It is not the most obvious location for a thriving pub: the site is cut off by the tide twice a day and the locals are soul-searchers hoping to find the meaning of life in the bible rather than at the bottom of a pint glass.
But for well over a century the Crown and Anchor on Holy Island has fed and watered its less abstemious visitors. From the beer garden, patrons can sip a lager or wine and admire the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory, the home of early Celtic Christianity, and monitor archeologists excavating a 7th-century church.
Now there is a chance to run one of England’s hardest-to-reach pubs, accessible only at low tide via a three-mile causeway. For £65,000 you can become the Crown and Anchor’s new landlord or lady after the current licensees decided to pack up and travel the world in their camper van.
It is not a gig for last-minute merchants. Forget to check the tide timetables and that beer delivery will end up stuck on the Northumbrian mainland until long after the lunchtime rush. The bonus is the number of patrons who will have nothing better to do than have another drink when they mistime their departure and have to wait at least four hours until the exit route is no longer underwater.
“You can’t complain about the tides,” warns the outgoing landlord, Kyle Luke, whose family have been innkeepers on Holy Island, sometimes known by its Celtic name of Lindisfarne, for at least five generations. “The place would be pointless without tides. If it was just a peninsula I doubt people would come. The tide just becomes the rhythm of the day. You know about them a year in advance so you shouldn’t really get taken by surprise.”
Luke insists it is a profitable business, with an annual turnover of £378,000. He met his Czech wife, Zuzana, in the pub 10 years ago, and they want a break. Both keen surfers, they had intended to spend their free time surfing in the North Sea. But pub work can be a seven-day-a-week job: within 24 hours of saying their wedding vows at Lindisfarne Castle they were back behind the bar.
Over at the Ship, the island’s other pub, its landlord, Andy Cowan, says the religious pilgrimages bring good business. “Think about it. You’ve been on a pilgrimage, walking for days on end to get to Holy Island. What do you head for when you get here? A pub with a nice beer garden.”
It takes a while to get used to the tides, which catch at least one motorist out every month, according to Cowan, who is a volunteer coastguard, along with Luke. “You can’t just nip to Tesco or to the bank if we run out of change,” said Cowan’s partner, Sophie Bancroft. On Thursday they ran out of potatoes during the lunchtime rush.
For many of the island’s visitors, like Graeme Dutton, taking over the Crown and Anchor would be the dream. The tattooed vicar runs St Arnold’s ministry in Bradford, named after the patron saint of brewing. He holds services in the city’s pubs under the motto “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world”.
Dutton loves the beauty and serenity of the island, soundtracked by the tweets of 330 species of birds. “The pub struck me as somewhere built on the traditions of community and welcoming the stranger,” he said. “It would be a dream to retire to island life and pick up that ministry. My work in Bradford is very much centred around the experiences of pub life in a busy city centre, so it would be an interesting change of pace which would keep two of my great loves at the forefront of life – holiness and beer.”
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