Reviewed by Katy Nettleton
What they say about the English Heritage Site of Lindisfarne Priory:
Cross the dramatic causeway to reach the island of Lindisfarne, on a journey that will stay in your memory forever. Follow in the footsteps of the ancient monks who built their priory here nearly 1,400 years ago, and explore the wild coastal beauty of Holy Island. Visit our fascinating museum and find out about a grisly Viking raid, the cult of St Cuthbert, and the beautiful medieval manuscript: the Lindisfarne Gospels.
After looking on the www.lindisfarne.org.uk website to identify the best time to cross the causeway to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne we decided today, Monday 30 March gave us more time on the sacred island, and for our 4½ year old twin girls to experience the causeway as a road, and as the sea! This was amazing to watch – even as an adult!
Once we parked up in the car park just on the edge of the island (about a 10 minute walk to the priory), which costs £4.40 for the day (the machine only takes coins which I think the resident ice-cream van takes full advantage of!) we took a leisurely stroll across the island to the museum. The walk was impressive in itself, as you walked by different generations of housing, and felt like you were walking through a television set as all the houses were quaint, attractive and in-keeping with the island and its history. Once we arrived at the museum (Lindisfarne Priory Museum) we were greeted by the most polite, happy and friendly staff who were very helpful (as we had been hoping to access the castle and other places of interest on the island at the same time but the shuttle bus service to the castle wasn’t running, so David and his team explained to us how to get to the castle easily on foot – after taking the walk I would say to anyone who is able, walk to the castle rather than take the bus as the views are amazing and the walk itself is very therapeutic whilst taking in the sites). We decided first to have a walk around the grounds of The Priory, which included walking through the churchyard which overlooks the Priory and the beach which was again quite surreal. Although I am not a religious person I did feel that the whole island and in particular the Priory was very spiritual, and thought provoking – and made me thankful for my family.
We then went into the museum (entrance cost for this and The Priory is £5.60 without gift aid for an adult). This was an informative walk through time from 635 to the 19th Century looking at preservation, we went through from when Saint Aidan arrived on the island, the Vikings invasion, the Norman Conquest to its present day. It was very visual, with floor to ceiling displays of artefacts from history, and details of what they were, how they were created and what they were used for during the different generations. For young children, there was allot of writing which meant we (the adults) were needing to read most of the displays out, however there was an interactive station looking out how the Priory was laid out. Our girls enjoyed putting “pegs in the board” and also looking at the cutlery made out of animal bones! And the broken plates – they were interested in why the pot was different to the painted ones they eat of today and why they would have been buried. This was quite interesting, as meant I had to read the boards quickly to determine which generation they were from and who at the time was occupying the Priory – of which I was interested in.
After the small museum (we only stayed there for around 20 minutes as any longer our girls would have lost interest due to being only 4½ and not quite understanding history) we walked through the shop; which stocks the usual English Heritage souvenirs and books associated with the Priory and its Christianity roots. I was also glad to see some Horrible Histories merchandise, as this is what relates to children of this generation, and supports their understanding of history. You can also sample the mead in the gift shop!
The Priory (Abbey) itself is, as you would expect, ruins (there were workmen on the site today) but after visiting the museum you could see how it was laid out and occupied by Monks in its former years with information signs strategically placed so you can imagine how things were. This again, was quite a spiritual experience. Our girls enjoyed walking through the grounds, but as you would expect they didn’t quite understand why there were walls falling down, and holes where they thought windows should be! The views were amazing of the Priory as well as from the Priory, as well as the island as a whole.
We managed to take several photographs of the site, and of the island which are stunning even with a mediocre phone camera due to the lighting and space.
Overall, this was a good experience and I am glad I went to the site. My only thoughts are that there could be more child engaging activities or displays: however the island and site itself lends itself to being child friendly and what is more enjoyable than playing hide and seek in ruins or running along the beach?
As we are on holidays in Northumberland I am glad we visited the island and the Priory and I personally have learnt allot and recapped on history from my school days!
Overall I would rate Lindesfarne Priory 3 out of 5; as I think there could do with more child friendly displays and activities (for family visitors) and the museum is only small (although is full of facts and information). The staff were brilliant both with adults and children alike, and even on a quiet day they were very cheerful and clearly enjoy their roles.
Prices cost £3.70 (child), £6.20 (adult) – these prices include a voluntary 10% Gift Aid donation (you can purcase without Gift Aid).
For more information visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/lindisfarne-priory.
Lindisfrane Priory, Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 2RX