Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, Northumberland and the Garden designed by Gertrude Jeykll

In the grounds of Lindisfarne Castle is a small walled garden, designed by Gertrude Jeykll.

The View of Lindisfarne Castle from the garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll

The View of Lindisfarne Castle from the garrison garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll

Lindisfarne Castle was originally built in 1570 as an Elizabethan fort. Following an uneventful 300 years and the removal of guns and soldiers in 1893 it lay empty and neglected. Edward Hudson the founder of Country Life magazine, by good fortune took his holiday in Northumberland, discovered the castle and the spectacular location and views, took out a lease and enlisted Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll to transform it into a holiday retreat. In 1906 Gertrude travelled to Northumberland by train with her good friend Edward Lutyens, they were transported by rowing boat across 3 miles of North Sea to Holy Island and the neglected castle.

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View from Castle and Gertrude’s route in a rowing boat. The rain came in quickly on the day we visited.

Hudson had wanted a water garden, incorporating the boggy area in the sweeping field behind the castle, a tennis court and croquet lawn. Funds did not stretch that far, so Gertrude was to focus on the old garrison vegetable plot across the field from the castle. Hudson planned the holiday retreat to be used mainly in the summer, so plants were chosen to be in flower during July and August.

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The view from the reading room of the old garrison garden designed by Gertrude Jeykll

In order to plant the crag on which the castle stands, Gertrude supposedly fired seeds at the rock face from a large fowling gun and lowered a small island boy, 7 year old Harry Walker, in a basket from the Upper Battery to access the difficult ledges. I am not sure what remains here of her original gun shot plants and Harrys hair-raising planting, but now its mainly some very pretty Centranthus.

Crag planting under the castle

Crag planting under the castle

Looking back from Gertrude’s garden are 3 upturned Herring boats, cut in half and used as storage sheds. Edward Hudson had these installed and of the three the one on the left is an original, the other two being renewed by the national trust.

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A project was set up in 2002 to restore Gertude’s planting plan, originally first implemented in 1911, 5 years after her initial visit.

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Stachys byzantina of course!

The garden is really charming and an unexpected discovery along the wild and romantic Northumberland coast.

We visited Lindisfarne Castle and Northumberland in late June, whilst on our first holiday up north, the lake district was the furthest north we had previously ventured. We are southerners, usually holidays at home are on the east, west or south coasts. We should of gone before, Northumberland is absolutely beautiful, spectacular coastlines, lots of wildlife, fabulous gardens, incredible scenery, excellent walks, hardly any people and despite my fears and a car full of wet weather gear it was very warm and the only rain on the day we visited here. Lindisfarne Castle is managed by the National Trust. Gertude’s garden was a bonus, the castle and island are fascinating and rich in atmospheric delights. To reach the castle, which is situated on Holy Island its vital to check tide times before crossing the causeway link road as access is at low tide only, upto 3 miles of the causeway is covered by the rising tide, so timing is everything. I can’t wait to go back.

21 thoughts on “Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, Northumberland and the Garden designed by Gertrude Jeykll

    • Thanks Cynthia, it was an overcast, drizzly and eventually heavy rain day, so it was impossible to capture how atmospheric the castle and location is. The National Trust have maintained the Edwardian interior of Hudson’s home beautifully, the garden and its history was a surprise to me and an added bonus to our trip.

    • Thanks Annette, we were expecting a wild and unruly castle.Lindisfarne was a wonderful surprise in a county rich in history and drama. We were told too that Holy island is quite dry and is in a rain shadow, but it wasn’t that day!

  1. What a beautiful place, Gertrude Jeykll is one of my garden gurus, she was so ahead of her time in many ways. Thank you for sharing your visit I really enjoyed reading about it.

    • Thank you Christina, I have just started to read an updated version of ‘Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden’, in an attempt to understand her more.She must of been a wonderful woman to meet.

  2. So interesting, Julie! It’s an area I’ve yet to visit, having only ever passed through before. Lindisfarne looks so old and mysterious, it’s hard to imagine it having a Jekyll garden. Loved the tale of the crag planting!

    • I cannot recommend Northumberland highly enough, its so beautiful, we were hatching all sorts of lets move here crazy plans that would give my husband a 5 hour commute to work!

  3. Hi Julie thanks so much for this and your post about Alnwick. I recently sped past in a train on my way to Scotland and thought how much I’d like to stop and visit the area. Like you, I have tended to stay south and your recent posts have really encouraged me to venture north. Thank you!

    • Hi, When we read the visitor book in our cottage, folk had commented that it was their 9th,10th or longer return visit to Northumberland, by the end of the week, having never holidayed anywhere more than twice before we could understand why. We are hooked!

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