The first documented Viking raid on Holy Island occurred in
AD793. The monastery was harassed by Vikings until it was abandoned
(or destroyed) in the mid- or late ninth century. For the monks,
formal monastic life was not restored until 1083, when the Bishop of
Durham re-founded the site as a cell of the Benedictine monastery of
In the 16th and 17th centuries Holy Island played a
role in the defence of the North East coast when the Crown built a
small fort in 1549-50 on the outcrop now occupied by Lindisfarne
Castle, possibly replacing an earlier lookout tower; the fort
continued in use as a garrison until 1819. During the Tudor period
additional defences, including Osborne's Fort immediately adjacent,
were built in recognition of the strategic importance of the island
harbour. These consisted of a possible remodelling of the
settlement, the conversion of a medieval house to a military supply
base and the possible construction of bulwarks around the harbour.
In the 19th century a large-scale lime industry flourished. Its
remains are still scattered around the island and include kilns and
waggonways. The manufacture of quicklime was carried out on Holy
Island, with the earliest lime kilns dated 1344 and were used by the
Priory Monks. In the 1800s the trade developed extensively
necessitating the building of further jetties. Coal was imported to
fuel the kilns and the resulting quicklime exported on sailing
vessels of between 60/90 tonnes with regular trade between Holy
Island and Dundee. The last recorded departure of a lime cargo was
Fishing from the harbour was as its peak on Holy
Island during the mid 1800s when the Census of 1861 records a
population of 614. The size of the island's fishing fleet has varied
over the years from 10/12 in the 1790s, to 36 in the 1880s to the
present day level of 6 boats. The Herring Houses, close to the
shore, (refurbished in the 1970s and now predominantly holiday
homes), were used to smoke and preserve the large herring catches.
The introduction of the large herring steam drifters in the early
1900s led to a decline in local fishing and by 1914 the last large
wooden boat was laid up. Some of these large vessels are the
upturned boats along the harbour that are now used as stores.
Location has always been the main attraction for the owners and
occupiers of Lindisfarne Castle.
From a former fort to the
holiday home of a wealthy Edwardian bachelor seeking a quiet retreat
from London, the idyllic location of the Castle has intrigued and
inspired for centuries.
The renovation by Arts and Crafts
architect Edwin Lutyens both hides and emphasises the old fort, all
the while overlooking Gertrude Jekyll's enchanting walled garden and
the unexpected grandeur of the Lime Kilns, an imposing and striking
reminder of Lindisfarne's industrial past.
Lindisfarne Priory is the original home of the Lindisfarne Gospels
and the site of grisly Viking attacks. Sitting offshore on Holy
Island and reached by a causeway at low tide, the peaceful
atmosphere and beautiful views from the priory make a visit here
well worth the effort. Lindisfarne Priory was an important centre of
early Christianity, and the home of St Cuthbert. Today you can
marvel at the ornate carvings on the extensive ruins of the monastic
buildings and enjoy the serenity that first drew the monks here.