The other Holy Island

Lindisfarne Travel Blog

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The bulk of our group forgoes hiking for a day of sightseeing in Lindisfarne.


Today was the other bookend island for me. I started with Iona on the west coast of Scotland. Today, we went to Lindisfarne, off the east coast of England.

Iona is the home of St. Columba, an exiled Irish monk. It's understood to be the home (or maybe just the repository, I'm not entirely clear) of the outstanding Book of Kells, an illumimated manuscript, now resident in Dublin.

Lindisfarne was the home of St. Cuthbert, an English monk, and the place where the Lindisfarne Gospels (more famous illuminated manuscripts) were done. They are now resident in the British Museum in London.

I want to grow roses like this! The English are also quite mad about their flowers and their gardens.

See why these two islands make such great bookends?

The island is available by a 5-mile road that is available only during low tide. As we drove across it, we saw the bulldozers that are used to push excess mud off the road remaining there when the tide goes out. It's a paved road that spends half its life under water.

The island is a little bigger than Iona. There's something about these little islands that just attracts certain kinds of guys, isn't there? It's easier to walk around than Iona.  There's also a charming little town (slighter bigger than the village on Iona).

This time, only half our group wanted to walk. The rest wanted to just sightsee. Believe it or not, I was one of the walkers! We did a 4-mile loop from the town along the shore. It was a gray windy day, which turns out to be ideal for shore walking.

Walking the Lindisfarne coast. Our walk leader is the one with the big pack. She had to carry that with emergency supplies for us in case we did something silly like fall down and break something.
The island is in the North Sea, so the beaches are a combination of sand and a lot of rocks.

We shared a lot of memories of beach vacations from childhood. We examined a lot of the flora and fauna (without Kate to translate!). We stood silently and just enjoyed the views, the wind, and the waves.

We had lunch along the way, finding spots to hunker down in the long grass to get a little out of the wind.

When we were most of the way around, we came to a castle the island is famous for. All the walkers decided to duck in there for a tour. I was more interested in the Priory so I kept going on into town.

The priory (as near as I can determine) is an abbey that isn't independent; it's under the auspices of another abbey (in this case, Durham). It is, of course, the ruins of a priory.

Hunkering down in the tall grasses for lunch.
As with all other old abbeys/priories/monasteries/etc., the Reformation definitely did it bad.

Why do I like wandering around ruins? I mean, after a while one pile of brick looks like another pile of bricks, yes? Well, yes (though they can all be evocative in different ways). But I love history and they all represent a slightly different point in history and give me a little more insight into a particular moment of history.

From there, it was gift shopping (lots of cute little shops) and snacks (pubs and tea houses galore).

But everything (everything!) closes at 5! Our bus wasn't coming back till 6.  Hmmmm......

We all ended up wandering back to the parking lot where the bus was due and hung out with each other. There was an extended conversation about cricket, which was a lot like listening to Russian.

Heading towards the castle on Lindisfarne.
The bus was, blessedly, early.

Dinner was a grand happy affair but also a bit sad because we were all leaving the next day. It's been an interesting group to spend a week with. In hindsight, I realized that something that made this trip unique is that it wasn't really targeted to tourists. Ramblers Holidays is an English walking company that is most commonly used by the English. Our group (except for me) was exclusively English, the majority retired. They've all taken trips with Ramblers many times before. They all walk quite a lot.

The conversations I was privvy to were the English talking to the English. They were in their own country (well, except when we were in Scotland) experiencing their own country. Some of them were even from only 1-2 hours away.  They knew the history, the climate, the type of walking.

Lindisfarne has a extreme tide, leaving boats sitting on their keels at low tide.
I was like a fly on the wall in some ways. I got to quiz them about the history (which was funny to watch them try to remember what they learned in school). They got to laugh at me for being so ill-prepared for the weather.

I got to hang out with locals, in effect. I got to eavesdrop on their conversations. I got to see England (and Scotland) through the eyes of the British. I got to see the English being, well, English. What a treat! Me being an American was just a little interesting blip for their vacation.

I can't say I always enjoyed the walking. In fact, I often actively disliked it. I don't like squealching through acres of mud. Boy, do I not like hiking for hours in the rain. It could have been worse. I had decent gear. But I enjoyed the trip and the experience.

The priory at Lindisfarne.
I know that if I take another trip with Ramblers Holidays, I'll chose an E-level vacation (easy) rather than a D-level vacation. I've learned something about where my body is at 48, which is sure not where it was at 38.

I know that as Americans we have this obsession with not being defined by our age. We can do anything! 50 is the new 30!  It's just a matter of mind over body! More training! Join a gym! Hire a personal trainer! Sign up for Pilates / Yoga / kickboxing / tai chi / whatever. Stay young young young young young!!!!!!!!!!!!


I am who I am. I am grateful for what I can do. I'll work to maintain whatever flexibility and stamina I think would make me happy. I don't want to be 30 again. Or 35.

The infamous St. Cuthbert.
Or 40.  I want to be 48. I'm interested about what it will feel like to turn 50 (my cousin Harold turned 50 while I was on this trip too; his birthday is the day before mine). I accept that I can't do what I could do 10 years ago. I don't need to.

Being afraid of your body and afraid of your future seems like such an enormous waste of energy. All that mental time anguishing about it is mental energy I could expend actually enjoying myself.  I might as well love my body; it's the only one I get.

That was a major insight for me. This trip was financed by the little bit of money I got from my grandmother's estate. She died two years ago at 98-1/2. She actually died of old age. Her health was good and her mind clear until about 2 months before her death.

She spent, effectively, all of her life in West Virginia. She also walked her whole life. Not as a health decision but because she usually didn't have access to (1) a vehicle [including horses] or (2) roads. She hunted until her early 80s. Some of my best memories are visiting her on weekends when she was in her 80s. Rather than going to church, we would go for a walk in the woods on Sunday morning. She would talk about her childhood, her marriage, her land, her memories.  I loved those walks.

I wanted to spend her inheritance doing something that honored her so I went walking. I wish I could be more like my grandmother in many ways. I want to be be able to walk like her.

It's probably not going to happen that way. I'm not her. She was special. But I hope she knows I was thinking of her while I walked and remembering her with love and respect.

Tomorrow -- Edinburgh.

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The bulk of our group forgoes hiki…
The bulk of our group forgoes hik…
I want to grow roses like this! Th…
I want to grow roses like this! T…
Walking the Lindisfarne coast. Our…
Walking the Lindisfarne coast. Ou…
Hunkering down in the tall grasses…
Hunkering down in the tall grasse…
Heading towards the castle on Lind…
Heading towards the castle on Lin…
Lindisfarne has a extreme tide, le…
Lindisfarne has a extreme tide, l…
The priory at Lindisfarne.
The priory at Lindisfarne.
The infamous St. Cuthbert.
The infamous St. Cuthbert.
photo by: sarahelaine