We walked up to the Heugh, a high point of the island, to watch the sun set in the west. Once there was a fort here and some of the ruined walls remain, providing a little shelter from the prevailing wind. There are the remains too of the Lantern Chapel that may have been a beacon and lookout point.
The view from here today is spectacular, looking inland onto the ruins of the twelfth-century Priory, eastwards to the castle and along the coast of the mainland to where the silhouette of Bamburgh castle punctuates the horizon and the day markers of Guile Point reach for the sky.
The light was amazing, turning the pink sandstone to red then gold, painting the landscape with long shadows and glittering on the water, casting an aurulent pathway to the sun. Below we could see the little spit of land, no more than a sea rock cut off from the island by the tide, where St Cuthbert’s chapel once stood.
A simple cross stands on the tiny islet. It was to here the saint retreated in search of solitude, and later further still to the island of Farne. Legends say that like St Francis his rapport with the birds and beasts was great. He would talk to the birds that flocked around him and the seals would come and sit at his feet, warming them against the frozen north wind that blew across the sea.
Certainly, the birds were still with us as we climbed past the simple memorial cross, designed by Lutyens in memory of those who lost their lives to war. The shocking number of crosses at its foot may be more a reflection of those who remain than the number of dead, but the tiny population of the island means that few families escaped unscathed from the conflict.
Continue reading at France & Vincent