My Holy Island Circular Walk is a 6 mile hike around scenic Holy Island, home to the famous Lindisfarne Castle.
Historic Holy Island is one of Northumberland’s most visited tourist sites. It is a tidal island, meaning that it can only be reached by car at low tide. The causeway linking it to the mainland is underwater during high tide. You can check for safe crossing times on the Northumberland County Council website.
Highlights of the Holy Island Circular Walk
For my hike I parked at The Snook car park which is located at the skinny western side of the island. This area is part of the 4,000 hectare Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve which, in the words of Natural England, is ‘an ever-changing landscape of sand-dunes, mudflats and coastline constantly re-shaped by sea, wind and time’. Alternatively you could park at the main Holy Island Car Park. These are the only places on the island where non-residents are allowed to park.
From The Snook there is a short path through some sand dunes before emerging onto one of the widest beaches you will ever see (at low tide) which appears to go for miles.
As you can see the beach is not too crowded.
The sand-dunes have been plagued by an invasive plant originally from New Zealand called the pirri-pirri bur with sticky spines which like to hook on to clothing and the fur of your dog and can easily be spread to other sites and harm our native wildlife. If you visit during the months of July-October you may have to spend hours de-burring your dog but when I went in March there was no sign of it.
Another plague was this pile of rubbish dumped amid the dunes and spoiling the normally pristine beaches of Northumberland. I was a bit mystified by this dump. How did it get to this difficult-to-access spot and who could have dumped it? It included household items like Cillit Bang limescale cleaner, not something you would take on a picnic. There were crab pots used by fishermen and cans of strong and cheap white cider of the sort favoured by alcoholics. I think the culprit might be a drunken, house-proud fisherman.
The walk continues to a lovely sandy bay with cliffs which are home to numerous seabirds. The island is frequented by wintering waterfowl who feed on sea grasses and marine creatures. Pale bellied brent goose, widgeon and bar-tailed godwits are among the species found here.
Evidence of former mining activity, probably lime, can be seen nearby.
Another calm beach. In summer the salt marshes burst into flower with ten species of orchid recorded on Holy Island.
On the headland is a white brick pyramid, about 25 feet high, called Emmanuel Head built around 1810 to aid navigation in these waters where shipwrecks were common.
From Emmanuel Head, the trail turns south along the rocky east coast of the island, shown here with Lindisfarne Castle in the background.
Farming, tourism and fishing are the main activities on the island today. There are a number of tourist attractions on Holy Island including Lindisfarne Castle, Lindisfarne Priory, the Heritage Centre and St. Aidan’s Winery. I’ll write about these on another day.
These wooden posts mark the walking route over the sands and mud from Holy Island back to the mainland. This is the Pilgrim’s route and for those interested in following in the footsteps of medieval saints and pilgrims this is supposed to be a great experience. Since it would almost certainly mean getting wet feet I think I will save this adventure until the weather gets warmer, if ever.
With light fading and the end of the safe crossing time approaching I walked back to my start point alongside the causeway road. There is no real footpath here and quite a few cars on the road but it is safe enough, though not for this poor deer which presumably was hit by an inattentive motorist.
Lindisfarne Heritage Centre
St. Aidan’s Winery