Berwick-upon-Tweed and Holy Island

Published: June 5th 2009
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It started off sunny again today, but clouded over mid morning as we set off sightseeing. We headed to Berwick-upon-Tweed via Doddington and the estate villages of Ford and Etal. We visited the Heatherslaw Corn Mill on the River Till between Ford and Etal. The mill is a working museum and we were able to see wheat being ground. The river is low at the moment so the mill was working rather slowly. This is in contrast to 2008 when the river was in flood and the level of the water in the lowest level of the mill was over my head and the mill couldn’t operate at all.

From Heatherslaw we continued on to Berwick-upon-Tweed. As we live so close to Berwick in Australia, we couldn’t come this close to the original Berwick without visiting it. We walked around the ramparts that encircle most of the town which gave us good views over the town, the river and the sea. Being very close to the border between England and Scotland, Berwick has experienced a turbulent past as the English and the Scots fought for control of this town strategically located on the River Tweed.

I had to pay to use the toilets located near the Sommerfield supermarket on our way back to the car. Twenty pee to pee it was and boy was the attendant grumpy when I only had a pound to pay with!? She actually had to make up the change for me as the machine that issues tickets for the toilets only takes coins between one pence and 20 pence!

Next we headed down the coast to Holy Island. The tides today meant that we had to be across the causeway and onto the island before 9.20am and then stay until 1.55pm or we could arrive after 1.55pm as long as we returned to the mainland before 10.20pm. The consensus was that we should have an afternoon visit to Holy Island!! We arrived at about five past two - along with hordes of other tourists who had opted for an afternoon visit to the island today!!

After parking the car just outside of the village we walked into the town where Albert was dying to try the bacon butties at the first café as they were highly recommended by his sister who is a regular visitor to Northumberland. So, we had bacon butties all round - a very tasty, but extremely unhealthy lunch I’m sure!!

With our tummies filled with bacon and bread we walked out to Lindisfarne Castle which was built on a crag of rock out on the end of Holy Island. The effect was reminiscent of Mont St Michel in France or even St Michael’s Mount down in Cornwall, but on a smaller scale as it is only the castle, rather than a whole village, that clings to the top of the rocky outcrop!!

We were surprised to discover that the castle was used for many years as a summer holiday home and remains in good repair rather than being a ruin. And guess what?! It is yet another property that is administered by the National Trust! That makes our tally five NT properties in three days. Of course the tidal access means that everyone arrives at much the same time, eats on their arrival in the village and then heads out to the castle which makes for a rather crowded visit!! Despite the crush of visitors we managed to shuffle our way through all of the rooms of the castle that were on display.

From the castle, Kath and Albert decided to head back to the village while Bernie and I walked out a bit further towards the end of the island and then returned via the walled garden. Compared with the gardens that we have seen in the last couple of days this one was only tiny and planted for summer colour rather than for the spring. Apart from some stunning red poppies and some cornflowers, there were only newly planted seedlings to see.

Back in the village we visited the Lindisfarne Priory which is definitely a ruin. This site is administered by English Heritage and we have not been able to work out yet if our National Trust cards are also accepted by English Heritage?? We still don’t know as there was nobody in the ticket booth when we arrived at 4.30-ish so we just snuck in!!

On our way back around to the café where we had arranged to meet Kath and Albert we encountered two girls displaying some birds of prey. Bernie took some photos and I stroked a barn owl’s chest. Despite being handled by goodness knows how many tourists, I think the owl was still enjoying the attention as it closed its eyes and seemed quite content as I petted it??? We donated a couple of pounds to their cause for having had the opportunity of seeing these birds up close.

We were back on the mainland by about 5.30pm so well ahead of today’s 10.20pm deadline. Despite all of the information about the tidal access apparently people are stranded on the island quite regularly!! The causeway is open for about eight hours at a time and only closed for four so with a little bit of planning there really shouldn’t be a problem coordinating a visit around the tides???

It only took as about 20 minutes to drive back to Wooler. We had thought that we might have Chinese food for dinner tonight, but the Chinese take-away is closed on Tuesdays!! Ah well, we did a bit more cholesterol loading and bought fish and chips for dinner!!! Thank goodness we started the day with fruit and cereal - at least we had one decent meal today.

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