Farne Islands in England – A Sacred Place For People and Animals Alike
Formed between 280 and 345 million years ago, the 28 islands which make up the Farne Archipelago were once part of the greater British Isle. But with the rising waters, after the last glaciation period, together with sea erosion, has transformed them into a series of picturesque islands off the coast of Great Britain, in the North Sea. The islands themselves are just the tip of a massive volcanic rock intrusion, known as the Great Whin Sill (the Great basalt belt), which crosses over North-Eastern England. However, this rock in particular is a special kind of basalt, known as dolerite, which is far tougher and can better withstand the relentless waves.
Even though the layer of dolerite can reach up to 30 meters in some places, fissures within the rock have become enlarged, giving way to some truly deep trenches, like the Chasm and St. Cuthbert’s Gut, on Inner Farne Island. During a storm, water gushes through these rock-carved trenches, spewing water some 30 meters high.
Farne Islands are strongly linked to Celtic Christianity. The Anglo-Saxon monk, St. Cuthbert, lived in isolation on the Inner Farne island during the 7th century, and was renown throughout the Kingdom of Northumbria for his healing powers. In fact, the name of the islands comes from “Farena Ealande” or “Pilgrim Island”. Cuthbert loved nature, birds and seals most of all, often being his only companions on the deserted island.
Another holy island here is Lindisfarne, which is connected to the mainland via a narrow dike, and is the only inhabited island among the 28. A monastery was built here during the 7th century, and is the place where the religious text, with many colorful illustrations, was written; the Lindisfarne Gospels. In 793 however, the monastery was sacked by the vikings sailing from the north-east.
Today the islands are most famed for their wildlife. Some 20 species of marine birds nest here, among which are the common eider, Fulmarus glacialis, seagulls, puffin penguins, and many others. A more recent study has shown that over 70,000 pairs of birds make their nests here, about half of which are these puffins.