Holy Island

Rich history in a setting of outstanding geology and wildlife

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What can I do?

  • Discover the history of the island – the founding of the priory in 635, the story of St. Cuthbert, the Lindisfarne Gospels and Viking raids on the island. Visit Lindisfarne Castle (run by the National Trust), the Priory (run by English Heritage) and Lindisfarne Heritage Centre to see a facsimile of the gospels.
  • Enjoy the fantastic birdlife. The mud and sand flats around Holy Island are the most extensive in north-east England and have been designated a National Nature Reserve and Special Protection Area for birds. The flats may host up to 50,000 waterfowl, and are a top spot for birdwatching with 312 species on record. Birdwatching is very good during migration time and large numbers of waders and waterfowl can be seen during winter. (Six species are considered internationally important: Light-bellied brent goose, graylag, pink-footed goose, wigeon, grey plover and bar-tailed godwit.)
  • Explore the rocky shore on the south-east corner of the island (an excellent example of boulder shore ecology). Lots of unusual marine animals can be found beneath boulders at Holy Island, such as brittle stars and top shells. (Remember to carefully replace the boulder in the same position you found it after inspection or else the creature you find might die.)
  • Visit the extensive dune system home to a rich variety of plant-life including Viper’s bugloss, bloody cranesbill and the unique Lindisfarne helleborine.
  • Visit Gertrude Jekyll’s historic garden near the Castle.
  • Look out for:
  1. upturned herring boats used for storage by local fishermen
  2. ‘refuge boxes’ for people caught by the tide!
  3. Navigation beacons built on the Ross Links in 1820 to guide safe passage for ships into Holy Island harbour
  • Investigate the geology of the island
  1. find out how it got separated from the mainland
  2. find the oldest rocks on the island, north of ‘The Snook’, where the Eelwell Limsetone is exposed at low tide
  3. look for button-like segments of fossilized crinoids, known locally as ‘St Cuthbert’s Beads’.
  • Learn to ride a horse
  • Take a headland walk around the castle

What do I need to know?

  • Holy Island is separated from the mainland by a vast system of salt marshes and mudflats and is only accessible at low tide by means of a causeway (reached from the village of Beal). Check crossing times here
  • Holy island can be reached by bus from Berwick upon Tweed (see www.travelline.org.uk).
  • Lindisfarne Priory was one of the most important centres of early Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England. It is still a place of pilgrimage today.
  • Watch out for Pirri-pirri bur if you go walkabout. It clings to clothing and fur, and can be spread to other sites. This is an invasive species that causes harm to the environment and should not be dispersed.

Where can I find out more?

  • English Heritage’s website provides visitor information (including safe crossing times), resources for teachers, a day planner, ideas for family family activities and a host of background information.
  • Teachers’ Information for Lindisfarne Priory
  • Hazard Information Sheet for Lindisfarne Priory
  • The National Trust’s Lindisfarne castle website
  • The Natural England website provides information and a leaflet on the island’s wildlife here
  • Find out more about the Lindisfarne Gospels (now held by the British Library) by following this link and see the facsimile at the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre
  • Visit the Northumberland Communities website for information about the history of Holy Island

    Inspire me

    Try our specially designed family activities. Holy Island, Castles and Tourism are great ways of getting to know Holy Island. You can download pdf versions of these activities using the links to the right, or visit the Inspire me page to find a these and other activities in both pdf and Microsoft Word versions (for you to customise if you wish).

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Forthcoming events

There are no upcoming events at Holy Island