If you want to visit the cradle of English Christianity, you need to pick your time carefully. A three mile causeway is the only road link between Holy Island and the Northumberland mainland, and for ten hours each day it lies underwater. Cross at the wrong time and you'll have to abandon your vehicle and climb a ladder into a wooden refuge above the incoming waves. There are no traffic lights, no warning signals, just a set of tide tables in a glass case at either end of the causeway. If you and your submerged car end up splashed across the local press, it'll be your own fault.
Alternatively, if you're even more careful, you can walk across the bay by following a line of tall wooden posts. A monk called Aidan came this way in 635 AD, sent to the island on a mission to convert the Anglo-Saxons of Northumbria to Christianity. Modern Britain bears the stamp of his religious legacy to this day. His monastery's most famous treasure are the ornate LindisfarneGospels, rescued from the island when the Vikings invaded and now to be seen... ah, damn, 350 miles away in the British Museum. Benedictine monks returned to Holy Island in 1082, founding a Priory whose imposing ruins still stand today [photo], just down the road from the post office, two pubs and several gift shops. Don't come here today expecting peace and spiritual solitude.
The southwest corner of Holy Island has evolved into a tourist-orientedvillage. Coach parties stream across the causeway between high tides. Visitors wander the narrow lanes clutching ice creams and tea towels. The street down to the parish church is lined with holiday cottages. A hoppa shuttle ferries elderly visitors a few hundred yards from car park to interactive Heritage Centre. The boathouses by the harbour are swarming with artists and amateur photographers [photo]. The beach is infested with schoolkids munching crisps and sandwiches. And yet, against all the odds, a tangible sense of spiritualenlightenment remains.
The southeast corner of the island is very different. Here, atop a lone rocky crag surrounded by sheep, sits the lonely outpost of Lindisfarne Castle[photo]. There's nothing overly special about the outer structure, an old Tudor fort, but the inside is quite spectacular. 100 years ago this crumbling pile was transformed into an intimate holiday home for the founder of Country Life magazine by renowned architect Edwin Lutyens. He converted the internal space into a series of arched rooms and twisty passageways, with steps and low ceilings which no doubt today would be banned under Health and Safety legislation. From the roof you can look out in splendid isolation across the village, harbour and bay [photo]. From the bedrooms the view is a little bleaker, but offset by the Gertrude Jekyllgarden - a stone-walled quadrilateral of hardy plants. You'd probably love a stately pile like this, but the original owner sold up after just ten summers and the "Castle" is now under the ownership of the National Trust. Don't stay too long yourself either, you don't want to have to swim home.