Monday 16 June 2014

The Holy Island

Why would you be so desperate to leave Lindisfarne that you'd want to race the tide anyway? It's so pretty, and quiet, and so rewarding to poke around, as I have all day since crossing the causeway from Beal.

There's little St Mary's with its dramatic carving of St Cuthbert's bier, and next door the pink sandstone priory, wrecked by the Vikings way back around 873. Red valerian and orange poppies bloom along the walls, swallows darting, blackbirds singing, sheep baaing.

Beyond the little harbour where old upturned boats have been repurposed as sheds, the castle stands on its isolated outcrop, surrounded by lush grazing scattered with smug sheep and fat lambs. They can't get into the Gertrude Jekyll-designed walled garden with its cerise penstemons and blue irises, silver lamb's ear and pink granny's bonnets; and it seems they're not inclined to eat the rampant bidi bid - here called pirri pirri - that somehow got to the island from New Zealand. Oops.
The village is full of stone and rendered cottages with cliché roses over the doors and pots of pansies and marigolds under the windows. There are at least four pubs - The Ship's apple and blackberry crumble with custard is recommended - and just two shops, plus a little school that springs into action when the tide means the children can't get across to the mainland.

There's an honesty box on a table under a tree with a display of home-made 'Tit boxes, £5' - for the birds to nest in, you understand. It's still light past 10pm, there's no traffic noise, and I just saw a barn owl fly silently overhead as I wandered along a deserted lane. I wouldn't much mind if the causeway was permanently submerged.

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