I started the first day of the new year by leaving Consett and travelling with friends to Lindisfarne. The car was packed full with extra jumpers, warm coats, hats and gloves, ready to brave the storm alongside lovingly prepared rations, and a stash of liquid refreshments; in case every shop and hostelry on the island was closed.
With a Tesco online groceries slot already booked for our second day there, we were more than prepared for every eventuality.
I however, was totally unprepared for the best seven days of tranquility I’ve experienced in a long time – even surpassing my excited expectations.
For those of you who have stayed on Holy Island, I’m sure you will have felt that immediate sensation of calm and relaxation as you cross the causeway; knowing that for a good part of every day you are going to be cut off from the outside world.
I can only imagine why Saint Cuthbert loved being there so much, although, he didn’t have the good fortune – as I did – to go and order a pint of Guinness at The Ship Inn, when he had finished his walk and wanted to warm up.
Yet, legend has it that through prayer, he could turn water into wine and eagles brought him food, so he would probably have been totally self sufficient! From my early mornings, attempting to catch the sunrise, to embracing the views at sunset, when the island was quiet and the daily visitors had left, I catalogued it all on my phone by taking hundreds of photographs.
I began my photographic journey on the first day, but as it was a bank holiday the island was packed with visitors all making their way to and from the road to Lindisfarne Castle.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but just when you are lining up a shot to get the best photo ever, someone with a red jacket and a bounding dog usually walks into view and spoils the magic. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me and frustrated with the situation, I decided to get up early the next morning before the causeway opened to the hoards and the red jackets!
This was when – prompted by my friends – I found the hole in the old fort wall and peering through, saw a lovely framed view of the castle. I’m sure thousands before me have explored it, but to me it’s first sight was magnificent.
I had gone away in the hope of continuing with my much laboured over, first novel, and with my laptop open on the table, I began to write. Within half an hour I was back outside in the open air, pulled by the magnetism of the island. The sun shone as I walked around the old Priory after sampling a warming small amount of Lindisfarne mead in the shop. Then I visited the ancient parish church that houses the amazing sculpture by Fenwick Lawson, depicting the monks carrying the body of the saint off the island after the Viking raids. I looked across to St Cuthbert’s Island and fuelled my imagination.
To be at one with all this history filled me with joy and made me think about my past and my ancestors. After a conversation with my friends – who had already investigated and discovered their heritage – I was straight online to purchase a DNA testing kit, which has in fact just arrived; I’ll let you know the outcome!
However, I’m guessing St Cuthbert didn’t require the internet; for he had everything he wanted, and could possibly need, just where he was, and so did I.