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10:42am on Tuesday, 5th December, 2006:

Places I'd Like to Visit #3


Continuing the occasional series...


There are many islands off the coast of Great Britain that I'd like to visit — Lundy, the Scillies, Man, Mull — but Lindisfarne is top of my list. It's not even a proper island, but it's got something none of the others have: a magical name. Lindisfarne: it's just incredibly evocative. You can say that name and be transported back to the Dark Ages in an instant. It's perfect: the connotations are so strong, and it fits its purpose so well. About the only other name in English history that is so self-defining is Excalibur: you hear it, and you somehow know what it is even if you don't know what it is...

It's not just the name, of course: the island itself is, by the accounts of everyone I've spoken to about it, very beautiful. Furthermore, it's a beauty of a kind familiar to wind-swept coastal northerners such as myself, which other people might not get to the same extent. The island isn't all that big, but it hardly needs to be: there are plenty of photos to back up any claims made on its behalf.

I'm interested in the island's history, too. The fact that it's also known as Holy Island might appear to be something of a dampener to an atheist like me, but not at all: in the same way I can be impressed by the ancient Egyptians without worshipping Osiris, I can be impressed by the medieval monks of Lindisfarne without overdosing on the spiritual myself. Half of England was evangelised from there, and it produced some of the earliest written English language texts. Like its southern equivalent, Glastonbury, the place has atmosphere; I want to experience it.

I could do, too. In contrast to Lake of the Woods and St. Petersburg, the chance of my visiting Lindisfarne is greater than that of visiting Narnia: there's an actual possibility I might at some point in my life get there. It's only about 3 or 4 hours' drive from my home town; if the world ran out of petrol, I could conceivably bike there given a few weeks. It's actually accessible to me.

I suspect that's probably why I'll never go there...

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).