally descending into the village of Fenwick, which is just off the A1.This was the end of the stage in the guidebook, but not for us. We had now to head to the Lindisfarne Inn where we had rooms booked for the night. We avoided the busy main road by taking a quiet, narrow minor road which came out on to the A1 more or less opposite the Inn. We were tired by now and didn’t particularly enjoy this last couple of miles on tarmac not helped by my blood sugar dropping. We were glad to check in, get our boots off and take a welcome shower and a rest before eating.

A Long Walk–Part 2


The second day of our walk would take us from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders back into England, over the Cheviot Hills across to Wooler in Northumbria.

We woke up to a bright, if windy, morning. Some rain was promised for later in the day but we had our waterproofs in our packs for when we needed them.

The Border Inn is the end (or start depending which way you’re going!) of the Pennine Way and for the first stretch St Cuthbert’s Way coincided with this rather longer route. I can now say I’ve been to both ends of the Pennine Way – only trouble is I haven’t done the bit in-between!

We set off across the Village Green


passing the “Gypsey Palace”


which at one time was occupied by the “Gypsy Monarch”, the head of the local Gypsy clans. Today, it’s a self catering holiday cottage.

We carried on along the quiet road up the hill. Looking down we had good views over the Bowmore valley across to England


and towards the Cheviot hills ahead of us


We were soon off the tarmac and heading up the path up the hills. We were still on the Pennine Way at this point but would soon be branching off.


Good views all around




Climbing steadily


we reached the border


After crossing moorland and traversing some boggy patches (the first of the walk as it had been very dry underfoot)


we entered a forest


Fortunately the path was well signposted. Otherwise it would have been easy to get lost.

After the forest we crossed a field down to a farm track which we followed for a mile or so until we reached the small hamlet at Hethpool. There’s been a settlement there since medieval times, but the current buildings were constructed in the early 20th century in the Arts and Crafts style for the Tyneside businessman Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland who bought the Hethpool estate with its 1294 acres as a sporting and farming country retreat.



We strayed off the official path slightly at this point to visit Hethpool Linn




The route now took us along the valley at the foot of the Cheviot hills




After about a mile and a half, just past Torleehouse farm, we turned right and began our ascent on to the moors climbing the pass between Yeavering Bell and Easter Tor.

Up until now we’d avoided the rain. We could see dark clouds and rain falling in adjacent valleys but our route had kept us away from us. But about half way up our climb it hit us. Time to put on the waterproofs. It rained intermittently as we crossed the grouse moors. But for most of the time it wasn’t too heavy and mainly hit us from behind rather than head on. So it didn’t really cause us a problem other than reducing visibility. Just as well as we had about a 4 mile traverse over exposed terrain before we would come down off the moors.


The Cheviot was shrouded in cloud.


The landscape here rather reminded me of the West Lancashire moors and the Forest of Bowland


Eventually we started to descend down towards Wooler. The rain had moved on and we were treated to some blue skies and sunshine


The route now did a ‘dogleg’ taking us through a forest


and then crossing fields

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before we finally reached the small Northumbrian town