2 October 2010--I was wearing new hiking boots along Hadrian's Wall the other day, not entirely broken in, so I wasn't
surprised to have raised a blister on my left heel. Nothing too awful, just let it heal up before wearing those boots again.
But I'm awakened in the dark hours of the morning by burning pain in my heel. As I'm getting up, I feel quite sure I'm not
going to be able to go out at all today--it's excruciating, and I can barely stand.
It's always bloody something, isn't it?
Hobble over to the pharmacy after breakfast and get a package of blister plasters. After a bit of work, it's tolerable, and I'm off, if a bit late.
The causeway to Lindisfarne will not be open until 1:00 or so, so I decide to make up some of the coastal scenery I wanted to see yesterday. Down to Craster I go. It turns out to be one of those little places with a large pay-and-display lot just outside it. It's Saturday, and at £2 a pop, Northumberland Council is raking it in. Craster is "world famous" for its kippers, but it's too small a place for all this traffic; the real draw is the walk along the shore to Dunstanburgh Castle. My unease about the tourist crowd is relieved by the realization that it's well strung out along the trail to the castle and beyond.
Dunstanburgh was built by one of those evil earls who generally end up being executed for treason. They are fairly common in history, and they always seem to be closely related to the king, usually illegitimate half-brothers or cousins who resent their lot in life, dictated by dubious circumstance of birth. Such people, I guess, have provided for us the historical context of what it means to be a bastard. The castle was intended to be seen from the royal castle at Bamburgh, and it was meant to impress. The massive gatehouse looms over the approach from the sea, whence most visitors would arrive. To the modern visitor, however, it's almost like a false Hollywood front--inside, there is virtually nothing surviving. I enjoy the views back south to Craster and north to equally-impressive Bamburgh, but on the whole am glad that my membership in Historic Scotland allowed me entry to this English Heritage site without paying. My advice to anyone visiting would be to have a good look around the outside and continue on the trail to the pretty beach beyond. I'd do so myself, but I'm moving pretty slowly, and am well behind schedule on the day.
Back in Craster, I'm bemused to find that there is nowhere in town that serves the famous kippers. I have a pint at the Jolly Fisherman and order their kipper paté, the closest thing I can find, but as it happens they are out of it. It's left to the mobile food cart back at the car park to provide me with a kipper sandwich. It's quite good, and reminiscent of the smokie I had in Arbroath last year.
A blanket of cloud blows over from the west as I drive the coastal route north to the causeway for Holy Island. The Causeway itself is surreal, a ribbon of asphalt stretching across the tidal flats. I am much later than I'd have liked, and as I pull into the inevitable pay-and-display lot, jammed with the cars of hundreds of weekend daytrippers (£2.40 a car here), I can only think about what this day might have been. I could have had a leisurely look at Lindisfarne Priory and Lindisfarne Castle in sunshine, finishing long before the tides allowed the invading hordes across the causeway. I'd have had a nice walk out around the island and into the dunes, returning to the village after the masses had left. As it is, I have barely a half-hour to see the priory, and no time for the museum and the castle. I take a few photos, but the light is bad, the western front is covered in scaffolding, and I am uninspired. My Holy Island visit is a bit of a fizzle. The only saving grace is that I have been here before, and don't feel too cheated.
I wonder if I could have gotten a blister plaster in the village shop this morning.
On the way out of the priory, I chat with the fellow staffing the grounds, and tell him about my lodging screw-up. It turns out that he's owner of a B&B, and had two vacancies for the weekend up until yesterday. I wish he hadn't told me. The daytrippers are rapidly disappearing, despite the fact that the causeway is open until 8:00, and I enjoy a quiet walk around the village (it doesn't take long), and a pint in the Crown & Anchor. That's the most important thing, isn't it?