This is a magical island set off the coastline of Northumberland, reached by a causeway which is covered and uncovered twice daily by the tide.
Just a few miles south of the border of Scotland, Lindisfarne, also known as the ‘Holy Island’, is thought to be the holiest site of Anglo Saxon England. A visit to the Holy Island will leave you feeling peaceful and relaxed after a day spent escaping from the hustle and bustle of the Northumberland mainland.
Read on to find out how to fully enjoy it…
👉 The history
👉 How to get there
👉 Things to see
👉 Things to do
👉 Nature and wildlife
👉 Where to eat
👉 Where to stay
A small history…
Lindisfarne was founded by St. Aidan, an Irish monk who came from Iona (the centre of Christianity in Scotland), at the request of King Oswald. Here, he converted Northumbria to Christianity and founded Lindisfarne Monastery in 635AD. Many monks continued to settle here and the island become the centre of a major saints' cult celebrating its bishop, St Cuthbert (685AD). The monastery went through some changes over time, but the ruins that are now visible are that of a 12th-century priory, which is claimed to be a direct descent of the early monastery.
With its ancient associations, its castle and priory ruins, Lindisfarne remains today a holy site and place of pilgrimage for many.
Today the island has a thriving and bustling community, with a picturesque village, busy harbour, shops, hotels and inns. Those who live on Lindisfarne lead a quiet and peaceful life but welcome their visitors with open arms. It is an adventurous and pretty drive across the causeway, enhanced by the timed nature of your journey – it is cut off twice a day from the mainland by fast-moving tides. There is much to see on the island when it comes to historic landmarks, nature and culture, so here we share a few tips to get you clued up on one of the most magical islands in England.
How to get there and when to avoid the tides
The easiest mode of transport is by car and the thing to do is to come off the A1 at Beal where you will find The Lindisfarne Inn and Lindisfarne Services’ You will not miss the signpost to Holy Island – this leads you off the A1 and onto the road that takes you right there. The causeway is long and really enjoyable to drive over! You get a good feel for the ocean and the large stretches of sand spread for miles.
You can stop and enjoy the bird life on these flats or take a walk out into the sandy stretch – just watch for passing traffic. When you get onto the island there is a large car park to the left where you will be able to leave your car for up to three days if you wanted – charged of course!
You can also get here by bus, but it will drop you at Beal incurring a 5-mile walk which might not suit everyone. There are also local taxis which can help you too. Cycling is an option, but just be aware that the causeway road is narrow and you will be sharing it with cars. Find the causeway crossing times here.
Things to see
With an island as fascinating as this one, of course there are lots of things to see...
Lindisfarne Priory. The monastery stands proudly next to the idyllic local village and can be reached easily by foot. You will be impressed with its tall standing structure which is now in ruined sections. There are information boards providing a fascinating history about the building and the graveyard can also be walked around with views out to the sea.
Lindisfarne Castle. The castle that resides on the tip of the island was built in 1550 as a fort to defend the island from the Norsemen and the Scots. It was refurbished in 1901 by famed architect Sir Edwin Lutyens when it became a holiday home. Today it is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public to visit and admire. You can walk up the curved driveway to the castle, and even go inside for a tour. It is well worth a visit if you are on Lindisfarne.
The harbour. You can enjoy the gentle atmosphere of the harbour when sitting on the shore enjoying some down time. Not only is it fun to watch the fishing boats bobbing in and out, it is also a pleasure to spot harbour seals, porpoises and all sorts of waterfowl. Benches line the bank of the shingle beach which leads into the harbour, and they are the perfect spot to sit and soak up the sights out to the Farne Islands and the castle.
The village. Lindisfarne is a charming Northumberland traditional fishing village, little changed by recent times. You can practically hear the fisherman of yesteryear hauling their creels in below you as you walk around the cobbled streets. With a plethora of quaint cafes and pubs, it is an easy place to relax and enjoy a holiday without the need to travel further. Around every corner there is a surprise!
The museum. When visiting a new place, it is always nice to visit the local museum exhibiting all the interesting stories, myths and information about the area. The museum in Lindisfarne is open to visitors throughout the season, and the helpful staff can answer any questions you might have. An extra bonus - they have a shop where you can pick up some souvenirs.
Things to do
As well as all the amazing sights you can see, and places to visit, there are some cool things to do on the island too…
Grace Darling boathouse: Below the Priory on the inland side of Lindisfarne there is a large shed set close to the water. If you go inside, you will find a small museum dedicated to Grace Darling. She was a brave young woman, a lighthouse keeper's daughter, who set sail in a terrifying storm to save those on a shipwrecked boat that had ran aground the Farne Islands in 1938. It is a must-visit spot with a fascinating history. It is also a nice spot for a picnic, overlooking a popular site for harbour seals.
The Farne Islands: Just a couple of miles from the coastline are a collection of 20 small islands that are called the Farne Islands. Structurally they are impressive and dramatic and many seek out a Farne Island boat trip to experience their wild nature and the sea creatures that inhabit them. This is the only way to get to them, but it is well worth the ride. Although most famous for their colourful friends, the puffins, there are around 100,000 seabirds that dwell there seasonally with hundreds of different species to spot. Find out more in our guide to the Farne Islands.
Golf: Links golf is hugely popular on the east coast of Scotland and Northumberland. For almost 60 years, from 1907 until the 1960s, Holy Island had its own nine-hole course on land donated by the Lord of the Manor, Major Lawrence Morley Crossman. Many come to play on the grassy sand dunes of Lindisfarne which have views out to the sea and beyond.
As well as nature spotting and experiencing the historical sights, this location is a lovely one for writers and painters to come and immerse themselves in the beauty of the islands.
Nature and wildlife
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve: This is a 3,541-reserve which was founded to help safeguard the internationally important wintering bird populations and six internationally important species of wildfowl and wading birds that winter here. Included in this are the dunes of Lindisfarne and the mudflats, rocky shore and salt marshes of the islands.
Keen birdwatchers will enjoy sitting with their binoculars in the hope of spotting many different species. Expect to see…
- Pale-bellied brent geese
- Pink-footed and greylag geese
- Bar-tailed godwits
As well as this, harbour seals and grey seals can often be spotted resting in large groups on the rocky crags surrounding Lindisfarne. Hours can be spent watching these characterful friends sunbathing as they hop from rock to rock and take the occasional dip in the ocean.
Where to eat
Eating out on Lindisfarne is a pleasant experience due to its selections of quirky pubs and restaurants. Here are some of our favourites...
- The Ship Inn – a traditional pub offering a coastal atmosphere and home-cooked food which can be enjoyed in the bar, lounge or beer garden. Location: TD15 2SJ
- The Crown and Anchor – a friendly, locally run pub which is popular with dog owners, as it is the only pub on the Holy Island that welcomes four-legged visitors. Good value home-cooked meals are on offer, using local ingredients wherever possible. Location: TD15 2RX
- The Manor House Hotel – This hotel offers food served in its bar, restaurant and beer garden. There are many items on the menu that use seasonal local produce, including locally caught fish and seafood. Location: TD15 2RX
- Pilgrims Coffee House & Roastery – A lovely, welcoming space which offers the chance to relax, drink coffee and eat cake. With a cosy setting of Chesterfield armchairs and a cosy fire, plus an outdoor courtyard set-up, there is a spot here for everyone to enjoy. Location: TD15 2SJ
- Island Oasis Coffee Shop – A nice cosy coffee shop serving a variety of hot drinks and light snacks. With indoor and outdoor seating, there is plenty of space here for everyone to chill together and enjoy fine food and drink. Location: TD15 2SX.
Where to stay
We have one property on the island itself – an 18th-century stone-built cottage sleeping six. Britannia House is steeped in history and charm, being one of the oldest cottages on the Holy Island. Located in the centre of the village, it is close to all the local amenities and is within easy reach of the sea.
- Welcoming lounge with log burner
- Pet friendly
- Beaches and historic attractions very close by
- Easy access to Dark Skies Park, Europe’s largest area of protected sky
Bamburgh and Seahouses are close by where we have many family-friendly cottages, romantic boltholes and pawfect dog-friendly pads!
For more ideas on what to do, read our guide on 10 things to do on the Northumberland Coast.