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Backpacking Locations: Lindisfarne Abbey - Holy Island - England

Updated on January 1, 2012
Lindisfarne Abbey itself... Or what's left of it
Lindisfarne Abbey itself... Or what's left of it

When I last traveled to England in the summer of 2010, on my first real hitchhiking adventure, one location I absolutely had to see was Lindisfarne Abbey, situated on Holy Island, in North East England. One of the most unique aspects about this island, is that the roadway leading to the small village in the interior, is only accessible via a causeway that is covered by tidal waters much of the time. I have never seen an under water road before, so that was just another interesting aspect of the journey.

My main motivation to visit this ancient location, however, was that this very island, and the very abbey I was to journey to, was where the first viking raids of 793 AD took place, ushering in a new era of fear for Christianity on the British Isles. Personally, I feel connected to my ancestry, half of which stems from Northern Scotland, and from further back, Scandinavia. Walking on the same ground that some of my ancestors possibly invaded hundreds of years ago, was much too exciting to pass up. Even if I had no relation, the vikings were just an immensely interesting people as it was.


The tidal causeway

Ridge from the causeway
Ridge from the causeway
The village on the island
The village on the island
It's much easier to walk across the beach, than to follow the road. Feels good on your bare feet!
It's much easier to walk across the beach, than to follow the road. Feels good on your bare feet!

How to get there

For backpackers and hitchhikers, there is a bus from Berwick-Upon-Tweed that goes directly to the village on Holy Island, which is by far the best way to get there if you don't have a vehicle. You can also catch the bus where the Lindisfarne causeway meets the A1. The only thing foot travelers need to worry about, in this regard, is that buses aren't running frequently all week, but run on select days, which are then dictated by the tide, and when the causeway to the island is covered. Bus times, as well as tidal hours in general, are posted on this website:

http://www.lindisfarne.org.uk/general/hibus.htm

This should save many a lot of trouble. I only did basic preliminary research on this trip before I set out from Edinburgh for the day, so I made this trip on a day where the Lindisfarne bus wasn't running. Being a hitchhiker and backpacker, though, I decided to take the bus that runs from Berwick-Upon-Tweed, to the the town of Beal (The information for this bus is also on the site provided above). Beal sits on the exit from the main A1 highway, and is the beginning of the Lindisfarne Causeway. I figured if I couldn't hitchhike to the island, I could still walk it within a reasonable amount of time.

The walk up the Lindisfarne Causeway is enjoyable. The surrounding area is farmland, and the one ridge you must walk up gives you a commanding view of the area on your approach to the island, letting you glimpse the whole of the Causeway, as well as the distant structures on the island. It took me about an hour or so to reach the causeway itself, and another hour or two to reach the main village on the island. Rather than follow the road completely, however, I took off my boots and walked directly across the very expansive beach, at low tide (the map below is a good indicator on how big the beach is at low tide).

The village and the Abbey itself

The village does have some permanent residents, as opposed to a village of purely shops and tourist attractions. When I climbed up from the beach, after my walk, I ended up in someones backyard. This was preferable than climbing up to a cheap tourist restaurant; in fact most of the island keeps an air of originality about it, save for a few modest touristy shops. I didn't spend any time looking through the shops, however, as I was there to visit the ruins, and shops are just shops.

The abbey itself doesn't appear to be one of the main attractions, however. There is a small building nearby, with assorted artifacts, and useful information on the history of the abbey and island in general, but it was easy to tell that most tourists wanted to see the nearby castle, or look through the shops. Fortunately for me, this meant I basically had the entire ruin to myself.

The abbey is made completely out of a red stone. There is no roofing left, just the massive walls, pillars, and emptiness of a place worn away by time. I believe that after the abbeys' last destruction, many of the bricks were used to reinforce the nearby castle. Even one brick would have been enough for me - it's the history that matters. I was able to toast a beer to my viking ancestors without any complaint, and as a nearby storm rumbled in, I have to say it was purely an awesome experience.

I didn't have time to go to the castle, unfortunately I still had to get back to the highway, and reach my train within a couple of hours. Time limits are your worst enemy on adventures like this. I had seen what I came to see, however, and was more than satisfied.

Conclusion

Lindisfarne Abbey is a unique site on Englands North Eastern coastline. It is ground zero of the Viking age in the British Islands, and for reasons already stated, has a special place in my heart. For history lovers, photographers, wandering vagabonds, or someone who simply wants to see a tidal causeway, Lindisfarne is one of the more unforgettable locations.

For those wondering, I was able to hitchhike off the island within five minutes of sticking out my thumb. The amount of tourists that visit the island is enough to make it very easy.

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    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Wow! What a beautiful place! Now, I want to go there...along with the thousands of other places around the world that I want to visit. :D But Lindisfarne Abbey is now one of them. Thanks for sharing!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Great piece of writing. If I ever reach the Islands there, I think I'd like to visit those ruins myself. Nice photos too, cheers!

    • tonyfischer profile image

      Tony Fischer 5 years ago from Southeastern Michigan

      Simply awesome! Beautiful pics of a great adventure. I will look forward to reading your hubs as I love the outdoors but have been a little stuck at home related to my toddlers at home. We do get a chance to go on nature walks though and I look forward to hiking with my boys when they are old enough. Nice work!

    • Rain Defence profile image

      Rain Defence 5 years ago from UK

      This is an excellent hub, thanks a lot. I remember watching a program about this place a while ago. I've always been interested in the Viking and Roman invasions. I don't know that too many of todays people that live in the UK know that there is a very good chance that they are descended from one or the other.

      My friend clearly has viking roots and it has been mentioned before by us about what a horny viking must've have shared with his great great great great grandmother!

      Anyway I can drive to Lindisfarne relatively easily in a couple of hours and have now put it on the list of places to visit.

      There are loads of interesting places in England and the rest of the UK with history, I will try and share something like this on here myself in the future.

    • OutsideYourWorld profile image
      Author

      OutsideYourWorld 5 years ago from Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada

      Thanks again davenmidtown! I was in Scotland for quite a while actually, but there is just so much to see. I'll likely be heading up there again, though, so i'll add that to my list.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      An awesome adventure and a beautiful hub. If you should get the chance to venture into Scotland... visit the Melrose Abby. These two are linked... but I shant say how... That my adventuring friend... is for you to find out. Voted up and awesome.. and I shall share with my gang.

    • OutsideYourWorld profile image
      Author

      OutsideYourWorld 5 years ago from Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada

      Thank you very much for the feedback :)

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thank you! This is wonderful, I love the photos.