things to do on holy island

The Best Things To Do On Holy Island

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.

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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 for 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.


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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 to Holy Island (and back) 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 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.

Take a locally guided tour of Holy Island

If your time here is limited and you want to get the best out of the places and locations, then you can take a guided tour to visit the best of Holy Island. You don’t need your own transport, as this includes pick up from your hotel or holiday cottage. You’ll also get to visit Bamburgh, take a guided tour around Bamburgh Castle, St Aiden’s Church in Bamburgh – see the grave of Grace Darling, and then head to Holy Island – famous for both the Lindisfarne Gospels and being one of the first locations in the United Kingdom to be attacked by the Vikings. Known as the cradle of English Christianity, recognizing the monastery’s importance in the Dark Ages. All with a local, historical commentary. Sound good? You’ll also have an included lunch in Bamburgh! There’s more details and booking information here!

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 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

Car Parking on Holy Island

As most people visit Holy island by car, Holy Island parking can become full. Parking on Lindisfarne for day visitors is strictly in the Lindisfarne car park for visitors.

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 at the Holy Island Car Park 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. Or it is an easy, but flat walk that takes about 20 minutes.

It is about half a mile from Lindisfarne parking to the Holy Island Priory. Again this is flat and easy walking.

Parking costs on Holy Island are as follows:

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

When we’re travelling by car we lock our valuables in the boot of the car inside our portable travel safe.

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 out 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 it’s 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 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.  There are more options of our favourite places to stay on Holy Island here, but as super, short list, 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.

Holiday Cottages and Self-Catering on Holy Island

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding cottages on Holy Island. Here are our favourite Holy Island cottages and Holy Island self-catering options.

Deja Blue Cottage Holy Island – Sleeps 6

This 18th Century cottage is steeped in history and charm and is one of the oldest houses on Holy Island with modern features.

Deja Blue is located at the heart of the village. Enjoy the warming log-burning stove with your loved ones. Beaches and places of historical interest are nearby. Book your stay at Deja Blue Now!

Visit Lindisfarne Castle – Holy Island Castle

Lindisfarne Castle Holy Island 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.

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 garden here is glorious and is included in our guide to Northumberland’s Best Gardens.

National-Trust-Lindisfarne-Castle

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 Holy Island Castle 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 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.  You’ll buy Lindisfarne Priory tickets from the visitor centre on the right before you get to the priory date.

Northumberlands Best Lindisfarne Priory

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 Northumberland 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.

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.

Lindisfarne wine or Mead from Lindisfarne is an alcoholic fortified wine made on 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. You’ll find St Mary’s Church just a little further along from the Holy Island priory.

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 footpaths in the UK.

Plan your route using the Ordnance Survey OS Maps app – easy to use and you can download the map data to your phone. Try a free trial for a week or buy monthly.

Walking-on-Holy-Island

Map of Things to Do on Holy Island

Click on the image, or click here to see our map of things to do on Holy Island in more detail.

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 Aidan’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 means 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 the list of our top 10 things to do in Northumberland.

Places to visit near Holy Island

If you’re spending your visit on Holy Island, and taking a Lindosfarn holiday cottage for the ultimate flexibility and then want to explore the area around Holy Island, this part of the country really is glorious.  Here are some of the best options on what to do near Lindisfarne.

Visit the Farne Islands

The Farne Islands are one of the most stunning places to visit near Holy Island.  You’ll need to head to Seahouses to visit the Farne Islands, but it is well worth the trip.  There are more than 15 islands that make up this wildlife area – trips run from Seahouses and circle the islands with some trips landing on the islands, including a visit to the Longstone Lighthouse. 

Northumberlands Best The Farne Islands Lighthouse

There are great varieties of seabird life here and even if you’re not a birder this is a stunning trip to make. 

Visit Kielder Water and Forest Park from Holy Island

Kielder Water and Forest Park – here you’ll find the largest forest in England, fabulous outdoor activities, and some stunning trails for walking, cycling, and horse-riding. Kielder is also home to a Dark Skies Observatory for stargazing. You’ll find native red squirrels here, ospreys, deer, and water voles.  There’s fishing here, as well as sailing, canoeing, and water skiing.  Spend some time at Kielder Water and Forest Park – it’s an amazing place to explore the great outdoors.

Visit Bamburgh and Bamburgh Castle from Holy Island

This for me is the best of what to do near Holy Island. There’s a stunning castle, fabulous village cricket in the centre, and a superb museum about the heroine of the area, Grace Darling.  Bamburgh is one of the easiest places to visit near Holy Island. . A visit to Bamburgh Castle can take most of the day, so pack a picnic, or head to the tea room there for lunch – check out what else to do in Bamburgh here.  Bamburgh also has one of the best beaches near Holy Island.

Visit Alnwick from Holy Island

Alnwick is the market town of Northumberland – it’s famous for its castle – which you may have seen in the Harry Potter film franchise or Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, and its glorious castle gardens. Alnwick is also the place where you can dine in the Olympic Suite at the White Swan Hotel – it’s essentially the decoration (and there’s also a staircase too!) from the sister ship of RMS Titanic! Read more in our guide on things to do in Alnwick!

Final Words on the Best Things to do on Lindisfarne

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 to explore and some of the most stunning coastal scenery in England.

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