The castle is located in what was once the very volatile border area between England and Scotland. Not only did the English and Scots fight, but the area was frequently attacked by Vikings. The castle was built in 1550, around the time that Lindisfarne Priory went out of use, and stones from the priory were used as building material. It is very small by the usual standards, and was more of a fort. The castle sits on the highest point of the island, a whinstone hill called Beblowe. Lindisfarne's position in the North Sea made it vulnerable to attack from Scots and Norsemen, and by Tudor times it was clear there was a need for a stronger fortification, although obviously, by this time, the Norsemen were no longer a danger. This resulted in the creation of the fort on Beblowe Crag between 1570 and 1572 which forms the basis of the present castle. After Henry VIII suppressed the priory, his troops used the remains as a naval store. In 1542 Henry VIII ordered the Earl of Rutland to fortify the site against possible Scottish invasion. By December 1547, Ralph Cleisbye, Captain of the fort, had guns including; a wheel mounted demi-culverin; 2 brass sakers; a falcon; and another fixed demi-culverin. However, Beblowe Crag itself was not fortified until 1549 and Sir Richard Lee saw only a decayed platform and turf rampart there in 1565. Elizabeth I then had work carried out on the fort, strengthening it and providing gun platforms for the new developments in artillery technology. When James I came to power in England, he combined the Scottish and English thrones, and the need for the castle declined. At this time the castle was still garrisoned from Berwick and protected the small Lindisfarne Harbour. In the eighteenth century the castle was occupied briefly by Jacobite rebels, but was quickly recaptured by soldiers from Berwick who imprisoned the rebels; they dug their way out and hid for nine days close to nearby Bamburgh Castle before making good their escape.
The monastery of Lindisfarne was founded by Irish monk Saint Aidan, who had been sent from Iona off the west coast of Scotland to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald. The priory was founded before the end of 634 and Aidan remained there until his death in 651. The priory remained the only seat of a bishopric in Northumbria for nearly thirty years. Finian (bishop 651–661) built a timber church "suitable for a bishop's seat". St. Bede however was critical of the fact that the church was not built of stone but only of hewn oak thatched with reeds. A later bishop, Eadbert removed the thatch and covered both walls and roof in lead. At some point in the early 8th century, the famous illuminated manuscript known as the Lindisfarne Gospels, an illustrated Latin copy of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, was made probably at Lindisfarne and the artist was possibly Eadfrith, who later became Bishop of Lindisfarne. Sometime in the second half of the 10th century a monk named Aldred added an Anglo-Saxon (Old English) gloss to the Latin text, producing the earliest surviving Old English copies of the Gospels. Aldred attributed the original to Eadfrith (bishop 698–721). The Gospels were written with a good hand, but it is the illustrations done in an insular style containing a fusion of Celtic, Germanic and Roman elements that are truly outstanding. According to Aldred, Eadfrith's successor Æthelwald was responsible for pressing and binding it and then it was covered with a fine metal case made by a hermit called Billfrith. The Lindisfarne Gospels now reside in the British Library in London, somewhat to the annoyance of some Northumbrians.
The lime kilns at Castle Point on Holy Island are among the largest, most complex and best preserved lime kilns in Northumberland. These kilns produced quick lime for a variety of uses such agricultural fertilizer, mortar for buildings and whitewash. Limited toilet facilities at Castle. Public toilet on Lower Battery inside Castle. Second public toilet available on first floor. Access to castle by foot up steep cobbled ramp. The priory has 5 steps at the entrance but they do have one wheelchair for loan. Assistance and guide dogs are welcome. There are sculptures to touch and tape of Celtic and medieval music in museum for the visually impared. We must stress that the causeway is flooded at high tide, please check the times of crossing here.
Location : Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 2SH
Transport: Berwick-on-Tweed (National Rail) then bus. Bus: 477 service from Berwick-upon-Tweed train station, with connecting buses at Beal to and from Newcastle. Times vary with season and tides.
Opening Times Castle: Opening times vary due to tides, either 10:00 to 15:00 or 12:00 to 17:00
Opening Times Priory: Opening times vary due to tides, either 10:00 to 16:00 or 12:00 to 17:00
Tickets Castle: Adults £7.30 Children £3.60
Tickets: Adults £5.60 Concessions £5.00 Children £3.30
Tel: 01289 389244