things to do on holy island

The Best Things To Do On Holy Island [History, Hiking, Exploring]

Historic, remote, and breath-taking, the Northumberland island of Holy Island is one of the most stunning areas of the North East of England to visit.   In England’s northernmost county you’ll find a haven for wildlife surrounded by some of the most glorious countryside Northumberland has to offer.   Holy Island is home to the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory, the restored Lindisfarne Castle, the stunning Gertrude Jeykll gardens, and the mead of St Aidan’s Winery.  It is only possible to access Holy Island via a tidal causeway, only visible at low tide.  There is parking available on the island as you enter the village and there are occasional buses from local towns on the mainland.  Come with us and explore the best things to do on Holy Island, whether you’re visiting for the day or longer.


UK Coronavirus Update

Our guides for travelling in the UK do NOT contain Coronavirus updates. You should always read the UK Government’s Travel & Health Advisory – you can find that here

Is it Holy Island or the Island of Lindisfarne?

The full name of the island is the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, but the island off the northeast coast of Northumberland is known as both Holy Island and Lindisfarne.  Holy Island history dates back to the 6th century, Holy Island became an important centre of Christianity with Saints Aidan and Cuthbert making their bases here in order to spread Christianity throughout the north of England.

The old English name of Lindisfarena dates to AD793 and the use of the name Holy Island relates to the presence of Saint Aidan and Saint Cuthbert.   Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne was an Irish monk and missionary and is recognized as bringing Christianity to this part of England.  He founded the first priory on Holy Island.  Saint Cuthbert became a monk after seeing a vision on the night that Saint Aidan died.  He became bishop of Lindisfarne in 684 and upon his death in 687 became the most important medieval saint in the northeast of England.

How to Get to Holy Island

The most important thing to note when you’re planning your visit to Holy Island is the time and causeway crossing times.  The tide is NOT to be messed with.  Only cross the causeway during the safe times of the tide and be sure to plan your visit to allow enough time to visit the key highlights of Holy Island.    You can visit Holy Island by car, bus, Lindisfarne Shuttle Bus and by taxi.  There are also occasional guided walks following the Pilgrims Way, walking across the sands.  Those choosing to walk the Pilgrims Way independently should undertake extensive research on both the route and the Holy Island tide times.  You can also book the Pilgrims or St Cuthbert’s Way Walking Holidays

Holy Island is a tidal island and is very definitely cut off twice a day.  You CANNOT access the island outside of low tide.  The tide rises very rapidly here and there are fast-flowing currents.  You MUST check the safe crossing times to Holy Island, which you can find here.

Holy Island Causeway

Drive to Holy Island

If you’re planning to visit Holy Island by car, then your route is simple.  Take the A1 to the Beal crossroads – 8 miles south of Berwick upon Tweed.  This crossroads is near to the Lindisfarne Inn (a good option to stay if you don’t want to stay on Holy Island) and is signed for Holy Island.  The causeway is approximately 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometres) from the crossroads.  The causeway itself is one mile long (1.6 kilometres) and parking for Holy Island, on the island is 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometres) from the end of the causeway.  We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to check the Holy Island Tides

Parking on Holy Island

As most people visit Holy island by car, Holy Island parking can become full. Day visitors to Holy Island also all have to access via the causeway and so that also causes some congestion.  A daily parking ticket bought here can also be used in Berwick, Wooler and Seahouses.   There is a minibus that goes from this car park to the castle, which is about one mile away.

Parking costs on Holy Island are as follows:

  • 3 hours £3.50
  • 24 hours £5.50
  • 48 hours £11
  • 72 hours £16.50

Take the Bus to Holy Island

If you’re planning to visit Holy Island by bus then you’ll need the 505 or 515 services that run between Newcastle Upon Tyne and Berwick Upon Tweed.  They stop at Beal crossroads on request – so ask the driver then you get on.  From Beal crossroads, it’s a 4.8 mile (7.7 kilometres) walk to the village on Holy Island, including crossing the causeway which is a mile long (1.6 kilometres).  The local 477 bus route runs from Berwick Upon Tweed station during the summer, but you must check the timetables.  If you’re staying in Berwick, check our our guide on what to do in Berwick here) There is also a Holy Island Shuttle Bus that runs to Holy Island, this is run by a local taxi company and again, please check, it is an intermittent service and depends upon demand.  There are details here, but its best to call them to find our details for when you plan to visit.

Walk to Holy Island

Travelling to Holy Island has been a pilgrimage since St Aidan arrived here in 635, but the causeway and road were not built until 1954.  Until that point it was only the poles you’ll see in the sand that marked the safe route between Holy Island and the mainland.  These poles mark the Pilgrim’s Way, which is a 3 miles route across the sands.  It can only be undertaken at low tide and should be started NO later than two hours before low tide.  It is dangerous to walk in poor weather conditions or in conditions of low light.  There are more details on walking the Pilgrim’s Way here, and if you don’t feel confident you can always walk along the causeway road – just be careful of passing vehicles.  Alternatively, if you would like to walk the Pilgrim’s Way as a guided walk, then these organizations and guides can assist and walk with you.

Where to Stay on Holy Island

Accommodation on Holy Island is limited, but an excellent way to experience the full island life.  We recommend

The Manor House:  Holy Island

Located in the centre of the village on Holy Island, the Manor House Lindisfarne provides single, double and family rooms.  All rooms have a private bathroom, flat-screen TV and a desk.  Breakfast is available at the Manor House > Check availability and book your room on Holy island now.

Visit Lindisfarne Castle – Holy Island Castle

Lindisfarne Castle was built in 1550 as a defence of the island against the Scots and the Norse.  Many of the stones used in the building of the castle came from the ruined priory.  While the Castle fell into disrepair and ruin in the 1700 and 1800’s it was bought in 1901 by Edward Hudson.  He commissioned the famous Arts and Crafts architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to convert the castle into a residence for him.  Today Lindisfarne Castle is managed and maintained by the National Trust.  Entrance fees are £9.00 for adults or free to National Trust members.

National Trust Lindisfarne Castle

There are unparalleled views from the higher points of the castle and the interior contains exhibits relating to the history of the castle and its uses over the centuries.

The castle is a 15-minute walk from the village and the entranceway into the castle is steep.  Don’t miss the well-preserved Lime Kilns near the castle.

National Trust Lindisfarne Castle opening times vary depending on the tides and are usually either 1000 until 1500 or 1200 until 1700, you can check opening times here.

Like Castles?  You’ll love these 12 magnificent castles in Northumberland

Explore the Holy Island Lime Kilns

There was a wide variety of uses for lime in the 19th century and it was produced locally in the lime kilns that you’ll find at Castle Point on Holy Island.   These are some of the best-preserved lime kilns to be found in Northumberland.  The quick lime produced here was used as mortar whitewash and for fertilizer on the land.   You’ll find the Holy Island lime kilns at Castle Point – there is a track from Lindisfarne Castle to direct you here.  You can enter the underground area of the kilns and explore them.

Visit Lindisfarne Priory

The ruins of the priory on Holy Island date from the early 12th century and not the original priory which dated from the 7th century and which was raided by Vikings in 793.  The most spectacular aspect of the priory ruins is the “Rainbow Arch”, which is located after you enter through the west doorway.  This arch has remained standing despite the tower above it collapsing more than 200 years ago.

Lindisfarne Priory is where Christianity was spread throughout the North East of England.  The site is managed today by English Heritage and is free to members.  Non-members pay a £7.90 entry free, which also includes access to a small museum which you’ll find on your way to the priory ruins.  Join English Heritage and free entrance to Lindisfarne Priory and hundreds of other properties around England for free!

Lindisfarne Priory Ruins English Heritage

Lindisfarne Priory was the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels, a unique illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Mark, Luke and John, the heritage centre here has an electronic copy of the book – you’ll need to visit the British Library in London to see the original.

Lindisfarne Priory Opening Times:  The priory is open 7 days a week from 1000-1800 from February until the end of September.  Opening hours reduce during October with the centre and priory closing at 1700 and from November until the end of January it is only open at weekends from 1000 until 1600.

Lindisfarne Priory makes an appearance in the debut novel of LJ Ross with the discovery of a body – make this one of the books set in Northumberland that you read before, during or after your visit to Holly Island!

Gertrude Jeykll Gardens

The gardens located just behind the Northern Walls of the Castle were created in 1911 y the celebrated garden designer Gertrude Jekyll on an area that was once the vegetable garden of Lindisfarne Castle.  Today the garden is managed by the National Trust and is free to enter. The style revisits the original design and combines perennials, heritage vegetables and annuals to produce riotous colour in the summer and an oasis of calm throughout the entire year.

Lindisfarne Castle from a distance

Find your Mead at St Aidan’s Winery

St Aidan’s Winery shop is found behind the Village Hall on Priory Lane and it’s a great place to test some of the produce of the island.  There’s a large shop here with local products, both edible and not.  You’ll find biscuits, alcoholic mead, jams and other local beers and wines.

Mead from Lindisfarne is an alcoholic fortified wine made in the island from fermented white grapes, honey, herbs and water from a well on the island.  Mead has been produced commercially sold here since 1962.  Mead is one of our recommendations of what to buy and drink from Holy Island – find out what else to eat and drink in Northumberland here.

Visit St Mary’s Church on Holy Island

St Mary’s is the Parish Church of the island.  Some elements of the original Saxon church remain and the church also contains a wooden sculpture depicting how St Cuthbert’s coffin was carried to Durham from Holy Island following Viking raids.

Take a Walk on Holy Island

There are several signposted footpaths around and on Holy Island.  If you have just one day on Lindisfarne, then after exploring Lindisfarne Castle and the Lime Kilns we recommend continuing to the coast, turning left onto the coastal path and walking until you reach the first westbound path/track (marked Crooked Lonnen on Google) and then following it back to the village.  We always use the Ordnance Survey app on our phones when hiking in the UK, it allows downloads of maps and you don’t need to be online to use it and the Leisure Maps that track all the public foothpaths in the UK.

This is an easy circular route that will let you see a small part of the coast.  There are plenty of large rocks on the seashore to perch on for a picnic if the weather is pleasant.  Including the walk from the car park to the Castle and returning to the village this is just a 2-mile circular walk.

Walking on Holy Island

Map of Things to Do on Holy Island

How long to Spend on Holy Island

If you can plan your visit to Holy Island to catch the tides, then you can have a great long day on Holy Island and a single day on Lindisfarne is long enough for many visitors.  A day on Holy Island can easily take in visiting Lindisfarne Castle, Lindisfarne Priory, St Aidans’s Winery and St Mary’s Church as well as taking a walk around some parts of the island.

However, the magic of Holy Island is when all the day-trippers go home and when the tide meabans that you won’t see many visitors for a few days!  Exploring Holy Island at your leisure is a glorious way to experience one of the most stunning areas of Northumberland and England’s North East coast.  Don’t forget to spend time also in Bamburgh, a glorious village on the mainland from Holy Island.  It has, to my mind, the best beach in the world and here’s our list of our top 10 things to do in Northumberland.

Like English Islands?  You’ll love Mersea Island – an estuary island off the coast of Essex – find out the best things to do on Mersea Island here.

Final Words on the Best Things to do on Holy Island

A visit to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is high on the list of the top things to do in Northumberland England’s North East.  Holy Island has historic connections that are centuries old and a local that is second to none.  We hope that we’ve given you a flavour of what to do on Holy Island and at least some of the things to do on Holy Island pique your interest!  Whether you choose to come to Holy Island for a day or spend longer on Lindisfarne, you’ll find lots of explore and some of the most stunning coastal scenery in England.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *