7 things to do on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Escape to the mystical Holy Island of Lindisfarne
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as it’s known locally, is a secluded Northumbrian gem home to unspoiled nature, ancient history and eateries that certainly punch above their weight. Separated from the British mainland by a causeway flooded by the North Sea twice a day, this tiny island is an oasis of calm (with the occasional seal serenade) and the perfect place to switch off for a few days alongside its 130 or so residents.
Stand on the same ground as the famous Lindisfarne Viking attack; walk in the footsteps of saints and monks; keep an eye out for bright-beaked puffins or simply take in the views – we can guarantee it’s like nowhere else in the country. Well, what are you waiting for?
Make sure your visit is a safe one. Always check tide times for the date of your travel and do not attempt to drive across outside of the advertised safe crossing times.
Top attractions on Lindisfarne
Built in the mid-1500s and renovated in the 20th century for Country Life Magazine founder, Edward Hudson, Lindisfarne Castle is a striking landmark crowning the Island. Now owned by the National Trust, this Edwardian holiday home has origins that go way back to the old borderlands, when it was built as a strategic fort during the Scottish Wars. Walk through the castle’s narrow passageways and low doorways, have a peek into the cosy candlelit kitchen and dining room and look out for the guns on the Lower Battery that once protected the harbour. Only open between April and October, the castle can get busy so it’s best to book tickets before your visit.
More places to visit
Follow in the footsteps of the ancient monks who built their monastery here nearly 1,400 years ago. While it’s now mainly ruins, there’s still much to see at Lindisfarne Priory. Gaze up at the dramatic ‘Rainbow Arch’, see the Lindisfarne Gospels, learn about the grisly Viking raid and the cult of St Cuthbert in the museum, and take in second-to-none coastal views. Another religious landmark worth a visit is St Mary’s Church, the oldest building on the island. There’s an eerie, magical feel to the church (some of it was built by the Saxons) and it houses Fenwick Lawson’s famous sculpture, The Journey, depicting monks carrying the coffin of St Cuthbert.Find more places to visit on the Holy Island
Things to do on Lindisfarne
Holy Island of Lindisfarne
One of the best things about Lindisfarne is the number of free activities available on the island, like seal watching. Between spring and autumn, hundreds of grey seals (and the occasional harbour seal) migrate from their pupping colonies in the Farne Islands to the beaches around Holy Island. They often bask on the sandbanks and head out for a swim when the tide rises, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to see some. If you’ve left your binoculars back at home, you can always take a boat trip from Seahouses Harbour (on the mainland) for a closer encounter with these blubbery creatures – you might also catch a glimpse of a circus of puffins.
More things to do
Along with Lindisfarne, this stretch of the North Sea is home to a number of other islands and islets including the tidal island of St Cuthbert’s, a secluded spot that can only be visited at low tide (sound familiar?). Rumoured to be where St Cuthbert used to escape to when he wanted some alone time away from the monks at the abbey, the island can only be accessed on foot and is home to the remains of a post-Norman Conquest medieval chapel. Just remember to cross back on time, or you’ll be swimming! If you want to know more about the history of the Holy Island, join a (free) Lindisfarne Tales tour. Fittingly dressed as a monk, Chris Hudson will guide you around the isle, recounting entertaining stories of kings and saints and delving into Lindisfarne’s important connection with Christianity.Find more activities on the Holy Island
Places to stay on Lindisfarne
Staying overnight on the island is an opportunity to experience Lindisfarne in a completely different way. While day visitors have to leave before the high tide, you’re free to stay and enjoy the island while it’s blissfully peaceful. If you do decide to spend the night, try and nab a room at Belvue Guesthouse. With fluffy towels, underfloor heating and fast WiFi (on an isolated island this is a luxury), it’s no surprise this highly rated inn gets booked up quickly. If you are on the ball with booking, you can pick from two ensuite studios, complete with kitchenettes (The Abbot Studio has the best sunset views), as well as a no-frills Pilgrim Room for those on a budget.
More hotels on the Holy Island
Previously the summer house of the lord of several local manors, The Manor House Hotel is open year-round and has a variety of cosy family and dog-friendly rooms. Be sure to carve out time for a cocktail in The Island Bar before bed – you’ll be treated to epic views of the Priory and Castle. For a more secluded stay, try The Sanctuary – a simple yet charming self-catering cabin tucked away in its owner’s walled garden right in the centre of the island. Ideal for one or two people, the diddy cabin is equipped with a kitchenette and private bathroom.Find more accommodation on Lindisfarne
Places to eat on Lindisfarne
The Crown & Anchor Pub
When it’s time to refuel after a long day of exploring, make sure it’s at The Crown & Anchor Pub, Lindisfarne’s local. One of the only two remaining pubs on the island, its restaurant is headed up by the chef-owner who has years of hospitality experience. The ever-changing menu champions locally sourced ingredients and gourmet dishes, from the likes of garden pea risotto with halloumi to whiskey-infused brisket burgers, alongside a huge range of drinks including local Northumbrian ales. You can also stop by at lunchtime for a crab sandwich in the beer garden or a good ol’ seaside staple – fish and chips made with freshly caught haddock.
More restaurants and cafés
The only other pub on Holy Island, The Ship Inn Pub, is also a top choice for your evening meal. Full of olde-worlde charm, this 18th-century free house is full of fishing paraphernalia, maritime art and even houses the island’s only gin distillery. Pick from pub classics, tuck into tasty tapas or even fresh seafood paella, all washed down with a homemade gin and tonic. If you’re here overnight, be sure to have breakfast at the 1st Class Café, known locally as the Post Office Café – they serve hearty full English breakfasts alongside sandwiches and homemade cakes. And for afternoon pick-me-ups, head to Pilgrims Coffee. An island institution, this cute café roasts and serves its own coffee and bakes a range of tempting treats from brownies to the intriguing scone pudding. There’s outdoor seating too, should the sun want to make an appearance.Find more restaurants on Lindisfarne
Walks and trails on Lindisfarne
The Pilgrims Way
Arrive on the island as the medieval settlers did by walking The Pilgrims Way. Follow in the footsteps of saints, Vikings and religious pilgrims along the sands (and mud) of this picturesque path that, before the causeway road was built, was the only way to get across to the island. The highlight of many visitors’ trips to Lindisfarne, this ancient three-mile route is marked out by poles in the sand that disappear when the tide’s in. The best way to do the walk is barefoot, so whip off your shoes and prepare to get muddy!
Make sure you read the safety information before starting the walk. The window for crossing along this route is shorter than the council’s advertised tide times.
More Lindisfarne walks
Lace up your boots and head out of the village for a three-mile walk in the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. The self-guided circular trail starts at the harbour and takes you past the castle, to the bird hide and the edge of the nature reserve’s dunes. This spectacular habitat is home to a variety of flora and fauna and is known for being a great place to spot skylarks and multiple species of butterfly. If you’re itching to escape the crowds and experience the wild side of Holy Island, take the North Shore Walk, which leads you out to the island’s beautiful beaches where not many tourists venture. The route will take you around two to three hours, but avid birdwatchers are likely to get their fill of winged creatures.More walking routes on the Holy Island
Unique places to visit on Lindisfarne
The Lindisfarne Gospel Garden
If you’re on the island for a few days, be sure to stop by the Lindisfarne Gospels Garden, an outdoor haven inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels – a world-famous, decorative manuscript that dates back to the 8th century. The garden’s design originated from Stan Timmins' Chelsea Flower Show plot, which ended up winning a silver medal. The garden was then replicated here in the original home of the Gospels. Often overlooked by visitors, despite its central location, it’s an ideal stop for unwinding among the flowers.
More unusual attractions
An inconspicuous turning from the causeway takes you to two lone buildings, hidden within the island’s dunes, known as Snook Tower and Snook House. Snook Tower is grade II-listed and is said to have once been a windmill or early watch tower, while Snook House was used to depict DCI Vera Stanhope’s home in the popular ITV drama, Vera, based on the novels by Ann Cleeves. While you can’t have a nosey inside the buildings (they’re privately owned), The Snook is a sight to behold and one to tick off the list.
Shopping on Lindisfarne
For such a small island, there are a surprisingly good number of places to pick up a souvenir or two. If you’re currently on the gin bandwagon, then you can’t leave without a visit to the 793 Spirits shop, selling gin from the first and only distillery on the island producing small-batch spirits like gin and vodka. The distillery’s specialities include Creed & Tide gin, infused with 13 botanicals, and Mjødka (the old Norse word for mead and a nod to the island’s Viking heritage) wild-flower honey vodka.
More shops worth checking out
On the subject of mead, the best place to pick up a bottle of the locally brewed Lindisfarne Mead is St Aidan’s Winery, which, despite its name, stocks different flavours of mead – like Elderflower and spiced mead – as well as other Northumbrian brands like Alnwick Rum and Alnwick Brewery beers. For Celtic jewellery and Holy Island-inspired trinkets, head to Celtic Crafts. Housed inside a 400-year-old cottage, this family business is top of the list when it comes to gifts.More places to go shopping on Lindisfarne