St Cuthbert’s Way
The water beside the causeway was still 6 inches deep, as we took off our boots and socks, rolled up our trouser-legs, and headed out over the sands on the direct Pilgrim’s Route to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. We had total confidence in the tide table that assured us that the tide was going out not in, despite the evidence of our eyes to the contrary, as we entered a 12-inch deep channel. Sure enough, after 3 steps we were back to just 6 inches depth, with good firm sand underfoot. “Look behind!” someone shouted, to draw our attention to the blackest of squalls bearing down on us from the NW. Much co-operation was needed amongst the group as we struggled to extract our anoraks from rucksacks and put them on without putting the rucksacks down in the sea. Luckily the spell of water above us and below us lasted only a few minutes before the sky cleared with a clean straight-line division between grey and blue and the sun shone directly onto the Tudor castle rising up from the island ahead of us.
This was Friday, the final day of our walking tour in the footsteps of St Cuthbert. The previous Sunday we had started out from Melrose Abbey, across the border in Scotland, where Cuthbert had begun his monastic life, and followed the majestic River Tweed. We passed the sites of ancient battles between the English and Scottish, ruined strongholds of the Border Reivers, and the evidence of more recent personal battles in the array of abandoned walking boots that marks the finish of the notoriously challenging Pennine Way. Luckily for us, the St Cuthbert’s Way has been designed to secure the maximum number of great views with the minimum amount of uphill walking as it crosses the tail end of the mighty Cheviots.
Eventually yesterday afternoon we had crested the ridge above the spooky St Cuthbert’s Cave to gain a fabulous 360° panorama in crystal clear air: behind us the way we had come, ahead of us the sea, the scattered Farne Islands, and in front of them our destination of Holy Island. Now, as we reach halfway across the sands, the waters are indeed receding with the tide, though the deepest channel of the crossing is right at the far end. On dry land, we sit and munch our sandwiches before heading for the Priory and getting the last stamp on our Souvenir Certificates.