Visiting Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island

Our full guide to Lindisfarne Castle, in which we will cover: how to visit, opening times, cost of entry, parking, what can you see there, its quirky history and the adjacent walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll. We’ll also discuss weddings and dogs, as you do.

Can I visit Lindisfarne Castle?

Yes you can, but it takes some careful planning (Which is part of the fun. Crossing Holy Island’s causeway is a great experience, as is visiting Holy Island itself). The castle is open mid-february to the end of October or the first week of November (exact dates vary, but the Castle is closed for winter). Opening times vary by day, depending on tide times. To plan your visit:

  • First check when you can access Holy Island itself, based on tide times (see our article on how to cross the causeway). Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get onto the Island and to leave before the next tide. Alternatively, a great option is to stay on the Island for a tide, or – even better – for the night. There’s nothing quite like the schadenfreude of seeing everyone else forced to leave by the tide, while you can stay and enjoy Holy Island like the locals do, without the tourists.
  • Then check Lindisfarne Castle’s opening times on their website. The castle’s opening times coincide with the times the island is accessible, but you probably want to allow yourself some time to explore the Island’s village and harbour, the priory and beautiful beaches. Entrance to the Castle is allowed upto 30 minutes before it closes for the day.

Can we drive to Lindisfarne Castle? Where should I park?

Unless you are a blue-badge holder, please park in the island’s main car park (Pay & Display), which you’ll see on your left, as soon as you arrive on the Island. The walk to the Castle from there takes about 15 minutes (through the village, past the harbor, and then you are at the Castle. You really can’t miss it). During the summer months there is a shuttle bus (£ small cost) from the car park to the Castle and back, which operates every 30 minutes when the tide is out. There are shuttle timetables displayed in the car park. If we have a link for the next season, we’ll add it here.

How much does it cost to visit Lindisfarne Castle? Can I also visit Lindisfarne Priory under the same ticket?

Visiting the Castle is free for members of the National trust. Unfortunately, your NT membership does not get you into the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory, which is managed by English Heritage (Yes, we’ll resist subjecting you to a rant about why these two noble institutions should honour each other’s memberships, but don’t tempt us….).

2019 prices were as follows:

Adult                  £9.00   (£9.90 with Gift Aid*)
Child                  £4.50   (£5.00 with Gift Aid)
Family                £22.50 (£24.80 with Gift Aid)
Family, 1 adult  £13.50 (£14.90 with Gift Aid)

* Visitors from abroad will pay the price without Gift Aid (which is optional for UK taxpayers).

Entry to the Gertrude Jekyll Garden is free, whether or not you visit the Castle. More on that later.

Is there disabled access to the Castle? What about disabled parking?

There is a disabled car park about half a mile from the castle (closer than the main car park). To get there, drive past the main car park and then take the first left turn. The disabled and coach car park will be on your left a few houses down. There are also disabled toilet facilities in that car park. The National Trust says that disabled visitors with reduced mobility can be driven to the castle and dropped off there.

Access to the castle is  through a kissing gate and then you have to climb up a cobbled ramp that might be a little steep and slippery for some. There are three levels to the Castle, which are accessed through stone steps. Guide dogs are allowed into the castle. There are no disabled toilets in the castle itself. You can leave bags in free lockers next to the admissions hut. The Castle’s full access statement is available here.

Access to the Gertrude Jekyll Garden is through an unpaved path that can be muddy and uneven.

What’s inside Lindisfarne castle?

If you’re expecting a castle with fully dressed rooms and antique furniture, you may be surprised to learn that Lindisfarne Castle’s rooms are mostly bare at the moment. The furniture was taken away when the Castle underwent a major renovation in 2016-2018, and have not yet been returned. As we understand it, the building has to dry out first, and only then can the rooms be dressed. There are a few items, but these days the space is used for contemporary art exhibitions, and – like all contemporary art – they have their fans and detractors.

The building does have a great feeling about it, and the views of the harbour, village and Cheviot Hills from the Upper Battery are spectacular and well worth a visit.

Can you get married in Lindisfarne Castle?

The Castle can host a wedding celebration of upto 30 guests in the Upper Battery or the Ship Room. Organising a wedding on Holy Island is special, but requires some planning, especially if it is in summer, because accommodation on the island needs to be booked well in advance. Contact the Castle directly for more details and an information pack.

Are dogs allowed in the Castle?

Dogs are not allowed inside the Castle (except for guide dogs), but can be left at the ‘pet station’ near the admission hut.

When was Lindisfarne Castle built? Can you tell me about its history?

There are lots of resources about the Castle, so we’ll give you the abridged version.

  • Lindisfarne Castle was built during in the mid-1500s, on top of a volcanic plug known as Beblowe Crag, using stones robbed borrowed from Lindisfarne Priory. The Priory had been destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, so it was an excellent source of robust stones, already liberated from their building. You’ll also find these stones heavily featured in estate agent descriptions of properties for sale on Holy Island, as in ‘well appointed property, built in original stone from the majestic Lindisfarne Priory…’. Like fragments of the true Cross, these descriptions are always true.
  • The Castle and previous defensive structures built on the Crag during the 16th century were intended to protect the North of England from incursions by the Scots.
  • The first fortified building on the Crag was built shortly after Henry VIII’s death (so when someone says it was built by him, they are wrong). Work on this structure started in 1549 and it was extended and reshaped during the reign of Elizabeth I.
  • The garrison in the Castle had never been very large, and was not well paid. For example, in 1559, a soldier stationed there was paid 8d per day (or the equivalent of £7.78 in today’s money, which even then could buy barely anything). At that time the village on the island wasa little borowgh towne with fishers very poore(Crown Survey).
  • The Castle lost its strategic importance in 1603, after the death of Queen Elizabeth and the Union of the Crowns. The threat from the North lessened, and to this day we are happy to accept Scottish notes on the Island.
  • Skip forward a few centuries, which you can read about elsewhere if you’re a geek (TLDR), and by the end of the 19th century Lindisfarne Castle had fallen into disrepair.
  • Enter Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life magazine, who started the now popular trend of buying houses on Holy Island, doing them up and making them into holiday homes.
  • In 1901 Hudson came to Holy Island as part of a trip to Northumberland to survey properties he might feature in his magazine. In a clear case of Location Location Location meets Grand Designs, Hudson set his heart on acquiring and renovating the disheveled Castle and immediately made an offer to the owners (the Crown) and appointed an architect called ‘Ned’ (Edward Lutyens of many fames) to convert the Castle into an Edwardian country house, with a silhouette giving the impression of a stone seabird crouching on its nest of rock.
  • Hudson was proud of his little castle, and threw many a party there. Amongst his celebrity guests were Prime Minister  Asquith, King George V and Queen Mary (when they were still Prince & Princess of Wales) and Lord Baden-Powell of Scout’s honour. The village was often abuzz with news of celebs, not much different to ITV today, but with actual celebs and in person.
  • In 1921 Hudson sold Lindisfarne Castle to a stockbroker who sold it to a merchant banker, who gave it to the National Trust in 1944.

What is the Gertrude Jekyll Garden and can I visit it?

  • Hudson turned to old friend and gardening guru Gertrude to design a walled garden for his holiday castle on the site where the Castle’s garrison used to have its vegetable plot.
  • Her surname is NOT pronounced like most people pronounce Jekyll and Hyde. Instead say jee-kill. Fun fact: Robert Louis Stevenson would likely have pronounced his character’s name Jee-kill as well, but now even the Cambridge Dictionary uses the Hollywood version ‘Jeckill’.
  • In 2002 the National Trust used Gertrude’s original planting plans, which were discovered in a university library in California, to return the garden to its original glory. It is now managed by an NT gardener and a group of dedicated volunteers.
  • The front wall of the garden (facing the Castle) was lowered by Lutyens, to provide a good view of the castle from the garden bench.
  • VISITING: The garden was designed to look its best over summer (when Hudson was in residence), so that’s also the best time to visit. The garden remains unlocked, so you can enter it at your leisure, even if you are not visiting the castle itself. There is no fee to enter. The garden is stripped for winter, and remains pretty bare until it is replanted in spring.
  • Gardeners and GQT listeners will be interested in the plants themselves, which are varied and intended to create a delightful sea of colour in between a series of paths: marigolds contrasted against the silver of lamb’s ears; there’s clematis, sweet peas, delphiniums, cornflowers and chrysanthemums, poppies, daisies, rhubarb, hollyhocks and one sea buckthorn tree. There’s plenty more, including a vegetable and herb patch (Jekyll only specified ‘vegetables’ in her plan, so the gardeners had some creative freedom here).

If we’d like to visit the Castle and stay overnight on Holy Island, where can we stay?

Glad you asked. With us of course! Belvue Guesthouse is on Holy Island itself and you can check availability and book instantly online. Then, when everyone leaves, you can stay. Come be our guest.