Travels in the U.K. September 2015, Part 4

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Sept. 15

Graham, Malcom and I are heading across the country to the area of Northumberland on a three day road trip. Before picking up Malcom, we had a quick breakfast from McDonald's which is turning into a bit of a tradition starting off our road trips. The trip up north was a bit grim as it was raining on and off, mostly on and we thought it wasn't a good start. We stayed on the motorway for much of the way until a turnoff at Darlington to head to the area where Hadrian's Wall is/was. There are a number of historic sites there with excavations and I've always wanted to see it. We went to one called Housestead's Roman Fort where the outline and remains of a fort on the wall is on top of a hill. A half mile up the hill. Oh dear. I would have to choose the most difficult one to get to.

But I was determined to see it. We had our sandwiches first, at a picnic table outside the main visitor centre. Luckily by now the rain has stopped though it still looks a bit threatening. We paid our entrance fee and headed out up to the steep path up to the museum and fort remains. I told Graham and Malc to go on ahead, I would take my time going up the half mile path. It took me awhile, and I did it 50 steps at a time, stop, and rest. I wasn't out of breath but I was huffing a bit. I recovered in a couple of minutes and went for the next 50 steps. I gave G. my camera to take pictures just in case I didn't get to the top and I used my phone to take some while I was on breaks. I made it up there, though, and had a good look around the ruins. The rain held off in spite of some threatening clouds. The views from the top were spectacular, too.

Before we went down, we went into the museum that was just below the ruins and had a look at the artefacts that were there. We then made our way back down the hill, me walking carefully because it is a gravel path and I didn't want to turn an ankle. One last short, steep incline to get to the parking area, a quick wee in the toilets and we were off again, setting a course for the hotel in a seaside town called Seahouses. The GPS took us on all the back roads so it was a really scenic drive.

The hotel is an older building and it's a struggle to get a phone signal in the rooms. Our room is quite nice, though Malcom's is even bigger with a king size bed! Never mind, it's clean and comfortable. We relaxed for an hour or so before heading out to find something to eat.

We tried to go to the pub across the road but it was full and if we hadn't booked a table, which we hadn't, we were out of luck. Back to the hotel, we decided, rather than wander around on sore feet trying to find somewhere that wasn't all booked up. Seems like it's a busy little town with quite a lot of tourists around. Seahouses has a little harbour and is close to the Farne Islands. There are boat tours out to the islands for nature watching, birds and seals and the like. There are castles and places to see up and down along this part of the coast.

Even the hotel dining room/bar was pretty busy but we found a table. Graham and I both ordered fish and chips and the piece of fish was enormous! Nice and fresh, too. We had a nice meal and lingered over some drinks later before heading to bed.

The bed is two singles pushed together and is a little hard for my taste though G. was comfortable enough. We did find the room warm but we left the windows open so it wasn't too bad. There's a radiator in the room but no a/c. It's an older building and phone reception is nearly non-existent. Their Wi-Fi signal only really works in the bar though it did work well while we were there. It's a good place to be to unplug and relax when you're forced to put down the phone and disconnect!

Over the sea to the Holy Isle

Sept. 16

In spite of weather forecasts that predicted doom, gloom and rain for today, the sun was out, the sky was blue and it proved to be a spectacular day for touring around the Holy Island/Lindisfarne.

Breakfast was a buffet, hot and cold and was pretty good. We got on the road a little after nine. The island has a causeway that is flooded with the tide so you can only cross over and back during low tide. We first stopped by the side of the road below Bamburgh Castle, just a few minutes away from Seahouses. We were there before opening and didn't want to take the time to go through it but had a little photo stop anyway.

It was maybe another 15 minutes to where we were headed. We made our way across the causeway and parked in the main public parking lot outside of the village (pay and display). It's better this way because the village is small and the roads would be choked with traffic. They have a couple of parking lots in the village for tour busses or disabled parking but the main lot is only a few minutes' walk into the village.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne has long been a centre for Christianity, as far back as the 6th century. The monastery there was founded by Saint Aidan who journeyed to the northeast of England from the Isle of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. Later, it became the base for Saint Cuthbert, an important bishop. In the 8th century, York was established as an archbishopric and Lindisfarne was one of only three bishoprics under it. It is also famous for a set of illuminated gospels dating to the 8th century. They are outstanding in beauty and now reside in the British Library in London.

There is one other more notorious event for which Lindisfarne is famous; the island was one of the first places the Vikings raided, at the very end of the 8th century. Raids continued on and off throughout the east of England and the monks eventually abandoned Lindisfarne in the 9th century. The Priory was reestablished in 1093 and remained and flourished until Henry VIII had his wicked ways with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. The ruins that are there now are from the later priory, not the earliest one.

The castle on a high rise of land at the end of the harbour was built in 1550. It's odd looking, with the surrounding land being fairly flat, just a few low hills but the ground that the castle is built on sticks up high, almost as if it was man made. It was extensively renovated inside in 1901. There's a little walled garden on the north side at the base of the castle, a bit of a hike over from the main road.

We decided our first destination would be the castle out at the head of the island overlooking the harbour. It was quite a walk but relatively flat. We didn't fancy climbing up the steep inclines to go into the castle proper but we made our way out to the base of it where the disabled parking is. They even had a bagpiper there for the entertainment of the tourists. And there are a lot of them! There were a lot of people walking out when we went but it looked like even more were heading out when we were walking back into the village. There are a lot of great photo ops along the way, too.

When we got back we were ready for a coffee/tea break and found a cafe. Malcom and I nabbed a table outside while Graham stood in the very long queue inside. He came out armed with hot drinks and cheese scones which I loved but they weren't too keen.

Fed and watered, it's on to the ruins of the Priory. I had a two for one voucher from Britain magazine that was good for this location. We perused the displays in the visitor center that told the story of the priory on this little island off the northeast coast of England (see above) then it was back outside in the sunshine to climb around the ruins.

The ruins are interesting with superb views over the harbour to the castle. We sat on a bench in a warm, sunny spot for a while and made friends with a local cat who walked right past one other couple to us. We then had a look in St. Mary's parish church that had some nice stained glass and Celtic designs on altar cloths and kneelers.

Once we were finished there, we were all done in. I thought we could drive back down the coast for a look at Dunstanburgh castle but when we got there, we discovered that the parking lot for the castle was outside the village of Craster. We drove into the village, thinking we could find a spot where we could just get a view and a photo but the harbour road ended at a dead end and you had to hike across and up a hill to the castle. No thanks. We drove back up along the coastal route to Seahouses and spent an hour or so with drinks in the sunny beer garden at the hotel overlooking the harbour. A rest for an hour and a bit and we decided just to stay in the hotel for our evening meal tonight as well.

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  • Tickets to Jethro Tull, a Rock Opera
  • Coronation Street set tour
  • Wedding "knees up" for friends and family
  • Blackpool
  • Peak District
  • Northumberland

Photo Albums:


Seahouses Harbour
Seahouses Harbour

Housesteads 40
Housesteads Roman Fort ruins

Housesteads 32 Hadrian's wall
Hadrian's Wall at Housesteads Roman Fort

Lindisfarne Priory Ruins 10
Lindisfarne Priory ruins

Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle