History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
One of the most photographed castles in England, and for good reason, Lindisfarne Castle rises from a high outcrop of basalt as if it was a natural, organic part of the rock. Though it looks every inch a perfect medieval fortress, Lindisfarne is actually a sympathetic 20th century restoration of a Tudor fort.
But Henry did not simply destroy the priory on Lindisfarne and leave the island alone. Shortly after the priory was dissolved, the king ordered a fort built on a high plug of rock to the north of the monastic buildings, overlooking the harbour, a rock known as Beblowe. There may have been a small lookout tower on the site before Henry decided to build there. Certainly the location seems perfect for controlling access to the harbour.
And so for centuries the castle slumbered on, and might have been lost to history if it were not for the efforts of one man. In 1902-3 Edward Hudson, founder of Country Life magazine, commissioned Arts and Crafts architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to convert the Elizabethan fort into a mock castle, adapting the garrison quarters into a house, and the Tudor cellars into a cosy suite of living rooms. Hudson wanted a comfortable residence far from the bustle of London life.
The result is unlike any English castle; quirky, almost bizarre, and utterly wonderful. The interiors feature original 16th century vaulted passages, but many interior features that look original are actually sympathetic mock-Tudor designs introduced by Lutyens to mimic the feel if not the actuality of the 16th century building. So you will find Tudor fireplaces, wood pannelled rooms, latched doors, decorative brick flooring and moulded roof beams, all made to look Tudor - and doing a very good job it must be said!
What we see today is only part of Hudson's grand plans for the site. He intended to build a large gatehouse and water garden, but these plans were never implemented. The castle was only used as a residence for some 70 years before it was gifted to the nation. It is now in the care of the National Trust.
Before the gates of the castle are a series of upturned boats that have been converted into huts - one of the most frequently photographed features of the castle. At busy times (i.e. summer) there are often crowds of people waiting to take a photo of the boats!
A short walk from the base of the rock on which the castle stands is a small walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll, which makes a lovely refuge on a hot summer's day - I speak from experience! This was originally a vegetable garden for the fort's garrison, but Jekyll transformed it into a lovely, if small, garden space. It has been fully restored by the National Trust, using Jekyll's original plans and planting scheme.
NOTE ... NOTE ... NOTE ... Please check tide times!
Any visit to Holy Island begins and ends with the vagaries of the tide. The causeway is only open when low tide permits vehicles to cross safely, and these times are posted at the mainland end of the causeway and on the official website for the castle and priory, and the island. There are large car parks near the harbour, but access to the castle is by a relatively level walk of a mile, or by catching a shuttle bus service from near the priory. Details of all transportation and walking routes are clearly signposted, and its a lot simpler than it sounds. The castle access ramp is pretty steep, though short.
Lindisfarne is open seasonally, meaning it is usually closed during the winter months, so its a good idea to check the National Trust website for opening dates. There are very limited facilities on the castle site, but there is a National Trust shop in the village and essentials like food and a loo!
Summing up Lindisfarne Castle
I loved visiting Holy Island. There is something about the place, something almost magical. It is rather 'touristy' as much of the island's economy seems to be focussed on people visiting the priory and castle, but its still a wonderful place to visit. But please don't think of visiting Lindisfarne Castle in isolation - it is just part of the whole 'Holy Island experience', with the priory, historic church, and the lovely coastal nature reserve and beaches to enjoy.
About Lindisfarne Castle
Address: Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England, TD15 2SH
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: NOTE: Holy Island is accessible by causeway at low tide ONLY. Tide schedules are posted in local newspapers and at the end of the causeway. Please check before making a special trip here.
Website: Lindisfarne Castle
Phone: 01289 389244
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: NU137 418
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
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Tudor (Time Period) -
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Lindisfarne Priory - 0.7 miles (Abbey)
Lindisfarne - 1 miles (Countryside)
Bamburgh Castle - 4.9 miles (Castle)
St Cuthbert's Cave - 6.2 miles (Countryside)
Farne Islands - 6.2 miles (Countryside)
Preston Tower - 10.5 miles (Historic Building)
Chillingham Castle - 10.9 miles (Castle)
Berwick-upon-Tweed Barracks and Main Guard - 11 miles (Historic Building)
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