Easter and Christmas are special on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, and spending them here offers a unique experience, whether you do so for religious reasons, or you simply wish to experience the Holy Island’s holiday ‘vibe’.
They are also entirely different experiences to each other: almost polar opposites. While Easter sees Holy Island come to life, buzzing with spring visitors and welcoming the different communities to its open shops, pubs and cafes, Christmas is a magical, more intimate, affair with the island’s beaches wild and almost desolate against the winter’s winds, and many of the island’s businesses taking a well-deserved break. In winter the island has its own unique magic.
Spending Easter on Holy Island: pilgrimages, events and migrating birds
After the storms of winter, Holy Island breathes a sigh of relief to welcome spring. The skies fill with migratory birds, beneath which the land is frequented by photographers who watch and capture their likeness.
Easter sees the island’s cafes, pubs and shops all open, as well as Lindisfarne Castle and Lindisfarne Priory. Visitor numbers jump to the thousands, but those in the know can avoid the crowds by staying on the island for a tide, when all other visitors have to leave and you get a peaceful experience of Holy Island, rather than the touristy one.
Accommodation on Holy Island at Easter
Holy Island is very (very) popular during Easter, and accommodation will often sell out completely. Book ahead if you can, as there is a limited number of rooms on the island. If you’re planning to stay with us, you can see our availability and book your accommodation online.
Food options on Holy Island during Easter
The good news is that everywhere is open and there are excellent options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’d urge you to book your dinner in advance (ideally a few days earlier), to make sure you actually have a place to eat.
Walking the Pilgrim’s Way at Easter and the Northern Cross Pilgrimage
Easter on Holy Island is, of course, a time for the religious communities to mark this special time, each in their own way. Visitors walk the ancient Pilgrim’s Way across the sands to the Island, often at the end of longer walking routes such as St Cuthbert’s Way, from Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders. It is a fantastic experience for those who take part, but make sure you understand how to make the final crossing to the island safely. The tide waits for no one, and tide times that are valid for the causeway road should not be used to tell you when it is safe to cross on foot (the window for that crossing is much shorter). We recommend you read our guide to crossing the Pilgrim’s Way, and ensure you time your crossing correctly.
Since 1976, every Good Friday, Northern Cross organises a pilgrimage across to Holy Island, carrying large wooden crosses. The Good Friday crossing is the final leg of several for the cross-carrying pilgrims, which start in different places in England and Scotland (typically from Carlisle, Dunbar/Haddington, Lanark, Melrose and Bellingham). They gather a week before and walk together, staying the night in communal lodgings such as youth hostels and village hall floors. The full pilgrimage costs between £160-£200, but you are welcome to join them for free for the final leg from Beal Sands to Holy Island, on their final day.
The event is ecumenical, so everyone is welcome, regardless of denomination (or without any), and dozens take part. They do not cross the sands as one big group, but instead do so whenever one of the pilgrimage groups arrives at the crossing point (because of the tides, this tends to be within a 45 minute window). If you intend to join them, make sure you check the latest information on their site, and familiarise yourself with their guidance for joiners. The 2020 pilgrimage has sadly had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.
The ancient parish church of St Mary’s dates back to between 1180 and 1300, and offers a special experience for those wishing to feel close to God at Eastertide. The church advertises its Easter events and services on its website and on a board at the church entrance. You may also have seen pictures of the famous (modern) sculpture in the church, depicting monks carrying the coffin of St Cuthbert.
Saint Aidan’s Roman Catholic Church is a modest timber-clad 1950s building, which offers Mass when a visiting priest is on the island. Mass times are posted at the entrance, or you can find out in advance by contacting St Aidan’s Seahouses on 01665 720427.
Saint Cuthbert’s Centre, United Reformed Church updates on their Easter schedule can be found on their website.
Parking on the Island
If you are visiting for the day, please park in the main Pay and Display car park, which is on your left as you come onto the island (blue badge holders can continue to the designated car park further along, first left turn). If you are staying the night, please check with your accommodation provider where to park (there is limited parking in the village). If you are staying with us, we have allocated parking for each of our rooms.
Spending Christmas on Holy Island
Holy Island is a magical place at Christmas. With winter well and truly in, and the crowds of the summer forgotten, you can spend your holiday here like a local, walking the deserted beaches to watch the waves crash along the shore, and experience a quiet and completely different place to anything you’ve seen if you’ve been here before.
There are services at the Parish Church of St Mary’s, and get-togethers in the pubs. Everyone is friendlier than ever, and you can walk along the village and rank the Christmas decoration efforts.
Holy Island Accommodation at Christmas
Many accommodation providers shut shop for Christmas, so book your lodgings as early as possible. This is especially true if you plan to visit for less than a week, which means you are limited to guesthouses, hotels and B&Bs, most of which are closed. We were closed in 2019, but will be open for Christmas 2020.
Food options on Holy Island during Christmas
If you are staying on the island during Christmas time, be prepared for some pubs and cafes to be shut. In 2019 the two pubs alternated their closing times, so there were food and drink places open most of the time, but not always – and the same goes for cafes. Christmas Day is likely to have nowhere open. On Boxing day you can sometimes get lunch. Check with your accommodation provider what is available. If you’re staying with us, we’ll usually put together a list of what’s open and when, and if you’re staying in one of our self-catering studios, you can bring your own food provisions to use in our kitchenettes.
Christmas Events on Holy Island
The parish church of Saint Mary’s has a programme of events during December, from Christingle to a Carol Service; from Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to Holy Communion and Family Eucharist on Christmas Day. Details tend to be posted at the Church’s entrance and website.
There will often be additional events, which you can find out about from your hosts, or often if they are posted on windows in the village. These include the switching on of the Christmas Lights and sometimes more Carols.
The pubs will have their own planned events/openings.