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Guided Walks on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

 

Holy Island in Northumberland is a nature reserve of international importance for its bird and plant life. It also has a rich history being the “cradle of Christianity” for pagan Northumbria.  There is always something interesting to see here and these walks, led by an experienced local guide, will introduce you to the many facets of life on Holy Island. 

 

Privately booked walks are available all year round.   They can be tailored to your groups requirements.  So if you are looking for a tour guide or walks leader get in touch.


We have a page on Trip Adviser.  Read what other people thought of their walk or add a review of your own by clicking the link at the top of the page.


Have a look at our Facebook page for Holy Island Hikes for current news.

 



Staying on Holy Island?  Why not try massage therapy to relax and ease aches and pains. Visit www.holyislandholistics.co.uk  

 


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Review of the 2017 season for Holy Island Hikes


With the nights drawing in and the temperature plunging demand for walks is dropping off.  I've led my last booked pilgrims way walk and there may be the odd brave souls wanting to go out over the winter.  Demand over the summer has once again been high as tourists discover Northumberland in increasing numbers every year.


A reasonable spring led to good insect life in the summer with more cinnebar caterpillars on the ragwort in the sand dunes in August. The straight flight of the day flying burnet moths is always a sight to behold and the pupa and caterpillars 

developing can be observed with just a little bit of searching.  The brilliant flower displays in the sand dunes were on 

cue with swathes of purple marsh orchids in June followed by pink pyramidal orchids followed by lilac spotted orchids and

white marsh helleborines. When the orchids were done the white grass of parnassus stood proud in August through September. 

We had summer for two days in June when I was tempted into the north sea.  It was cold!!!  I'm afraid July and August never

lived up to this early promise.  With autumn came large flocks of birds. Our light bellied brent geese flying in from 

Spitzbergen were a spectacle on the causeway for a week. Flocks of golden plover on the sands rose and flew as one. And we

had a drop of that attractive little bird, brambling.


There's been a few firsts this year. I had to cancel a pilgrims way walk because of the mist and thats never happened before. Luckily my walker was staying on the island intending to walk off the next day.  Though I could not guide him then I gave him full instructions and he e mailed me to say he'd had a great walk. I took my largest group of walkers when I had fifty students from Edinburgh. I prefer small groups as its a better experience all round and encourage large groups to split into two.  This time tide times and itinerary made that impossible so I devised a special route and stood upwind of the group to talk (shout). I have had blind people in my walks before but this year a travel agent for the blind with sighted guides hired me. I devised a multi sensory walk where the only sense we didn't use was taste. It went well and was featured in the November edition of Country Walking.


We've had two different groups of archaeologists on the island this year and both have made significant finds.  Some of my 

walkers have benefited from seeing these and talking to the diggers.  The discoveries from the seventh century mean I 

have had to change my Celtic Christianity walk in light of this new information.  Nothing is set in stone!  Two groups of 

walkers, one from the USA and one from Australia commented on our green, green grass which they do not get at home.  I 

quoted them "England's green and pleasant land".  It often takes a stranger to open our eyes to that which we take for 

granted.  I've had the opportunity to meet so many lovely people from so many countries - it's one of the highlights of the

job.


My first booking for next year is in February.  Its a pilgrims way walk and I'm already looking forward to it.



Mary Gunn.  7th December 2017




14th September 2017


The Lindisfarne Festival was at Beal farm near Holy Island from 31st August to 3rd September.  This was its third year and every year it gets bigger and better. I was their on the Friday and Saturday offering complementary therapies and on the Sunday I led The Festival Walk.  


Last year we walked the pilgrims way to Holy Island and were driven back by John, one of the festival organisers.  This year because the tide was coming up in the morning we couldn't do that but did a circular walk that started on the pilgrims way, turned up to the island sand dunes and walked back along the north shore.  We saw large numbers of small wading birds in the first part including dunlin and ringed plovers.  In the sand dunes we saw the Snook House, originally a salmon fishing shiel but now a holiday house.  On the North Shore Sea Rocket was growing on the beach but is too bitter to eat!  


The picture taken from the bridge on the causeway (with refuge box for those who misread the tide!) shows the festival tents in the background.  This really is a stunning area to walk and with a rich history too from the famous priory of the seventh century.


With sunny, breezy weather we all enjoyed an invigorating walk


Mary Gunn.



5th April 2017


Spring has sprung for Holy Island Hikes!  Walks have started and bookings are coming in.  There's a definite increase in temperature and the sun is shining.

Our castle is encased in scaffolding this year for essential damp proofing which rather spoils the iconic view but we have so many other landscape features.  Visitor numbers throughout the winter and early spring show we are becoming ever more popular.  The problem is finding a quiet spot to appreciate the peace and quiet of the island that is its USP.  And that is where we come in - taking you off the beaten track away from the crowds and telling you tales of the true Holy Island

The bird life has certainly stepped up a gear.  The breeding plumage of the male eider ducks is stunning.  The fulmers, hardened seabirds, are gliding round

the cliffs ready to nest.  Wheatears and chiff chaffs have been seen but no swallows so far.  Larks and meadow pipits are seen and heard in the sand dunes and peasies (green plovers or lapwings) are tumbling in the fields.  Butterflys are starting to show including a peacock on the shore. 

The first cowslip has just come out in the sand dunes and the blossom of the blackthorn is brightening up the straight lonnen.  

It's definitely time to plan your next visit to Holy Island!








The Pilgrims Way - is it safe?


Summer is well and truly over with rain, wind and mist the norm.  But what a summer with many more people taking the opportunity to walk around Holy Island and escape the crowds.  This is the way to enjoy the real beauty of the island.  


This year I have been asked to lead groups on The Pilgrims Way walk more often than previously.  And I have noticed many more people walking the pilgrims way on their own.  This walk which goes over the sand from the mainland at Beal to the island was the route travelled by pilgrims visiting the celtic priory in the 8th century.  It was marked by stones then but is today marked by poles.  The encrusting barnacles on the poles show that they are normally underwater.  On a clear sunny day at the right state of tide this is a wonderful walk with a real sense of isolation in the middle of it.  But is it safe to walk on the sea bed?  


The official line is that you should not walk the pilgrims way without a local guide.  But many people are doing this.  Berwick tourist information are getting a record number of queries and giving them my number.  Some of the comments they're getting are quite facetious such as "We don't need a guide", "its not dangerous", "the water's only knee deep when the tide comes in".  The truth is that you would be out of your depth at the poles at high tide and there is a very strong tide that runs between the island and the mainland so swimming is out.  The real threat is that the tide swirls round the poles as it comes in and you could end up in the situation that whichever way you walked you were always going into deeper water.  Add to this a sea fret rolling in - you can see neither poles nor land - and you could be in a very nasty situation.


In the 1950's the pilgrims way was used by locals on foot and by car.  A couple died when their car broke down.  They left their car and became disoriented in the dark with a rising tide.  The man's body was found close to the car and the woman's weeks later on the other side of the island.  A local walking in after wildfowling got caught in the mist and was rescued chest deep in water by horse and cart after firing off his gun to attract attention.  The pilgrims way has been very little used since then -until now.


Our volunteer coastguards are often called out to cars that have driven into the north sea at the bridge on the causeway.  The drivers have failed to understand that you cant argue with the sea.  With the increasing casual use of the pilgrims way I fear their first call out to the pilgrims way is not far off.  But without the protection of a car will they reach you in time. 

Mary Gunn

12th November 2014