Hey guys! Happy Wednesday to you. And happy first day of spring!
Today’s trip is going to take us through beautiful southeast Scotland and across the border into neighboring England. We won’t be going too far away from Scotland mind you, only about seventeen miles. We will be leaving the mainland, however. Don’t worry, you won’t need a lifejacket. A long causeway will lead us to our destination.
Intrigued? Grab your things because today we are headed to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (or simply Holy Island) to see Lindisfarne Castle.
Perched atop 98′ high Beblowe Crag and surrounded by pastureland below, Lindisfarne Castle has been the dominant feature of the island for more than four and a half centuries.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne has long been one of the most important locations in the history of Christianity. Irish evangelist St. Aidan arrived from Iona and founded a monastic community on the island in 635. Aidan was succeeded by St. Cuthbert fifty years later. It was Cuthbert’s holy life and dedication to God that is said to have inspired the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the early 700’s (“the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon England.” (British Library). From Holy Island, Christianity flourished and the island remains a place of Christian pilgrimage to this day.
Because of its position and proximity to Scotland, Holy Island was also once an important strategic military location for the English. During the difficult years of conflict between England and their neighbor to the north, the island served as a base for naval ships and for a garrison.
The 12th century priory church once served as a naval storehouse.
The castle that we see today is largely the result of modifications and renovations of an earlier mid-sixteenth century fort. In light of the potential threats of invasion by the Scots and the Norsemen, Queen Elizabeth I of England directed improvements to the then dilapidated structure. The fortifications to the structure took place over a two year period, from 1570-1572.
By the time James I of Scotland ascended to the English throne in 1603 – uniting the two countries under one king – Lindisfarne’s role as a fort was no longer as significant. A garrison did remain, however, in decreasing numbers until the nineteenth century. Later, the fort served as a coastguard station before being deserted.
In 1901, a gentleman by the name of Edward Hudson, founder of Country Life magazine, came across the empty castle. Though it was severely neglected, Hudson saw in it great possibility and potential. He worked out a lease with the Crown and promptly hired architect Edwin Lutyens to transform the fort into a holiday home. Work began in May 1903 and by the time it was finished in 1906, Hudson’s and Lutyen’s vision for the home was realized. “He (Lutyens) created austere, but beautifully designed interiors, linked by dramatic corridors, galleries, and stairways. The austerity was tempered with whitewashed walls, patterned brick floors, shiny brass, old carpets, blue-and-white china, and good, honest furniture.” (National Trust for Scotland)
Edward Hudson had no heirs and he led a busy London life, thereby making it difficult to travel to the island. So even though he had officially purchased Lindisfarne Castle in 1918, he decided to sell his property a mere three years later. (I know, right??) He sold the castle to a London stockbroker named Oswald Falk for 25,000 pounds in 1921. Falk later sold the property to a merchant banker named Sir Edward de Stein, and in 1944, Sir Edward gave the castle to the National Trust.
Today, visitors to Lindisfarne Castle can walk the halls and corridors and step inside the restored rooms and imagine what life would have been like during Edward Hudson’s tenure. From Tudor fort to holiday home to an amazing attraction, Lindisfarne will no doubt continue to intrigue visitors for many years to come.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post, dear friends. Have a good rest of the week and I’ll see you soon!
P.S. Update: I published this article a few hours ago and in a moment of total serendipity, I just learned that today is the anniversary of the death of St. Cuthbert in 687! My goodness, that’s 1,332 years ago. Incredible!