The lower castle walls studded with wildflowers and the sheep in the meadow give the Holy Island of Lindisfarne a colorful and lively surrounding.
There are times when we travel across the globe only to be hugely disappointed that the monument of our dreams is covered in scaffolding. The U. S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.? The Trevi Fountain in Rome? Well, this time it was Lindisfarne Castle on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in England. I had admired photos of Lindisfarne Castle online with brilliant colors of sunrise or sunset and high tide surrounding the sky high castle. I had even bought a book on photography in the region.
Fortunately, the castle was reopened to the public on April 1, and I was able to walk the interior. A local shopkeeper told me the scaffolding is much less intrusive than it has been. This old castle gets quite a bit of wind and rain damage from its perch right on the North Sea.
With a footnote that the above true photo was altered in Photoshop, here is my edited image. It helps us to imagine the site without scaffolding. The timing of my visit was 3pm.
How appropriate that I should find sheep grazing on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, since sheep are often used in Bible stories as symbols of the common man in need of a good shepherd. I was able to walk fairly close to this small herd and this one sheep who had wandered off. I must have looked more like a wolf than a shepherd, because the sheep were calling out, “Baaaaah.”
Sheep need to avoid eating this beautiful blue flower, Viper’s Bugloss, that grows wild in England, because its burrs can become lodged in the throat, often creating the need for extraction or even surgery. Burrs aside, the flowers affect the sheep’s liver.
I learned about these beautiful yet troublesome flowers in the Poison Garden of Alnwick Castle, which is also located in Northumberland, on the northeast coast of England.
Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, is isolated from the mainland by the tides for five hours a day, but can be visited during low tide. Most visitors flock to the 16 century castle, which is normally quite picturesque, but is now shrouded in scaffolding as part of its restoration. I found the hike to the castle quite beautiful, along the border of this sheep farm.
Saints Aidan and Cuthbert, both living in the first century, spent time on this island. Saint Aiden was an Irish missionary who founded a monastery here, and St. Cuthbert was a monk who lived as a hermit on Inner Farne and later became bishop of Lindisfarne. (Source: Eyewitness Travel, Great Britain.)
According to the locals, weather in the Scottish Highlands can be described in one of three ways:
A steady mist kept our windshield peppered with tiny drops as we passed the rugged landscape in Glencoe. The vivid green ground cover attests to the fact that most days here are either atmospheric or dramatic with steady precipitation and rapidly changing conditions.
While this region may look like a hiker’s dream, we heard cautionary tales of hikers who grew fatigued on long treks through thin air who treated themselves to a nap, hoping to awaken refreshed. Many hikers who nap succumb to hypothermia.
For some reason, I find this animal hilarious. Drive the Scottish Highlands, and you will meet a Highland Cow, affectionately known as the “Hairy Coo,” by the locals. Their coat is tough enough to withstand nearly constant rain and long, cold winters. The bangs over their eyes may function as sunglasses, but makes them look like survivors of neglect. Moving slowly, they seem docile and not very smart, but who knows what they are thinking?
After a few days of city life, it feels so good to get out in the countryside and see a far different part of Scotland. Heading north across the Firth of Forth (the estuary of the Forth River), we stopped in the coastal town of Elie to stretch our legs. I wasn’t going to risk getting sand in my shoes, but I’m very glad I did take a few steps on to the quiet beach to admire this lovely crescent shoreline.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to shop abroad. So, it’s no surprise that my favorite street in Edinburgh, Scotland is a shopping street lined with boutiques.
On this one street, which was the inspiration for “Diagon Alley” in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book, one can buy cards, tweeds, cheese, jewelry, a gourmet French dinner and yes, even a magic wand.
In the Middle Ages, stained glass windows taught the Scriptures to the illiterate, but today the educated admire them for their beauty and artistry. Saint Giles Cathedral in the heart of Edinburgh features some stunning stained glass as well as a beautiful architecture.
In St. Giles Cathedral, the leader of the Scottish reformation John Knox preached and converted the church from a Catholic to a Presbyterian place of worship in the 16 century. Knox had the stained glass removed, as he opposed anything that separated one from God, according to travel writer Rick Steves. Nineteenth century Victorians installed the stained glass we admire today.
I photographed these windows by propping the camera on the pew, and setting my Sony a7rII camera on ISO 2000. The images were lightly processed in Adobe Lightroom. I found the Sony performed quite well in dimly lit church interiors.
The ruins of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral might tell stories better than a perfectly restored monument. Wandering through here on a quiet afternoon, one cannot hear the organ or the choir. One cannot see the stained windows that glimmer in other Cathedrals, or gaze up the columns to the arches in the high ceiling.
But you can walk up what was the center aisle, now overgrown with grass and feel the breeze off the North Sea. You can wonder what happened to the missing walls and ceiling.
The town’s people plundered this enormous 12th century Cathedral to build the town? Yes, they did. The 16-century Scottish reformation inspired zealots to dismantle and destroy Catholic churches and abbeys. Today 40% of Scots follow the Church of Scotland, while 20% of Scots are Catholics. Most Catholics are Irish immigrants who live in the Western Highlands.*
My observation is that religion plays a far smaller role in the life of most people today.
The relics of martyr Saint Andrew, who was crucified on a diagonal cross, made Saint Andrews an important pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Today, we mainly know of Saint Andrews for its fine university and its 19 century golf course.
If you want to see and hear more about Scotland and northern England, go ahead and subscribe to my blog. There is much more to come from my recent trip there.
*Great Britain by Rick Steves, 22nd Edition.