Day Sixty Seven

Another mainly travel day today. Aimed ever southward we travel on
the coastal path and catch glimpses of the ocean as we meander to
and from it.
It was meant to have been Hogwarts day today, but the weather is
inclement, and we don’t want to miss most of what the castle offers,
huddled inside against the rain. It teases all day, rain, fog, mist, sun,
back to rain. In the end though, it rained more often than not, so it
was a good call.
I don’t know how we managed it (other than sheer bloody bad luck)
but we have some how stumbled upon a bank holiday on the
weekend we’ve chosen to see one of the most visited attractions.
This means that anywhere within driving distance will be, and
ultimately is, booked out. This proves a challenge later in the day,
but for now we are unaware of the problem ahead.
Instead of Hogwarts, we head a little north to see the castle
Lindisfarne. Originally a “real” castle and fort, it was bought by the
owner of Town and Country magazine in Edwardian times and
turned into a country home.
I do like that about the English. They value and celebrate
eccentricity, in all it forms. So, you’re middle aged (old really, but
let’s be kind) and have purple hair, a nose ring, tattoos, a skirt that
resemble a belt, more black eye liner than exists in each of the make
counters in DJs and chose to sneer at society…..fabulous. Equally,
should you happenstance upon a great deal of money and buy
yourself a castle, all the better. Good for you. Less tall poppy
syndrome here and more, well,…isn’t that great. We could learn a
thing or two from this. Our lives have become so homogenised that
bar minor changes in post code and disposable income, one is
almost interchangeable for the other. Being different is frowned
upon, shades of high school all over again. Viva la difference, I say.

The trip out to the castle is really quite spectacular. It sits atop a
headland called Holy Island, tied to the mainland via a causeway
that is underwater at high tide. There are warnings each way that
the tides must be obeyed lest one is stuck waiting for the next low
tide. The drive leading up to and across the causeway is tidal,
obviously, runs for miles and is completely, utterly flat. It has the odd
pool of water here and there, and wild grasses as far as the eye can
see. Desolate, it’s a haven for birds and bird watchers alike and we
see many people parked for hiking. With the rain and mist over it,
the landscape looks eerie and quite alien. Despite low tide the sea
comes over the road in a few places and blanks out civilisation quite
effectively.
The castle itself is set high on a rocky outcrop. Looking at it from a
distance, it’s an impressive sight. It’s small, by castle standards, but
would be almost impossible to penetrate – the climb to it is almost
vertical. Luckily for tourists there is a path to it carved around the
hillside. It must have been one of the original access points as it’s
cobbled with herringboned stones, in an effort to prevent slippage
due the incline.
Inside, you can see the challenge it would have presented to
renovate into liveable areas. Being stone, and a castle,the walls are
thick, so a boiler room was the first call. There are a few formal
rooms, but most have been converted to bedrooms, fitting with a
summer holiday home.
In the distance is a walled garden, set up on an incline to protect it
from flooding. In the early days this was a vegetable garden to
support the castle and its guards, but in the 1800s it was
transformed into a pretty summer flower garden and its original
plantings are still respected today by the Trust volunteers.
We complete our tour and head back into the village of Holy Island
(167 inhabitants). The locals have set up market stalls with farm
produce on the way out, so we pick up a few things and head back
over the causeway with the tide rolling in, in the vain search for
accommodation.
Let’s just say that the less said about that, the better.

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