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Holy Island & Drama at Newton-by-the-Sea

by Tara

We woke up on the beach to a stunning sunrise, packed up, and headed towards Lindisfarne, or Holy Island. To reach the island we cycled along the damp, seaweed-covered causeway that is only accessible during low tide.

Beach Sunrise Tara pushing over a sand dune Holy Island Sign

Upon arrival, we parked our bikes behind a coffee-shop and set out on foot. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we enjoyed an easy hike up to the castle. We wandered around, taking pictures and trying to get close to the many sheep and adorable lambs that roamed freely.

Lindisfarne Castle Lambs

Inside the Church of St. Aiden, locals were preparing massive bouquets of daffodils and other flowers for the coming Easter service. We tasted the famous Lindisfarne mead at a winery, rummaged through old books at a used-book shop (I bought one), and looked at an exhibition of the history of the Island. It was a lovely, relaxing morning.

Single Dasiy

Near the museum, Tyler spotted four touring bicycles leaning against a wall. The heavily-loaded, dirt-smudged panniers were a dead giveaway. We moved our bikes over to rest with theirs, making a veritable wall of touring bikes. As we were leaving, we met the bikes’ owners, traded stories and routes, and found they were a group of friends who were cycling from Newcastle to Edinburgh over their Easter vacation. They said they had been on short tours where they bike 60 miles a day! Phew— no thank you. We rarely bike more than 30 in one day, and we don’t particularly want to do any more than that! Really, we just eat and take pictures all day, with a couple miles between breaks (we're hardcore!).

We left the island and headed south again. When it was time to start thinking about where to settle for the night, I realized we hadn't seen any signs for campgrounds in some time. Unfortunately the landscape wasn't particularly friendly to free-camping either. Tyler suggested we try cycling over one last hill into a small village called Newton-by-the-Sea (henceforth called 'Newton'), hoping to find a campground or other accommodations.

Newton was a small village with a population of less than 30 people. The majority of the residents live in a U shaped block of connected houses around a common lawn with a pub in the corner.

Realizing that there was still no place to free-camp and certainly no bed and breakfast, we were about to leave when we were offered a bedroom at the home of a chatty, boozy, smoky resident. We accepted somewhat reluctantly and put our clothing panniers in the spare room upstairs.

Newton by the Sea

Our host, Shelia, took us for a walk along the ocean around Newton and talked our ears off about whatever popped into her head. The walk was beautiful but I was uncomfortable with her, and I had a very bad feeling about staying at her house. Tyler wasn't thrilled about the slightly smokey room but he wasn't concerned.

Newton by the Sea

When we returned from our walk Tyler went up to the spare room to grab some things before we set off for a sunset picnic together. I waited by the bikes while the following ensued:

I walked upstairs to the hallway leading to the spare room. Halfway down there was a computer nook with a second doorway in front of ours. Sheila's husband, back from the pub and looking a bit haggard, was at the computer. When he saw me, he stood up and said, "What are you, crazy man? This is my house!" He pushed me back and slammed the door. Sheila was behind me and looked aghast; clearly there was a lack of communication between the two.

Confused, I looked at her and then stepped out of the way while the two of them began to yell at each other. Her husband, Ian, slammed the door a few more times and each time it bounced open. Eventually I was able to get their attention and control of the situation.

I asked Shelia to let me speak with Ian repeatedly. When she finally stepped aside amidst a flurry of apologies I told Ian in a very firm and friendly tone that I would be happy to leave his home but that I was not going to do so until he let me get my thing from the room at the end of the hall. He just stared at me and so I told him again very clearly that I was going to go into the room, get my things and leave. He finally stepped aside.

I grabbed our things and promptly left while hearing him call Sheila a "nutter" as the two of them fired it up again.


After what seemed like forever Tyler came back outside and said very directly "Pack up, we're leaving, now. I will explain when we're gone."

I had no idea what happened but I was more than happy to oblige. While we packed Shelia emerged and again began apologizing for her husband's behavior. She muttered how there would be "consequences" later on that evening, that she had been thinking of getting rid of him for a few months, and something about a "domestic." Tyler continually told her it was okay (though it clearly was not).

As we rode out of town I heard something crash in the house and was overwhelmed with relief that we were on our way. Lesson learned- we will never stay anywhere unless both of us are completely comfortable with it.

I chose the relative certainty of a campground over the unknown prospect of a bed and breakfast with a vacancy on Easter weekend.

With daylight fading, we headed towards Alnwick, a market town about six miles south of us where we were sure to find a bed and breakfast or a campground. According to our GPS we had about 30 minutes of daylight left. I was tired and freaked out about the Newton incident but there was nothing to do except continue on in search of somewhere to sleep.

On the way to Alnwick we passed by a bed and breakfast which we discovered was full. A bit further down the road we finally saw a sign for a campground. It was three miles in the opposite direction of Anwick and we didn’t have much daylight left.

Tyler deferred to me to choose which felt more comfortable. I chose the relative certainty of a campground over the unknown prospect of a bed and breakfast with a vacancy on Easter weekend. With the sun setting we strapped on our headlamps and carried on.

We arrived at a fairly large campground, Proctor's Stead. It was run by the British equivalent to Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino. I felt safe as we set up camp among a gazillion British tourists who were watching TV in their campers spaced five feet from one another.

Thankful to be "home" for the night, we realized that finding a safe place to sleep in England might require a bit more planning than it had in Scotland. Something we loved about Scotland was that fact that you had the "right to roam" anywhere you pleased. As long as you didn’t disturb the friendly locals or their livestock, you could set up camp pretty much anywhere and no one would really mind.

English Road

Here in England things are much different. There are signs everywhere- private drive, no trespassing, private property, private land, etc. Even if people were more receptive to the idea, we'd still have difficulty finding places to free-camp as the landscape here has not been easy to hide in thus far. If you're cycling on the road, it can be hard to get off, for thick, impenetrable hedges (interspersed with brambles and nettles) form barriers on either side. If there isn't a hedge there is likely to be a fence, but if somehow you do manage to get off the road, it isn't easy to hide in a wide-open field full of sheep. Also, either because it is Easter vacation here, or because England is much more populated than Scotland, there seem to be people everywhere. Even in the countryside, there are always people wandering around. The more we travel the more we are acutely aware of how much we prefer remote places.

Here are a few more photos; it was a busy day!

Tara petting a horse Seaside Horses


holy crap! Be careful you two!

Posted by Amanda on April 12th, 2009 at 8:45 PM
Wow! 30 people and 1 bar...that guy must drink a lot. I'm making a folder of your pictures which I think I would like to paint. I'd love some shells. I keep your website open so the kids can see your progress. They ask about you when they arrive.

I think you are on the right road, in taking your time. Enjoy. I love to read about your experiences. Love GP
Posted by The Mathman on April 12th, 2009 at 11:09 PM
Hello from Minnesota!
I've really enjoyed reading your journal and following your adventures. I've been amazed at how friendly and supportive MOST of the folks have been that you've met.(You could have taken that guy, Tyler.) ;) Trust your instincts.

Great photos! Loved the pony!

Take care.
Posted by Mary Niedenfuer on April 15th, 2009 at 11:52 AM
I was just able to read this one as I will also try to get upto speed with the rest of your trip. Good job keeping your "cool," Tyler. sounds like you handled it well. Like I was preaching to you before you left, always be aware of your surroundings and things to look for. As with this trip, you'll both be more proficient at it than the rest of us. Keep on keep'n on.
--Maestro Kurt
Posted by massagebyjh on April 19th, 2009 at 8:16 PM