Home > diary, islands, travel > Northumbria trip – Cove, Lindisfarne, Alnwick, Hadrian’s Wall and Flodden

Northumbria trip – Cove, Lindisfarne, Alnwick, Hadrian’s Wall and Flodden

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Wood stove with thoughtful lighting box full of tinder.

A sweetie and I both really needed a break so we came to Northumbria for a few days. I’ve wanted to go to Lindisfarne for years, so we’re staying in a super cute converted old caravan a few fields back from the North Sea overlooking Lindisfarne. The hut is tiny, but just to make me happy has a wood burning stove, and is so well thought through that the owners included a kindling box and matches! Its in the grounds of a converted church so we walk through the old graveyard to the back corner, where the hut is secluded away.

On the way south we wanted a picnic break and a place called “Cove” looked to be in the right place and probably scenic. Turned out to be this v cute village with an *18th century tunnel* to walk along to get to the harbour! And the caves off the tunnel had been used by smugglers! And the harbour was pretty and obvs super secluded. Great picnic stop and auspicious was to begin the trip with such a fun discovery.

Thursday we went to Lindisfarne. I love islands in general, and the tidal causeway was pretty cool. We went about 10 mins after the sea had cleared the causeway so the road was still wet from being underwater so recently. Saw the walking route, marked out with tall poles. The road causeway is relatively new (1960s). Lindisfarne itself has been inhabited for centuries, and I presume was before accessed by walking or donkey/pony and cart across at low tides. Must feel cosy and safe, or claustrophobic depending on your perspective, once tide comes back in and the tourists have all left, and nobody else will come (or leave) for at least 12 hours (not sure how long each day causeway is open)

Most of Lindisfarne is about the monastery and priory. Over the centuries between 2-10 monks at a time lived there, including St Cuthbert who found even that too metropolitan and moved to a couple of even smaller islands at various times! There is also a village with shops, cafes and a pub, 9 farms, a harbour with upturned boat shelters, and a medieval castle with proper defensive walls positioned on top of a rocky hillock. And whilst exploring around the latter (and admiring the much more recent scaffolding put up as part of a big repairs works) we came across a large 19th century lime kiln which was open to explore and climb in and out of the ovens! On the way back to mainland (we were last tourists to leave the car park) we stopped so I could run across to the walking route and climb onto the refuge built midway across the path because the fast tide coming across the flat estuary has caught so many people over the centuries. Its a rickety wooden structure with missing step on the wooden ladder, lowish walls, and open to the elements. Not a good place to have to wait out the high tide but better than the alternative!

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Causeway with tide creeping back in.

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Posts mark the walking route across to Lindisfarne. Tide is getting higher….

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Great sign!

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Medieval castle in background covered in impressive scaffolding

Friday we first visited Alnwick. Awesome 2nd hand bookshop in an old train station (booo train line closures, but slightly alleviated when they make good use of the infrastructure as in this case, or for cycle paths). Books were higher priced than i’m used to (if ever in glasgow and you like such things check out “voltaire and rousseau”) and seemed more organised for collectors, but really nice place to explore and it had a model railway going above and between the bookcases! Def worth visiting if you’re near by.

Hadrian’s wall made tangible the Roman empire – standing at northern most reach of the roman empire and be at a watch tower right on the wall imagining the soldiers looking out over “not rome” beyond. So many Roman ruins in such a small area. We also saw a temple for a god who sacrificed a bull from whose blood came all of creation. Could easily imagine religious services within the small, dark temple filled with the smells of smoke and warm blood from the sacrifices. And forts to explore with packed quarters for the soldiers and small towns which sprung up outside.

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Temple of Midras

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Watch tower at Housestead’s fort, part of Hadrian’s Wall, looking out over “not Rome” beyond.

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At Hadrian’s Wall. For hundreds of years this was the Northern frontier of the Roman Empire, with “not Rome” to the left.

Saturday we meandered back, enjoying the flexibility of having a car and plenty of time. We explored yet more small roads with pretty villages and small towns, the buildings weathered and sturdy, made from blocks of grey stone. Seeing a brown sign we pulled off at Flodden. Of the battle, I knew nothing beyond the name. Reading about it whilst overlooking the valley where at least 14 000 people were killed in one day was heartbreaking. Stupid stupid wars. Such horror and death. Must have been, rightly, terrifying to have been standing where we were, looking across to the troops lined up on the other side, and knowing a bloody clash was about to ensue. A sign at the local church says it functioned for the dead on both sides, which at least was something of an acknowledgement of a shared humanity.

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