Last year, a good friend invited us to join him for a stay on the holy island of Lindisfarne to celebrate a special birthday. Part of the stay was to follow in the steps of pilgrims through many centuries to the place where St Cuthbert had spent time in prayer. The idea was to cross the pilgrims' route across the sands, which are covered twice a day by the incoming tide.
Our merry band of pilgrims were about 20 in number and we were all staying on the island, so in order that our pilgrimage ended at Lindisfarne Priory, we had to first set off from the island, performing a reverse pilgrimage, across the sands so that we could return and end at our intended destination. We gathered early in the morning on the first of May so that we had time to make our crossings in between tides. There was a real feeling of excitement and anticipation as we set off.
The pilgrim's way across the sands is not without its dangers. Sinking sands and swift currents could trap the unwary traveller. A series of posts show a safe route, and for the modern pilgrim there are also two towers to take refuge in if caught by a rising tide.
The journey across the sands brought people together who had only just met and gave rise to fascinating conversations and a sense of companionship, which I'm sure medieval pilgrims would also have enjoyed.
We also learnt quickly how to make the best way along a tricky path, to wade across tides and along the flowing streams to avoid walking on slippery seaweed, or sharp shells.
Our arrival on the island brought much attention from the residents and tourists, perhaps new pilgrims gave just as much interest in medieval times. We made our way to the priory gates where we ended our journey with a real sense of achievement, then it was off for a hearty meal and for some to rest. We then returned to the grounds of the ruined priory to explore and to sit and enjoy the peace of the place.