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Site Description: Holy Island is an island lying just off the Northumberland Coast and accessible across a causeway at low tide. The island is shaped roughly like a saucepan with the handle facing westwards back towards the mainland. This part of the island, known as the Snook consists of extensive sand dunes, whilst the remainder of the island consists of farmland and the Holy Island village with the famous Priory and Castle. The island forms part of the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve which also includes extensive intertidal sand and mud flats. There are rocky cliff habitats - part of the Whin Sill outcrop - at the eastern and northern edges of the main part of the island.
Butterfly species present: The main highlights are Dark Green Fritillary, for which this is by far the most important site in the region, and Grayling. Other butterflies include Common Blue; Small Copper; Wall Brown; Meadow Brown; Ringlet; Small Heath.
Moth species: Six-Spot Burnet; Narrow Bordered Five-spot Burnet; Garden Tiger; Yellow Shell; Drinker.
Other wildlife: The Lindisfarne NNR is one of the most important wildlife sites within the region and is of international importance. The intertidal area welcomes large numbers of waders and wildfowl each winter including 2,000 - 3000 Pale Bellied Brent geese from the Svalbard population, around 20,000 Wigeon as well as up to 100 Whooper Swan. The dunes provide breeding habitat in the summer for high densities of skylarks and Meadow Pipits whilst the prominent position off the coast means that during the Autumn migration period the island is a good spot for observing passage migrants.
The dunes of the Snook are also of great botanical importance with a number of notable species including a type of Dune Helleborine that is now recognised as a species endemic to Holy Island, the Lindisfarne Helleborine. Other plants include the Marsh Helleborine which occurs in profusion in the damp slacks. Less welcome is the Pirri-pirri Bur, an introduced species originating from Australia but well established in the dunes here. The burs stick tenaciously to clothes and fur and visitors are advised not to bring dogs into the dunes as they can become rapidly and painfully smothered.
Ownership and Management: The National Nature Reserve, including the Snook, is managed by Natural England.
Access: Approximately 12 kilometres south of Berwick upon Tweed turn east off the A1 trunk road via the hamlet of Beal. This road continues on to the causeway across to the island. The causeway is only safe to cross during low tide periods and the safe crossing times for each day of the year are indicated on panels at either end of the causeway. The official safe crossing times published by Northumberland County Council can also be accessed on the internet here. There are several points at which vehicles can be parked alongside the road on the island side of the causeway to permit easy access into the Snook and there is also car parking available in the village.
Grid reference: NU100435 (The Snook).
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