Lindisfarne Castle

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Things to do


Date of travel

March, 2019

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The view of Lindisfarne Castle towering above the low lying island is immediately recognisable. It looks as if it ought to be a medieval castle but its origins were as a Tudor fort. The iconic architect Edward Lutyens was responsible for its present outline.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne with its “priory”: was an important religious settlement until the C16th. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the priory and all its estates passed to the crown. With increasing unrest along the Scottish border, the island with its natural harbour, became an important military stronghold. The harbour was the most northerly in England and important for the protection of Berwick on Tweed and the border.

Beblowe Crag, the outcrop of the whin sill and the highest point of the island, was fortified with an earthen work fort, to protect the harbour below. This was later replaced by a stone curtain wall and the lower battery.

A stone garrison with administrative buildings and an upper battery soon followed, using stone from the priory buildings. The fort was garrisoned by troops from Berwick on Tweed and was consistently under funded. With the Union of the Crowns and accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne, the fort lost its military significance, although a small garrison was maintained there.

The fort was seized by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. By the start of the C18th there were only seven men stationed there. It was captured for just one day in 1715 by two Jacobites before being recaptured. It remained a military fort until the beginning of the C19th when it was used by the coastguards.

By the end of the C19th the fort was in a ruined condition. It was leased and then bought by Edward Hudson, owner of Country Life magazine. He commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens, architect and designer, to re-model the castle into a fashionable holiday home. His design was based on a medieval castle with thick walls, vaulted ceilings, open fireplaces and lit by candles.

He rebuilt the shallow ramp with cobbles laid in a herringbone pattern, which gave access to the castle, through a small gateway. He created an L shaped house on the lower battery which linked the east and west buildings of the original fort.

The castle was extended a few years later with the addition of the long gallery and extra bedrooms. When work was completed, the castle had four living room, nine bedrooms and a bathroom. Lutyens also designed some of the furniture, like the dresser in the kitchen, for the castle. The rest was chosen by Hudson.

The castle was used for house parties in the summer but, with no running water or electricity, it was never popular with visitors.

Hudson never married and in 1921 sold the castle and contents to a London stockbroker, who later sold it to a merchant banker who gave it to the National Trust in 1944. He continued to live there as a tenant until his death in 1965

The castle has recently reopened after a massive restoration programme. Lutyens might have been an important C20th architect but several of his buildings developed major faults with deteriorating stonework, leaking roofs, damp and windows. Lindisfarne with its flat roofs and exposure to the elements, was one of these. The castle was completely cleared of all its furnishings. Walls were repointed and covered with ‘sneck harl’ (a lime and sand coating designed to act as extra protection). The inner walls have been covered with lime plaster to help them ‘breathe’ as they dry out and prevent further problems with damp. Drainage of the flat roof has been improved. All the windows have been replaced.

By March 2019, some furnishings had been returned, but the majority of the rooms were still empty while the plaster dries out. The advantage of this is that visitors now notice the architecture, with its austere but beautifully designed rooms linked by dramatic corridors, galleries and stairways, rather than the furnishings.

Check “opening times”: when visiting as they do vary.

It is about a mile to walk to the castle along a well made track, but there is a 30 minute “castle shuttle service”: for those not wanting to walk. Alternatively cars can drive to the castle to drop off disabled visitors.

Wheelchair users will find it extremely difficult to access the castle and those with reduced mobility may also have problems. The castle is accessed by a steep cobbled path with low steps. There is a rope along part of the cliff face but no hand rail. There are more steps to get into the castle and once inside the upper two floors are only accessed by stone staircases. There are no accessible toilets. There is more information “here.”:


There are lots more pictures “here.”:


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