The Vikings first attacked Lindisfarne in 793 and this week that date in history was marked by a week-long Viking extravaganza.
But this time around the Vikings abandoned their traditional longboats for a modern form of transport so that they could bring home a safety message.
The Viking visitors took a trip along the Holy Island causeway with the Lindisfarne coastguard, Ryan Douglas, in his rescue 4 x 4. This month is one of the most popular times of the year for tourists visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
Following a series of incidents involving island visitors becoming trapped by the rapidly incoming tide which cuts off the island to the mainland the Vikings focused on increasing awareness of the causeway’s tide times to drivers during peak visitor season, warning them not to ignore the tide times.
The safety message from the Vikings also comes at a time when plans are underway to install permanent warning signs at the start of the to the causeway. New electronic signs were trialled earlier in the year in an attempt to combat cases of tourists who haven’t paid heed to the island’s infamous tidal causeway, receiving positive feedback from islanders and visitors alike.
Ryan Douglas has lived on the island all his life. He also works as a property steward at Lindisfarne Priory by day and has been working to maintain the safety of islanders and tourists since he took on the role of Coastguard Station Officer in 2010. Ryan joined the HM Coastguard Holy Island on his 16th birthday in December 2008 and then became the youngest Coastguard Station Officer in the UK in June 2010.
Ryan said: “It was great that the Vikings were able to take a break from their busy event schedule at the Priory and lend a hand raising awareness of safety issues with me today. I’ve got my English Heritage hat on, encouraging people to come and enjoy this event and also my Coastguard hat asking that when they do visit, they plan ahead and check the tide times. With so many tourists crossing the causeway during the summer months, it is vital that we raise awareness of the safe crossing times and the fact that these must be adhered to.
“The Vikings certainly never had any problems with their mode of transport but people visiting the island must remember that the warnings are there for good reason and their cars will not take them safely across the causeway when the tide comes in.
“We hope that people will come and visit Lindisfarne this summer, remembering to stick to the crossing times and ensuring a safe and fun-filled trip to the island.”
English Heritage is encouraging people to visit the Priory whilst the exciting Viking Week events are taking place all this week. Tide times can be checked in advance by visiting the Lindisfarne Priory page on the English Heritage website.
Until Friday 10 August, a full-scale replica Viking ship, complete with carved head, will be on display at the Priory, whilst in amongst the Priory ruins, will also be a Saxon boat replicating the voyage to safety of St Cuthbert’s coffin.
In what promises to be a spectacular finale weekend to Viking week, this weekend, August 11 – 12, the terrifying Vikings will return to storm the Priory, as they did in the 8th century. Visitors will have the chance to explore the Viking encampment and discover a little more about the men behind this wave of terror, as well as witnessing powerful displays of combat, culminating in a full-scale deadly battle featuring the Viking re-enactors.
The Viking Week event times are dependent on the tide times, as the island is only accessible via the causeway at low tide. If you make a trip to Holy Island be sure to check the tide times before you travel.
As an added extra to the Viking story, the ancient Viking Raiders stone, which represents the brutal raids on Lindisfarne Priory, is currently on display at the Priory museum, before it sets off on its journey to form part of next year’s exciting new exhibition of the Lindisfarne Gospels at Durham Cathedral.
For more information about Lindisfarne Priory, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/