The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

When we are backpacking, it takes us an hour and a half to wake up, get up, have breakfast and a cup of tea, pack everything away and get walking. The walking day usually starts at 7.30.

Staying in Colin and day-walking is a far lazier business, with the morning routine (which always involves two cups of tea in bed) usually taking two and a half hours. As well as breakfast, it involves reading books, making lunch and (sometimes) putting the evening meal in the slow cooker before we go out.

Today’s walk required an earlier start and a curtailed amount of lazing, as the road over to Holy Island is a tidal causeway, and (not knowing how long we would be on the island) we thought it best to maximise the time available to us by crossing at the earliest available time (which was 0855 today – and our starting point was a couple of miles away from the crossing).

It took us a couple of hours to get to the priory, which lies right at the furthest side of the island, and it was there, behind St Mary’s Church, that we declared an early elevensies. A sheltered spot would have been nice, but the wind was such that it seemed to be whipping even into corners that should have afforded shelter.

We didn’t go inside of the priory, but did enjoy a view down onto it from the old coastguard lookout station (the photo’s a bit fuzzy, because it was taken through salt-streaked double glazing).


It was obvious that the wind had really picked up whilst we were in the lookout, and for the next half an hour or so it became difficult to walk in a straight line, never mind hold a camera still, as we walked over to the castle.


Upturned boat hulls, repurposed as storage units

The castle looks rather impressive from the front (and that’s not a bad coloured sky, is it?):


It’s rather less attractive from the back, which is where we headed next, although my resolve to do a circuit of the island was wavering given the windy conditions. However, by the time we were behind the castle, it was going to be difficult to battle the wind to get back whether we did an about turn there, or whether we continued with the planned route, so continue we did – now battling mud as well as a side-wind.

From the priory to the castle we were amongst throngs of people. There were quite a few around for the next kilometre beyond that too, but as we continued the numbers tailed off until, beyond the advertised ‘nature trail’ walk, we saw no-one bar a dog-walker at The Snook car park.

Contrary to my original thought that we would have to walk back along the road, it was perfectly possible to find a way through the dunes.


It added a bit of ascent to the day and saw us wiggle around quite a bit as we relied on following our noses rather than using any meaningful method of navigation. It did the job nicely, though, as we popped back out on the road just a matter of paces away from the causeway.


Well, the wind! We were head-on into it as we walked back over to the mainland. Moreover, the wind had blown water onto the road and was whipping the splashes from passing cars straight across to our side of the road, causing a few power-marches to get past the most flooded areas before cars came.


It was a lovely outing in increasingly fine weather (bar the wind). It came out at smack on 14 miles with a known couple of hundred feet of ascent, but an unknown amount of dune-climbing to add to that.


  1. Did you not walk across the sands by the Pilgrim's Trail following the ancient posts?!

    The walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll is also well worth a visit

    1. As most of the posts (of those which remain) were sitting in an unknown depth of water, it seemed that the causeway was the better option!

  2. Wow, i would never have thought that was 14 miles. I do believe you btw. I walked that many moons ago and i never checked the distance. It was hellishly windy that day too. In fact i don’t recall a calm day on that coast, ever.

    1. The question is whether you started from Brockmills Farm (or similar) which gives a four-mile round trip before even setting foot on the causeway? If so, it seems that you did walk 14 miles as that's the number on which both the Garmin Gadget and some map plotting agreed.

    2. Hi Gayle. We were on the camp site a bit further up the coast, so in relation to Brockmills we probably did a couple of miles more. I was much fitter then.