Sunday, 24 July 2016

Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Well, I didn't mean to leave such a gap between posts but, what with the weather being so glorious, I just haven't felt like being in front of a screen. However, I do want to finish recording our holiday to have something to look back on, so let's journey back to June (!) in Northumberland.

Last time I took you to Dunstanburgh Castle and I have another castle for you today. Lindisfarne Castle sits high on an outcrop of whinstone rock on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, I've always known the island as Lindisfarne but, locally, it seems more commonly known as Holy Island. It's reached by a causeway which is flooded at high tide so I'd carefully checked the tide times to work out the best day for a visit: Thursday it was.

What surprised me first was how big the island is and that there's also a small village. The vision in my head had always been limited to the castle, though I did know there was a ruined priory on the island too.

Lindisfarne has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. St Aidan founded the monastery in AD635 though it's St Cuthbert who was its most celebrated inhabitant. The remaining ruins of the priory church date from the 1100s. We did wander across but didn't go inside. You can see a lot of the ruins from the outside though there's also a visitor centre.

Next door is the the parish church of St Mary the Virgin which is reputed to stand on the site of the original monastery founded by St Aidan. My favourite part was this statue, The Journey, by Dr Fenwick Lawson, depicting the monks carrying St Cuthbert to his final resting place in Durham Cathedral.

We didn't linger though as we were eager to continue our journey over to the castle.

There's a tradition in the area of using old herring boats as sheds and these examples have been much photographed.

I was intrigued by the tall obelisks standing out in the bay. Later I discovered they're navigation beacons, East and West Old Law, one of which is still in use.

Further along the coast in the distance is Bamburgh Castle which we planned to visit later that day.

Getting closer now and the sound of the bagpipes draws us on. To be authentic he really should have been playing the Northumbrian pipes. If you're interested you can see Kathryn Tickell playing 'Lads of Alnwick' on them here, though they're a bit of an acquired taste in my opinion!

Before heading into the castle itself, we made our way over to the far end of the island to investigate the 'cairns'.

The structure with the arched entrances is the old lime kilns.

Now to the castle itself. Built in the 1550s using stones from the demolished priory, it was in use for many years as a fort and look-out. After being abandoned, it was bought in 1901 by Edward Hudson who turned it into a holiday home.

He employed Gertrude Jekyll to create a garden...

...and the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, to renovate and decorate it.

It seemed a lovely, cosy, comfortable spot but not all visitors felt that way. Lytton Strachey described it as 'very dark, with nowhere to sit, and nothing but stone under, over and round you'!

View from the top looking back to the village and priory.

There was so much more we could have seen and explored but the turning of the tide was getting closer and the lure of Bamburgh and its castle was too strong. And that's where we're headed next :)

Hope you're enjoying your weekend. We're taking my Dad to see the new Star Trek movie later: 'Live long and prosper' my friends! x

Friday, 8 July 2016

Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle

Today, another of my Northumberland posts. On what was actually the Monday of our week's holiday, we headed over to the coast. We parked in the small fishing village of Craster and walked along the path towards Dunstanburgh Castle.

It was built in the early 14th century but didn't survive sieges during the Wars of the Roses. By 1550 it was recorded as being "in wonderfull great decaye".

It's still an impressive sight even in ruins. We had free entry with our National Trust membership so went inside to explore.

I was mesmerised by all the wildflowers growing on the walls...

...and the many Green-Veined White butterflies. They kept me entertained for ages as I chased up and down trying to get a shot.

There were lots of birds too: a Meadow Pipit perched on top of the wall with a beak full of snacks for its family.

Further along we had our first views of the north side of the coast looking towards the golden sands of Embleton Bay.

Below us were steep-sided cliffs, home to nesting seabirds such as...


...and razorbills. There were lots of them on the sea and posing on the rocks.

Another view over towards Embleton Bay: it was a shame we didn't have time to walk all the way over to the sands.

Back in the castle, this is Lilburn Tower, named after John de Lilburn, one of the constables of the castle in the early 1300s. It's believed he oversaw the completion of the tower. Originally it had three storeys with a single room on each floor and would have been accommodation for the soldiers.

Inside the tower we could hear tweeting above our heads and spotted a young swallow peeping over a ledge waiting for its parents to return with food.

A Wall butterfly sunning itself.

I think this is the remains of John of Gaunt's gatehouse, dating from the 1380s. John, who was both the son and father of a king of England, owned this and several other castles at the time.

Pied wagtail

View from the top of the main tower

Leaving the castle, we circled the base of the mound it sits on, heading north. From here we could get a better view of the cliffs where all the kittiwakes and razorbills were perched.

We walked a little way before retracing our steps back to Craster.

Reed bunting

Piper's Pitch next to the visitor centre has been serving food here for 10 years. We chose to have two of his most popular items: the famous Craster kipper 'n' bun and an Auchtermuchty (haggis and bacon). Plus the best cup of tea we'd tasted all week. Delicious.

Tummies satisfied, it was time for a quick stroll around Craster itself before heading home to the cottage.

Eider ducks

These dark, flat rocks are part of the Whin Sill which was formed over 295 million years ago from molten rock.

I could have stayed there all afternoon watching the waves crashing.

This was probably my favourite day of our holidays. Any day by the sea would be up there but I loved the rugged coastline, the history and all the wildlife. I'd love to go back there one day and explore some of the nature reserves further up the coast.

Before I go, a quick update on the baby grebes. Both are growing fast and I've seen one of them starting to dive as if searching for food. The parents seem to be have divided the care and are looking after one each. It's all looking very positive for them surviving to adulthood :)

Have a great weekend everyone. Oh, and GO Andy Murray!! x