Earlier this month during our stay at Feather Down, Northumberland, we were keen to discover more of the area as it’s a part of the country we have never visited before. Located at Seahouses, Feather Down is just a short drive away from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and despite the weather being atrocious (think torrential rain and gale force winds) we decided to put on our raincoats and wellies and brave it.
Holy Island is accessed via the causeway which is cut off twice a day by the tide, so if you’re planning a visit it’s best to check the tide times. The main car park is quite a walk from the castle but not too far from the village, so it wasn’t too far for us to make a dash for it before we could shelter in the nearest cafe.
I’m not going to lie to you, especially considering it was June, it was cold! By the time we made it to the nearest cafe we had lost all feeling in our fingers and as we tried to warm up with a hot chocolate I did question whether we were crazy to even attempt the walk up to the castle. But then again, we’ve never let a bit of rain get in the way of our fun before!
After warming up and feeding the troops we were all set for the walk to the castle and, with the wind behind us, we were excited to tick off another National Trust site off our ever growing list.
In the opposite direction you can visit the Priory and the Priory Museum, both of which were recommended to us by others, and hopefully next time we visit we can return to do these too. The village of Lindisfarne is lovely and in the sunshine I’m sure we would have loved to get an ice cream and sit out enjoying the views, but with the rain getting worse we needed to get a move on!
The Holy Island originally got its name because of the important part it played in the story of bringing the Christian gospel to England. Lindisfarne became the base for Christian evangelism in the North of England with the Priory encouraging Monks to travel to, and settle, on the island. It is actually really interesting to read about the origin of Holy Island and the part is has played in the history of Christianity. I can imagine for those who have Christian faith that Lindisfarne is a very special island.
Lindisfarne castle was built in 1550, around the time that Lindisfarne Priory went out of use, and stones from the priory were used as building material. It is very small by the usual standards, and was actually more of a fort. The castle sits on the highest point of the island, a whinstone hill called Beblowe.
In 1901 it became the property of Edward Hudson, a publishing magnate and the owner of Country Life magazine who came across it while exploring Northumberland and jumped over the wall to explore inside. He later renovated the castle and it was used as a holiday home. The castle, gardens and nearby lime kilns have been in the care of the National Trust since 1944 and just last year it was extensively renovated.
Since we joined the National Trust last October we have enjoyed some of the most fantastic days out and, for a small monthly fee, have been able to visit attractions such as this entirely free of charge. As a family of six it has been a God send and I can’t believe we haven’t done it sooner!
Following the renovations last year, Lindisfarne castle is still relatively unfurnished although it was lovely to see so many of the original features. On entering the castle the children were given a quiz to complete during our visit which they loved and it kept their interest over the next couple of hours.
In the kitchen the children loved looking through a war ration book and learning more about life as a soldier. As bonus points in the quiz the children had challenges to do, such as to try on the apron in the kitchen or spotting hidden numbers engraved into the walls.
Although some of the upstairs rooms were empty, I thought it was such a fun idea to have the children draw pictures of how they would furnish each room on their quiz sheet. It was a great way to get them to use their imaginations, something which I strive to do as a parent.
No matter how many castles we have visited over the years, I still get excited each time we visit a new one, and it’s amazing to take it all in and imagine those who have passed through the same doors over the years. We talked about that a lot as a family during our visit, with the girls insisting, as they always do, that Rapunzel had lived here for certain!
In another of the rooms the children could design a postcard to show what had brought them to Lindisfarne castle that day. Whilst Harry drew a T-Rex to fill the entire page, Eva meticulously drew a castle scene with Princesses and flying unicorns to then peg up and leave to be displayed.
Megan was excited to discover an old camera as part of the display which she promptly picked up and told us, “Say cheese!”. I think all of our children share our love of photography and as she “snapped” away with Eva I wondered if one day they would follow in our footsteps with the blog!
Whilst the children continued to work on their quiz, Gaz and I were able to enjoy the current exhibition called ‘Now you see me’ which runs until 3 November and includes stories from the previous five centuries of the castle’s history.
In the final room upstairs we discovered a music room, with the best views looking out across the island. It was lovely to sit down for a moment, listen to the music, and answer the last question on the quiz – how does the music make you feel? “Happy!” said Eva, “Sleepy!” said Megan, “A bit jiggly and wiggly!” said Harry.
Outside the rain momentarily stopped so we could venture out to see the view more clearly. We could see the Obelisks below, a pair of 70 ft tall stone structures with lights fixed about a third of the way up to mark the approach of the harbour.
As we made our way back downstairs to leave the castle one of the members of staff asked the children if they had seen the castle’s fairy, which we hadn’t. Hidden up the chimney was a special little fairy which the children were so excited to discover before we left.
On leaving the castle the children handed in their completed quizzes and were rewarded with a sticker. With the rain coming down even harder, if that’s even possible, we had a quick explore of the Lime Kilns, a glance over the gardens, and made a mad dash back to the car to dry off!
Back in the car, with the heating cranked right up, Gaz and I looked at each other, our hair plastered to our heads and shivering cold, and burst out laughing. “I loved it at that castle!” Meggy said, raindrops still falling off her nose, and I guess that right there, despite the hideous weather, is all that really matters.