Day 43 – The Pilgrims Path to Holy Island

I risked more smoked salmon with scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning and all was well.

Today was more like a rest day. We had a short stroll down to the coast which involved crossing the 60mph A1 road and then the main east coast railway. That bit was quite exciting. Rather than providing a footbridge, there was just a telephone and lots of warnings about trains travelling in excess of 100mph which means they arrive before you see them. Martin called the signalman and said we’d be over in 30 seconds so we were cleared to cross the line. But by the time he’d explained the protocol and we’d unlocked the gate, the 30 seconds had passed. There was then a further delay to arrange us into two households and apply the necessary social distancing for the benefit of the CCTV. We then set off across the line and by the time I’d cleared the track it felt more like half an hour since the call. However, the trainspotters among us would not be disappointed; the London bound express flew past soon after I’d locked the gate.

There was no telephone or signalman to give us the all clear to wade out to Holy Island. I poked the sand with my pole and declared it safe. We sat on the little wall and removed our socks and shoes, rolled up our trousers and with a tiny splash, dropped into the fast receding tide and set off on the final short but hazardous stretch of my pilgrimage to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

Why Holy? Because this is where Christianity became established in Britain. St Cuthbert preached here and was buried here. And it is where the Lindisfarne Gospels were written in the ninth century. So it’s a worthy pilgrimage destination.

The crossing was as dramatic a finish to a pilgrimage as I’ve ever experienced. At first, Lindisfarne is some 5Km away and the pilgrims follow a straight line called the Pilgrims Path marked by tall poles. It’s essential to complete the crossing within the six hours of low tide otherwise you will be washed away. That’s why I set off from Weybridge when I did to catch the morning low tide today.

The water was cool and the sand was mostly solid although there were patches of knee deep mud, some very slippery sections and some pleasant seaweed areas. There were a couple of small refuge huts on stilts for the reckless but, believe me, you wouldn’t want to sit out 6 hours of high tide in one of them.

Almost everyone drives along the causeway but there were a few others on the sands. It was a special experience. Some birds wandered around poking for worms, a colony of seals provided a suitable BBC soundtrack and gradually the castle came into view.

I wanted the crossing to last forever. You’d think walking barefoot for 5Km across the sea would be painful but your feet are so perfectly numbed by the cold that you don’t feel a thing.

Although this was my shortest pilgrimage in time it felt like the longest. I walked up England through places, whole regions I’d never visited before, poked my head into Scotland and then finished, after six weeks, off the Northumberland coast.

I was expecting a lonely passage in these times of the coronavirus but it was a challenge to spend so long without meeting anyone on the rural footpaths. There was poor weather at times which added to the bleak and desolate landscape. Without fellow walkers, I kept myself company by reliving special times of my past which might have crept into my blog but they kept me going.

Then just when I was approaching the most remote areas of the north Pennines where I was expecting total emptiness and the most awful foggy, wet and windy weather, everything changed. The sun shone, the landscape dazzled and the most wonderful people appeared to accompany me through the final stages of my pilgrimage.

I was always looking forward to crossing The Cheviots. They are mystical hills and they didn’t disappoint. The landscape was spectacular and I have so many very special memories of those last few days at the end of the Pennine Way. I will treasure them forever.

What a journey this has been. At the start of this year I intended to walk in Italy but it gradually became clear that an overseas trip would be tricky during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why I decided to finally tackle the Pennine Way and to make a proper pilgrimage out of it. I hope you all stay safe in these very difficult times.

On the Pilgrims Path
Calling the signalman
Just made it
Final preparations for the crossing
Refuge hut
My foot
Sand pecker
Lindisfarne Abbey
Lindisfarne Castle
The End

45 comments on “Day 43 – The Pilgrims Path to Holy Island

  1. Congratulations on finishing the trek! What a contrast to our afternoon stroll through Oxford all those weeks ago!

  2. Vicky Williamson

    Kia ora, Tim, another bucket list achievement – congratulations. You began the walk with wet feet and so it is only fitting to finish it that way! I am delighted by your t-shirt so here’s a challenge – check out the Te Araroa Trail. It’s not a pilgrimage though. I’ll miss my morning read of your adventures, misadventures and musings so do get on the way again! Stay safe and stay sane when you get home. Ganbatte and kia kaha, Vicky

    • Hi Vicky, many thanks for all your kind messages over the trip. It keeps me going. Stay safe. Tim

  3. Peter Mastenko

    Great stuff! Well done for reaching the end, and it looks a most fitting destination for a Pilgrimage. Safe home!

    • It’s a very good pilgrimage destination. I must read up about it because I’m a bit vague about the history. Thanks for your comments. Hope we’re back at the Proms next year. Tim

  4. Philippa

    Brilliant Tim! It’s been great to follow your pilgrimage blog and beautiful photos. As for the t-shirt, have you already visited the land of the long white cloud? If not, though it’s not strictly a pilgrimage,Te Araroa is a worthy long distance trail, when you have a few months to spare and the **** virus has been vanquished enough to allow travel to Aotearoa (we’re OK here right now; moved to lockdown level 1 at midnight)! Meantime, thanks again, and fare well.

    • Hi Philippa, thanks for all the messages of support. Let’s hope this virus goes away and you can get out soon. The walking shirt is one of your Icebreakers which I love. I got it in a local store but the trail is rather adventurous. I’d probably need two shirts. All the best, Tim

  5. Tassie Kaz

    Veni, vidi, vici….
    & that ‘sorry relief of arrival’ long distance walkers know so well.
    Congratulations Tim….& thank you for taking all of us along with you (no wonder you had your backpack transported!)
    Now, would you mind turning around & walking back from whence you came so we may continue to journey vicariously through you?
    Safe trip home. 🤗

    • Hi Karen, thanks for all the support along the way. I think it’s a good time to return home as life is getting more difficult in Britain. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity for this pilgrimage. Best wishes, Tim

  6. So enjoyed you trek, thank you Tom.

  7. Sorry Tim

    • Hi Kris, it’s good to hear you enjoyed the walk as much as I did. Cheers, Tim

  8. Many congratulations Tim. It’s been brilliant reading your daily blogs and I’m sure I am not the only one who will miss this window on your extraordinary adventures. All the best!

    • Cheers Nick. I’m looking forward to seeing you all soon. Tim

  9. Walkmag

    Thank you so much for sharing, similiar to a few of your blog groupies I am in lockdown.
    Otherwise I would be hiking in Italy


    • Hi Walkmag, thanks for following my adventures once again. It’s not a very informative blog but I hope you found it entertaining. Perhaps I’ll see you in Italy next time. Best wishes, Tim

  10. David Jury

    Well done Tim – a fine achievement in difficult times.

    • Hi David, thanks for the support and I hope we can meet up and do that Exmoor walk one day soon. Tim

  11. Congratulations on another successful pilgrimage trail Tim. Now you have that Warm Feeling, it is time to Run for Home, hope there’s no Fog on the Tyne on your return leg. See what I did there? Apologies to a well known 1970’s folk rock band…

    • If there is fog on the Tyne it’s all mine all mine. Haha I like that! See you soon. Tim

  12. Sophie

    Well done Dad, you did it! Another one ticked off! Here’s your promised final day comment from me. Thanks for the daily entertainment over the last 6 weeks with these blogs, what are we going to do without them? Time to start planning 2021?

    • Hi Sophie. Thanks and see you soon with the redecorating kit.

  13. Linda s

    Fantastic end to an amazing journey ! Great walking and blogging Tim – hope you enjoy tonights final meal in Melrose ! Wonder where’s next ? !

    • Hi Linda, sorry I didn’t get to meet you. Hopefully another time. I hope you enjoyed your walk on Wednesday. We will have a good last supper in Melrose for sure. Best wishes, Tim

  14. Well done Tim! Thank you so much for the daily blogs and super interesting photos. I sincerely will miss this. What a journey 😀

    • Hi Lucy, thanks for following again. I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll catch up when I’m home. Tim

  15. Congrats. That was a long walk, glad you enjoyed the last few days.

    • Hi Roger, thanks, most enjoyable. Hope we can get back to Sandown soon. Tim

  16. Huguette

    Congratulations Tim and I see you begin to get ready for the bay Mont St Michel crossing
    I made it last week and our foots were the same as your’s 😉.
    Thank’s for the pictures and comments, it ‘s better than my English’lessons.

    • Hi Huguette, yes it was good preparation for Mt St Michel. Congratulations on your crossing! Your English is better than my French. Au revoir for now, Tim

  17. MaryNell

    I have enjoyed reading about every one of your pilgrimages, but this was super special since I’m stuck at home not on a pilgrimage myself. Thanks for sharing and I’m looking forward to more of your (and my!) adventures.

    • Hi MaryNell, that’s so kind of you. Sorry to hear you are stuck at home when you’d rather be on pilgrimage, just like so many others. I fear I’ve only just finished before things get worse in Britain. It’s going to be a long winter. Wishing you well, Tim

  18. Jane, Jules, Lucy & Daniel

    Congratulations Tim. We have loved the blog, the barefoot walking looks amazing, had no idea it was so far (in my head it was a short stroll across the beach.) Congratulations Mandy for the Thames Path and St Cuthberts Way. Amazing achievements in these lockdown times. Amazing weather too.

    • Hi gang, it is amazing and we saw the same scene at high tide and it looks so different, only the tops of the poles showing above the water. It really is an island. Thanks for keeping the cat well fed and see you all soon. Tim

  19. Celia and David

    Mud is a beauty treatment, so your feet must be as soft as a baby’s face by now. Ironically, Italy is fairly safe now,but you did the right thing to stay here,and there’s always next year to look forward to. We have loved reading your trip in these very difficult times, and well done you for even contemplating it. Hi Mandy, you must have soft feet too!

    • Hi Celia & David, yes my feet are lovely and smooth. I’m glad you enjoyed the ride and hopefully we can meet you both soon. Tim

  20. Well done Tim! You must be thrilled and so excited to have completed another challenge. Wonder what you will achieve next year…..

    • Hi Jenny, I certainly am thrilled to finish this challenge and I’m looking forward to writing it up when I get home tomorrow. I hope next year brings back the good old days. Thanks for all your support and I hope to hear from you again soon. Tim

  21. martin greig

    Well done on completing the walk on time. I have really enjoyed the daily blogs and photographs. I will call you in a couple of days.


    • Thanks Martin. If I’d been late I’d have got wet! Speak soon

  22. Vikki McLean

    Calum and I have enjoyed our journey with you up the backbone of England, Tim. We have so much to learn about our own country and have been fascinated by this glimpse of the every-changing English landscape. Well done to you for sticking with the pilgrimage even when the going got tough and you were alone for days on end. A great achievement.

    • Hi Vikki, I learnt so much about England too. An incredible journey for me. Glad you enjoyed it. Tim

  23. Sorry so late in sending this Tim but congrats on notching up another great adventure.
    If you fancy an easier pilgrimage in a car to Canterbury one day, then I would be delighted to see you. Maybe can get you in to the Cathedral and Augustine’s Abbey with my Student Pass :).
    Either way I would love to meet up here or at Jolly Farmer before too long.
    Until then, my best wishes.

    p.s. The Road to Santiago exhibition at One New Street Art Gallery in Herne Bay is still on 🙂


    • Hi Torin, good to hear from you. I hope you have settled down in Canterbury and your university life is not too constrained by the current clampdowns. I’ll come to see you in Canterbury soon; much to catch up on. Best wishes, Tim

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