Retreat 5: The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

‘Lindisfarne – baptised in the blood of so many good men – truly a ‘Holy Island’ ’

It took the best part of a day to journey up to Lindisfarne, the tiny island that sits off the picturesque coast of Northumbria.

I was fortunate enough to be driven up there, but arrived too late to catch the earlier crossing (before 13.45), and had to wait till 7.20 in the evening before making it onto the island.

Lindisfarne is known as a ‘now and then island’, governed by the moon and tides. Twice a day, for two spells of five hours, Lindisfarne is completely cut off from the mainland and becomes an island. It is small too, with a perimeter of eight miles, and stretching a mile by a mile-and-a-half.

When the causeway is open, the tourists come in their droves, and when it closes again with the tide, the tourists recede and a wonderful calm descends on the island. The contrast is remarkable – crowded shops and cafes one minute and the next everything is shut and there is hardly a soul in sight.

I spent three nights on Lindisfarne and fell in love with the place. I could have stayed for a month. The atmosphere reminded me a lot of Iona, where I had been a year-and-half before. Both are islands and take some getting to from London, but are also deeply spiritual places – ‘thin’ places as they are known – thin because there is a very small distance separating the earthy and spiritual realms.

Any less than three nights would have been too short. It takes time to slow down, to begin to appreciate what is around you, to step into the rhythm of life on the island, with its ebb and flow of the tide and people coming and going from the island.

The people coming here aren’t just tourists but pilgrims too who have walked the 60-mile Northern Cross pilgrimage route from Melrose.

My three days on Lindisfarne was my first island retreat, and also a mother-daughter retreat. I don’t spend enough quality time with my mum – and she loves, wild natural places so I thought this would be a perfect place to bring her.

The pilgrim posts on Lindisfarne

We stayed with the Open Gate Christian community and went to a 9pm service the first evening in an underground chapel beneath the retreat house – this was just after catching the sun set over the island.

Apart from being a pretty island with plenty of lovely beaches and lots of birds, the island has a fascinating history – home of Saints and scholars such as St Aiden and St Cuthbert, who helped spread Christianity throughout the country and the rest of the world. It was invaded by the Vikings in 793 and was given the name Holy Island by Benedictine monks in 1082 to commemorate the holy blood shed here.

There is a lot more to say here but this is just a flavour of some of the things I liked about the island. More to come!


One thought on “Retreat 5: The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

  1. I really loved reading this post. Brought back fond memeories of travelling there when a student at Durham. More please! Especially more about the history if possible… I think I may go back to visit. Thanks Penny

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