Lindisfarne Castle: A Landmark of England's Border Region

Lindisfarne Castle is located on Holy Island on the spectacular Northumberland coast.

Lindisfarne Castle is located on Holy Island on the spectacular Northumberland coast. Built in the 16th century, the castle sits on the highest point of the island, a whin stone hill called Beblowe. The castle was extensively altered by the great English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century.

The border region between England and Scotland was once very volatile. Numerous wars raged between the English and the Scots, and the area was the frequent target of Viking raids. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is separated by a tidal causeway which may only be crossed at low tide. This made it an ideal location first for a priory, then for a castle. By Tudor times it was evident that the castle needed stronger fortification and a fort was constructed on Beblowe Crag between 1570-72. This forms the basis of the present castle. At this time Lindisfarne Priory was in decline and stone from the priory was used as building material.

After Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, his troops used the remains of the Priory as a naval store. Elizabeth I remodelled the fort, reinforcing it and providing artillery emplacements. When James I became king, he unified the Scottish and English thrones, and the need for the castle declined.

In the 19th century the castle was used as a look-out for coastguards. It became a tourist attraction for architects and antiquarians. The innovative Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh made a sketch of the castle in 1901.

In 1901 the building was purchased by Edward Hudson, owner of Country Life magazine, which published innumerable articles on English country house and rural themes. Hudson commissioned the notable architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to refurbish the castle in an Arts and Crafts idiom. According to legend, Hudson and Lutyens discovered the building while touring Northumberland and climbed over the wall to explore inside.

The castle is accessed by a steep climb around the rocky base of the hill. The entrance hall is divided by heavy stone pillars evoking an ecclesiastic interior. The dark red-brown stone contrasts with the whitewashed plasterwork. The kitchen is spartan in design, but dominated by a large stone fireplace. In the scullery is a mechanism used to operate the portcullis. Throughout the castle, Lutyens used a variety of materials including stone, brick, slate and wood to create vivid colours and textures, signifying a rustic, modest life-style. The interiors are thoroughly homely and domestic, despite being housed in a castle.

The dining room lies within the remains of the Tudor fort. The vaults roof is functional, supporting the gun battery above. A large chimney contains a bread-oven. In this room Lutyens used Gothic Revival traceried windows. The end walls is painted in a rich Prussian blue, which contrasts with the red-brick floor. The long gallery was created by Lutyens as an echo of the grand galleries in Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. The upper gallery leads onto the upper battery with its spectacular views along the coastline.

Lutyens's friend and collaborator Gertrude Jekyll designed a walled garden (1906-12) in the grounds of the castle. This had originally been the garrison's vegetable plot. The garden was restored to Jekyll original plan from 2002-6 (the plan it is now in the Reef Collection at the University of California).

The castle has been in the care of the National Trust since 1944.

Lindisfarne Castle was featured Roman Polanski's film adaptation of Macbeth (1971) in which it represents Macbeth's Castle.

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