Welcome to my new home.
Not the easiest place to get to but you can cross at low tide. It’s only 3 miles along the causeway. You should note though that the island is cut off twice a day when the sea returns and the road disappears under pleated water. You may wish to look carefully at the Tide Tables. Otherwise you might end up like this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-13830017
You approach the island from the north so you get your first glimpse of the place beyond the village. A huddle of houses, a spire, a ruined priory. Then you see it – Beblowe Crag, a jagged tooth of whinstone and perched upon it a fairy tale castle.
Holy Island or Lindisfarne is a tiny island off the coast of Northumbria in the North Sea. The Vikings liked to invade it and so did the Scots, so it was fortified around 1570 and remained defensive until Scottish James 1 became king of England in 1603. The two kingdoms were combined and the castle became a garrison, a naval store and then a coastguard station.
At the beginning of the twentieth century a tourist went for a walk, found it and fell in love. Luckily for Edward Hudson, as founder of Country Life Magazine he had the money to indulge his new passion. When he bought the lease from the crown in 1901, he declared, “I want to have fun with the place.” His friend Edwin Lutyens was a gifted architect and together they refurbished the castle in the seventeenth century Dutch style – simple, beautiful, understated. It’s like walking straight into a Vermeer painting.
Now owned by the National Trust, the rooms remain fully furnished as if the owner’s just popped out for a bit. You can wander round with your nose in the air, mentally clad in a bustle and crushed velvet, pretending the old man behind you is your butler. Any minute, with a swish of your skirts, you could swing round and declare in your best BBC accent, “I thenk we’ll teek tea in the Droring Room today…”
I love the whole castle but I think my favourite parts are the kitchen…
…And the Upper Battery (roof terrace)
You can see hundreds of seals from here. You can also see the priory, unused since 1550 when Henry VIII disbanded it. Since 635, through the work of Aidan and Cuthbert and later the famous Lindisfarne Gospels, Holy Island and its priory had been the cradle of English Christianity. Henry had the stones from the priory used to build the castle.
A wise friend once said that our longing for beautiful homes is really a hunger for heaven. I love that. A home in heaven that won’t get old and cruddy. On earth you have to spend so much time and money to keep stuff looking good. Hudson found this with Lindisfarne. Having bought it in 1918, he sold it three years later. He simply couldn’t afford to run the place.
It would still be my dream home. But it might be a pain if you run out of milk and need to borrow from the neighbours. And I bet the delivery charge on a Tesco’s shop is scandalous. The winters are pretty grim too. According to a National Trust employee who stays there, it’s no fun stumbling around at night in a power cut looking for the loo.
Perhaps I’ll stay here for the time being. After all I haven’t actually told the National Trust I’m moving in yet. I suppose my Saturday lie-ins might be a problem in the tourist season. I could wear my silk pyjamas. They’d fit right in. If I’m lucky no one will even notice I’m there…
If you could have the home of your dreams, where would it be and why?