Thursday 7th. November, 2013 – A Visit to Holy Island 

St. Aiden smiles kindly at Mum

Awoke, showered, walked the dog and breakfasted before loading Mum, Cathy, Rachel, Mix and Rowan into the car and driving to Holy Island. We arrived there just before eleven and discovered that we had almost a four-hour window to cross the causeway and enjoy the island. In fact we didn’t use all of that time partly because the island was incredibly windy (Mum was left clinging to a lamppost) and partly because most things were closed because the season had obviously ended at the 31st. October. However we walked into the village and saw the Church of St. Mary which is next to the remains of the old Saxon Church and the remains of the Priory which is now looked after by English Heritage.

Inside the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin

The parish church stands on the site of the wooden church built by St. Aiden in 635 AD and it was this church which during the Anglo-Saxon period was replaced by a small stone church. It was the Benedictine monks of Durham who established this as the parish church in the twelfth century. Since the Reformation the church has been an Anglican one. Outside the priory is a statue of St. Aiden – I had initially confused it with St. Cuthbert because of his association with this place. In fact, inside the church there is a sculpture in elm called ‘The Journey’ which shows six monks taking St. Cuthbert’s body from the island on a journey across the north during the time of the Viking raids.

The leaflet in the church says that the famous saints associated with the island are Aiden, an Irish monk and remarkable missionary from Iona who founded the monastery and a school on Lindisfarne; and Cuthbert, a solitary leader and healer who struggled with the conflict between demands of the world and his calling – but there is also a bust of King Olaf of Norway who sent a letter apologising for the Viking raids which terrorised so much of this part of Britain.

A view of the Castle from the Priory ruins

We also saw a facsimile of the Londisfarne Gospels and admired the Reredos with pictures of Columba, Oswald, Aidan, Wilfrid, Cuthbert and Bede. Outside the little church the wind was blowing and we all helped each other back to the car, noticing on the way the sign outside the National Trust Shop telling us that the castle was closed. We drove as near as we could so that we could get a look at the castle and then set off for Bamburgh again aiming for the castle.

Inside the Barn at Beal -- well worth a visit

On the way we stopped at the Barn at Beal, a rather splendid restaurant for walkers and holiday makers. We were served an excellent meal (I had scampi and chips) and then we continued on our way to Bamburgh Castle. This castle too was closed – off season it is only open at the weekends – but we were able to walk around it and get a good look at it from the outside. It is so familiar not least from all of the many films in which it has appeared. (We passed the Lord Crewe Arms where Rachel and I stayed during our honeymoon.) From here we drove to Seahouses, seven miles south of Bamburgh. Mum had stayed here for a week with Dad when they were at Galashiels and came to visit their Boy’s Brigade camp.

A view of the Farne Islands from Bamburgh Castle

Having toured Seahouses – it seemed larger and more prosperous than I remembered – we drove back to Mount Pleasant. It is really good having so many places so near to where we now live.

Olive had returned from her teaching at Dundee and we all dined together in the evening. Then, Cathy and Mum came over to the Granary and we watched ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ and an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ (one of my father’s favourites) while we had tea, coffee, snowballs and wagon wheels for supper. It had been a really good day.


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