The Harbour History
The harbour has been central to settlement on Lindisfarne into prehistory. Evidence of prehistoric activity has been found during archaeological field survey and excavation. The natural harbour and plentiful food supply from the sea would have made the site attractive for settlement.
The first documentary reference to the island, then called Lindisfarne, is found in the eighth century writing of Bede, who describes how St Aidan arrived from Iona in about AD635 and was invested by King Oswald to found a see and a monastery. Nearby, Bamburgh Castle was a stronghold of the Saxon kings of the kingdom of Bernicia, including King Oswald.
The first documented Viking raid on Holy Island occurred in AD793. The monastery was harassed by Vikings until it was abandoned (or destroyed) in the mid- or late ninth century. For the monks, formal monastic life was not restored until 1083, when the Bishop of Durham re-founded the site as a cell of the Benedictine monastery of Durham.

In the 16th and 17th centuries Holy Island played a role in the defence of the North East coast when the Crown built a small fort in 1549-50 on the outcrop now occupied by Lindisfarne Castle, possibly replacing an earlier lookout tower; the fort continued in use as a garrison until 1819. During the Tudor period additional defences, including Osborne's Fort immediately adjacent, were built in recognition of the strategic importance of the island harbour. These consisted of a possible remodelling of the settlement, the conversion of a medieval house to a military supply base and the possible construction of bulwarks around the harbour.
In the 19th century a large-scale lime industry flourished. Its remains are still scattered around the island and include kilns and waggonways. The manufacture of quicklime was carried out on Holy Island, with the earliest lime kilns dated 1344 and were used by the Priory Monks. In the 1800s the trade developed extensively necessitating the building of further jetties. Coal was imported to fuel the kilns and the resulting quicklime exported on sailing vessels of between 60/90 tonnes with regular trade between Holy Island and Dundee. The last recorded departure of a lime cargo was in 1883.
Fishing from the harbour was as its peak on Holy Island during the mid 1800s when the Census of 1861 records a population of 614. The size of the island's fishing fleet has varied over the years from 10/12 in the 1790s, to 36 in the 1880s to the present day level of 6 boats. The Herring Houses, close to the shore, (refurbished in the 1970s and now predominantly holiday homes), were used to smoke and preserve the large herring catches. The introduction of the large herring steam drifters in the early 1900s led to a decline in local fishing and by 1914 the last large wooden boat was laid up. Some of these large vessels are the upturned boats along the harbour that are now used as stores.