Intending to arrive at the Holy Island causeway so that we could enjoy the Island to its fullest extent, we set off from Ponteland a little later than usual. The morning was beautiful – clear blue skies, little wind, but very cold.
The journey on the Great North Road was uneventful, and we arrived at the causeway just after 11 o’clock to find the tide had receded sufficiently to cross in safety. Parking up and donning boots completed, we walked first through the village to the previous URC church, now the St. Cuthbert’s Centre, with its lovely wooden arched roof and triangular window.
From here we walked the few yards past the winery, the market square and village green with its Celtic Cross to the church of St. Mary the Virgin, adjacent to the statue of St. Aidan and the Priory. The main structure of the church is 13th century, but it has an interesting blend of Norman and early Gothic styles in the arches of the north and south aisles, as well as a Saxon arch above the chancel archway. The wintry sunshine beckoned us outside however, so we made our way to the shoreline for a coffee stop overlooking St. Cuthbert’s island and the strait between the mainland and the Island. It was lovely sat in the sun, and the seals lazing about on the sand spits in the channel obviously felt the same way.
Eventually we moved on, past the old lifeboat station and the coastguard tower on The Heugh, round the bay with its stacks of lobster pots and upturned boats masquerading as fishermen’s huts, until we joined the masses making their way towards Lindisfarne Castle. We diverted around the back of the Castle to visit the old limekilns, a truly impressive set of buildings dating from the 1860’s.
We decided to stop for lunch here, before following the old waggonway around the eastern edge of the Island, towards The Lough, where we saw just one swan and a few coots. We had already seen several other interesting birds on our walk – eider ducks, gulls a-plenty, curlew and lapwings, but the best was yet to come.
Turning west a little further along the waggonway, we were delighted to see a short-eared owl hunting along the edge of the dunes and over the marshy fields inland, and, speaking with a keen birdwatcher that we met, gleaned some fascinating information about these birds. Often seen hunting during the day, these medium sized birds have very keen eyesight and good hearing to locate their prey of small mammals. They nest on the ground or in low bushes, and Lindisfarne has several resident birds, though local enthusiasts are unsure whether they breed on the Island, or fly to the mainland for the summer season on the heather-clad hills.
After spending some time watching this lovely bird, we turned south again, and headed back towards the village down Straight Lonnen, watched a kestrel hunting over a marshy field, and enjoyed the antics of lapwings as they wheeled and tumbled in their courtship displays.
We had time to stop for coffee and cake in the Oasis café, before we walked back to the car, and returned over of the causeway, back to the mainland.