One of the most beautiful tidal islands in the UK the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a must-visit for anyone exploring Northumberland. Written by a local you will discover what to do and see on the island in this ultimate guide to things to do on Holy Island.
Only three miles long and one and a half miles wide this tiny island with a population of less than three hundred welcomes over half a million visitors a year.
Lying a mile off the Northumberland coast Holy Island is reached by a causeway. I was born in Northumberland and have memories of visiting the island many times as a child and more recently during trips to the North East of England.
It is always one of my favourite places to spend a day, particularly during the warmer summer months. The numbers of visitors attracted to the island every year seem to agree with me and it is a popular day trip for locals and tourists alike.
The island is surrounded by beautiful scenery and stunning views of Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands. Also, keep an eye out for some of the local birdlife and flora and fauna on the island. Seals from the neighbouring Farne Islands can often be spotted bobbing around in the waters around Lindisfarne.
Known simply as “Holy Island” Lindisfarne is famous as one of the centres of early Christianity in England. The Lindisfarne Gospels were produced by monks on the island between 710 and 725 and are recognised as masterpieces of medieval art.
Raided by the Vikings in 789 the ransacking of the priory, in which St Cuthbert the patron saint of Northumbria had been abbot, was devastating. To protect his remains from further Viking invasions they were moved to the safety of Durham Cathedral where they remain to this day.
In this article, you will find information about things to do on Holy Island and top tips to make the most of your day visit (or longer stay on the island)
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- THINGS TO DO ON HOLY ISLAND
- TOP TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT TO HOLY ISLAND
- VISITING NORTHUMBERLAND – AREAS TO EXPLORE NEAR HOLY ISLAND
THINGS TO DO ON HOLY ISLAND
There are lots of great things to do on Holy Island and enough to keep you busy for most of a day. These are my favourite things to do and see on the island.
Good to know – If you would like to stay on Holy Island for the night or spend a few days relaxing and enjoying the island there are limited accommodation options so it is worth booking before you go. Our recommendations are the Manor House, the Crown and Anchor Inn or if you prefer a holiday home Britannia Cottage. Note – Britannia Cottage is pet friendly while the Crown and Anchor Inn has one dog-friendly room.
Explore Lindisfarne Priory and Priory Museum
A great place to visit when visiting Holy Island for the first time is Lindisfarne Priory and Museum. Here you can learn the full story of the history of the priory and St Cuthbert head into the Priory Museum. In the museum, you can also see examples of Anglo Saxon stonework that were excavated in the area.
Entry to Lindisfarne Priory is free to English Heritage members. If you are not a member it costs £6 for adults, £3.60 for children aged 5 – 15 and £15.60 for a family.
It is possible to visit Lindisfarne Priory every day during high season. During the winter months, it is open Saturdays and Sundays only.
The remains of the monastery which was built in the 12th century are worth a wander. Don’t miss the ‘Rainbow Arch” which survived the collapse of the tower above it over 200 years ago.
Visit the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre (museum and shop)
Although the famous Lindisfarne Gospels are held in the British Library in London there are copies on touch screens in the Heritage Centre. Using the touch screens you can see 20 pages of the book as well as its beautiful cover. When you see the intricacies of the work and vibrant colours it’s incredible to think that they were created over 1600 years ago.
An exhibition about the Viking attacks on Holy Island is also worth taking a look at when in the centre.
Entrance to the exhibition centre costs £4 for adults, £2 for children aged 5-15, Under 5 ‘s are free. A family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) costs £10.
Sample some Lindisfarne Mead at St Aiden’s Winery
Pop into the Lindisfarne Mead Shop of St Aidan’s winery and sample some of the many varieties of mead produced on the island. As well as mead there is a great selection of wines and liqueurs on sale.
Mead was traditionally produced by the monks on Lindisfarne and it is believed this followed the arrival of St Aidan in AD687. Traditionally made from fermented honey diluted with water this alcoholic fortified wine the Roman influence on Britain can certainly be found in the local area.
Discover Lindisfarne Castle
Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England. Built in 1550 Lindisfarne Castle overlooks the island and the neighbouring coastline with views over to Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands. Although converted into a private holiday home in the early 20th century by Edward Hudson the castle now belongs to the National Trust.
Major restoration work has recently been completed after the castle was closed between November 2016 and April 2018.
When you visit Lindisfarne Castle don’t miss the Gertrude Jekyll Garden which was created in 1911.
Also head to the Lime Kilns which can be found on the headland called Castle Point a little beyond the castle. These are the largest and best-preserved lime kilns in Northumberland.
Opening times will vary due to tides.
Entry costs £9.00 for adults, £4.50 for children, £22.50 for a family. Group rates are also available.
TOP TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT TO HOLY ISLAND
How to get to Holy Island in Northumberland
Cross the Holy Island Causeway
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a tidal island and can only be reached during times of LOW TIDE. It is extremely important when you start planning a visit that you consult the tidal information and go from there.
Only plan a trip if you know the causeway is safe to cross. The tide comes in quickly and many cars have been trapped whilst trying to cross to or from the island.
If you are planning a trip to Holy Island as part of a longer Northumberland holiday I would recommend checking the tides and working out the rest of your itinerary around it.
It is best to plan to cross over to Holy Island at the earliest indicated safe time to give yourself enough time to see everything before the tide turns and it is unsafe to return to the mainland. (Unless of course, you wish to stay on the island)
Crossing the causeway is free and the road is tarmac. Speed limits are 60 mph but it is best to take it slow and enjoy the views as you cross over.
Keep an eye on the time and make sure you leave before the tide comes in – there can be a rush of cars especially in the summer when the island is busier so keep this in mind!
It is possible to walk over to Holy Island but it is recommended to only use the solid path alongside the causeway road. Again check the tides and only walk over and back during designated safe times as indicated on the link below.
If you are planning to walk over the sands/mud on the “Pilgrim’s Way” please click the link and read the recommended guidance given regarding this.
ALWAYS check local weather conditions as these can affect the tides (e.g. high winds)
If you prefer to cycle to the island there is a special cycling route running alongside the causeway road.
MORE INFORMATION | Crossing times to Holy Island
Parking options on Holy Island
Main Car Park
There is a huge car park near Holy Island village for all visitors. You will need CASH (coins) for the machine. This caught us out when we visited and we had to try to find someone who had change so make sure you have coins with you.
Display the ticket on your dashboard. As of 2020 parking costs are £3.50 for 3 hours and £5.50 for 24 hours.
The car park can become extremely busy. Ensure that you have enough time to get to your car and off the island when you leave. There can be a lot of traffic trying to leave the island and cross the causeway at the same time.
Keep your ticket as it can be used in Berwick, Wooler and Seahouses.
Park and Ride
There is a minibus available from the main car park to Holy Island village and castle.
Lindisfarne Castle Bus
When the castle is open there is also a shuttle bus in operation from the car park to the village and castle. (It is approximately 1 mile from the car park to the castle)
Where to eat and drink on Holy Island
There are a number of cafés, restaurants and pubs in the village. The two pubs are the Crown and Anchor and the Ship Inn. The Ship Inn with its large beer garden is a firm favourite in summer. Dogs are allowed into the bar area of the Crown and Anchor.
The four cafés on Holy Island are the Oasis café, Pilgrims Coffee House, Stables Coffee Shop and Café Solo. If coffee is your thing I would highly recommend Pilgrims!
There are a few restaurants to choose from when you visit Holy Island including the award-winning Barngoose Restaurant. Apparently, their lobster dishes are amazing. Unfortunately, it is only open from May until October so no luck if you are visiting during the low season.
Other restaurants include one in the Lindisfarne Hotel and another in the Manor House Hotel. Meals are also available at the pubs.
Accommodations options on Holy Island
If you are wondering if you can stay on Holy Island the answer is yes!
There are a number of types of accommodation available on Lindisfarne where you can stay and enjoy the peace and quiet of Holy Island after all the day-trippers have left.
If you can’t find accommodation on Holy Island the Lindisfarne Inn at Beal near Holy Island is highly recommended.
Manor House Hotel
Located only 970 m from Lindisfarne Castle the Manor House Hotel offers free parking and Wifi in public areas. Pets are also allowed on request.
A full English breakfast is also included in most room rates. This hotel has great reviews on Booking.com.
The Crown and Anchor Inn
The Crown and Anchor Inn has a restaurant, bar, garden, and free WiFi. The hotel features family rooms.
The units in the hotel are equipped with a kettle. All guest rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV and a hairdryer.
The accommodation offers a continental or buffet breakfast.
Britannia Cottage (Holiday home)
The holiday home has 2 bedrooms, a flat-screen TV, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 2 bathrooms with a shower.
Hiking can be enjoyed nearby.
Tips for visiting Holy Island
I have been visiting Holy Island since I was a little girl and have spent many years living in Northumberland. These are my top tips to ensure you make the most of your visit to Holy Island.
- Be prepared for all weathers!
Even in summer, the weather can turn chilly on Holy Island. On hot days a sea fret (or mist) can hug the coastline and the temperatures will drop. The north east coast is often breezy and gets its fair share of rain. Pack a raincoat and brolly in case of an unexpected shower!
- For great views head to the Lookout Tower
Built for the coastguard in the 1940s the lookout tower provides panoramic views of the island and Northumberland coast (and on a clear day to the Cheviot hills).
- Wear comfortable shoes
It is important to wear good footwear when you visit. There is a lot of walking and surfaces can be uneven so flat shoes with good grip (and preferably waterproof) are to be recommended.
- Don’t forget the tides!
Keep track of time or risk of being stranded on Holy Island. As I have mentioned throughout the article it is important to keep track of the tides so you leave the island in plenty of time!
- Carry cash!
You will need some cash to pay for parking (and perhaps an ice cream) so make sure to bring some change with you.
VISITING NORTHUMBERLAND – AREAS TO EXPLORE NEAR HOLY ISLAND
There are many beautiful places to visit in the area of Holy Island. These can all be explored if you drive the Northumberland coastal route.
The town of Alnwick offers visitors many options including a castle, a wonderful bookshop housed in an old railway station and a famous poison garden. You can read more about visiting Alnwick in my guide to the town.
The Scottish capital of Edinburgh is also an easy drive (or train ride) away and worth including in your itinerary.