I visited Holy Island or Lindisfarne on my very first visit to England. It is on a long peninsula connected to the mainland by a causeway of sand flats. It is possible to drive or walk out to the island on the causeway (2 3/4 miles), but at high tide, this link is cut and the island becomes remote, peaceful, mysterious and very romantic. Visitors must be careful to check the tide schedule before crossing over...or plan on staying the night on Lindisfarne. I checked the tide schedule at Alnwick just south of Holy Island, at the local Tourist Information Centre.

King Oswald of Northumbria selected Lindisfarne as the site for a monastery and sent St. Aidan from Iona to convert the locals in AD 634. It was destroyed by the Danes in AD 793. The monks who lived here wrote and illuminated the great books called the Lindisfarne Gospels which now reside in the British Library in London, to the annoyance of some Northumbrians.

Northumberland's patron saint, St. Cuthbert, was a monk and then abbot of the Lindisfarne Monastery, and later became bishop of Lindisfarne. St Cuthbert, is now buried at Durham Cathedral.

In 1089 a Benedictine priory was founded on Lindisfarne and continued until its suppression in 1536 under Henry VIII. This magnificent church still survives. The castle was built in the 16th century and was lovingly rebuilt in 1902 by Edwin Lutyens. It is now owned by the National Trust.

Lindisfarne is also a nature reserve where large numbers of wildfowl and wading birds feed. The photo opportunities were plentiful and the colours created by the setting sun against the natural landscape were impressive. I brought my coloured pencils and sketch pad. My interest in King Arthur drew me here, as Bamburgh, just south of Holy Island was the family home of Lancelot, King Arthur's tragic knight. Bamburgh is a natural fortress and was the Celtic stronghold, of a tribe called Votadini.

It's Celtic name is Din Guayrdi. As you approach the castle on the A1 it is a romantic vision which lies against the sea like a picture book. On closer inspection, it has a ruggedness which leaves no doubt that this castle was built as a fortress. Holy Island was the first place I stayed after leaving London, and it left a lasting impression on me...waking up in the morning and seeing this beautiful castle outside my B&B window, well, I never saw the likes in Pittsburgh. It was everything I ever imagined England would be.

If you check out the graveyards in Bamburgh and Lindisfarne, you will find the name Lancelot on many a tombstone. Most people seemed to have died in various seafaring accidents, and the dreadful stories are written in stone. The coast has a dangerous history. If you are interested in the REAL story of King Arthur and the history of Arthur in Scotland and Lancelot in Bamburgh read Norma Goodrich's book titled "King Arthur". I stayed at a B&B overnight, and although I never usually make reservations I did call from Alnwick just to insure that space was available, cause once your there, you're stuck if the tide comes in. I bought some lovely, no great, Honey Wine and honey on the island. It was a peaceful introduction to the rest of England, after a hectic week in London.

A view of the castle from the road.
A view of the village of Lindisfarne.
The graveyard at the priory ruins.
Bamburgh Castle, the home of Lancelot, south of Lindisfarne along the coast.
Visit the website of the National Trust to find out more about Lindisfarne, England's Holy Island.

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