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Holy Island

Holy Island is situated at the heart of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, which is an internationally important area for birds on migration and as winter quarters. The small village is dominated by the Priory where the beautiful Lindisfarne Gospels were written and Lindisfarne Castle stands alone to the east.


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, Lindisfarne Priory 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, greylag, pink-footed goose, wigeon, grey plover and bar-tailed godwit.). Visit Window on the Wild Lindisfarne on the road to the Castle for more information or download the NNR Nature Trail leaflet
  • Head for the Lookout Tower on the Heugh for panaromic views of the area.
  • 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.
  • Maroon yourself, when the tide comes in the island has a completely different feel.
  • Look out for:
    • upturned herring boats used for storage by local fishermen.
    • ‘refuge boxes’ for people caught by the tide!
    • 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
    • find out how it got separated from the mainland
    • find the oldest rocks on the island, north of ‘The Snook’, where the Eelwell Limestone is exposed at low tide
    • look for button-like segments of fossilized crinoids, known locally as ‘St Cuthbert’s Beads’.
  • 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 the safe crossing times before you travel.
  • These times do not apply if you are walking. This page tells you how to walk the Pilgrim's Way safely
  • The picturesque village is small but well stocked with cafes, shops, pubs and accommodation, visitors are asked not to park in the village.
  • 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.

Getting to Holy Island

Holy Island is only accessible by crossing a tidal causeway from the mainland. This causeway is only accessible at LOW TIDE. It is essential to check the safe crossing times before you travel.

By Bus

Because the causeway to Holy Island is tidal, the timetable changes virtually daily. Perrymans operate the 477 service between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Holy Island. Outside of the summer season this bus only operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays. During summer and Easter school holidays there is a twice-a-day Monday to Saturday service.

Single £4.50 Day Return £8.00 (Children under 16 half-fare)

477 Holy Island Timetable

Walking to Holy Island

Walking across the Pilgrim's route onto Holy Island is a very different walking experience and unlike any other country walk in Northumberland. We have provided advice about walking the Pilgrim's Way safely here.


Links


Downloads

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve Leaflet and Nature Trail

Further information

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve

As well as its many historic attractions, Holy Island is situated at the heart of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. Extensive dunelands, intertidal sand and mud flats, saltmarsh and ancient raised beaches support a wide variety of plant life and attract vast numbers of birds. Large numbers of shorebirds. Bar-Tailed Godwits,

Knots and Redshanks can be seen on the extensive mudflats in both spring and autumn whilst fields and gardens on the island gather large numbers of Thrushes and Warblers during migration times, especially autumn. In winter, the mudflats hold large populations of wildfowl including thousands of wigeon and a significant proportion of the world Light-Bellied Brent Goose population.

Lookout on Wild Lindisfarne

The Lookout Tower, a familiar Island landmark perched above the village on the outcrop of volcanic rock known as the Heugh, was built for use by the coastguard in the 1940s but had been disused for many years. Now the building has been transformed into a new observation point.

From its position on top of the heugh, the Lookout Tower's 'glass-room' provides a stunning panorama of Holy Island and a vantage point to see as far afield as The Farne Islands, the Cheviot Hills and the Berwickshire coast. For the first time it will also be possible for people on the Island to get a bird's eye view of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Window on Wild Lindisfarne

The Window on Wild Lindisfarne is a newly built, high quality viewing area and environmental education point overlooking the Rocket Field.
 
The Rocket Field, adjacent to Harbour Road between the village and Lindisfarne Castle, is noted for its variety of wildlife all year round and particularly in autumn and winter when large numbers of wildfowl and waders use the flooded fields.  A sympathetically designed building of natural stone with a living turf roof that will merge with the surrounding landscape is planned for the site. It will be a small-scale and multi-use building appropriate to the island that can be used by visitors and the local community.