Cuthbert was Bishop of Lindisfarne where he converted the people to Roman Christianity from Celtic Christianity, following the synod of Whitby in 664. In 676 he retired and tried to attain greater perfection by means of a contemplative life. It is not really clear, where he went; most likely it was St. Cuthbert's Island near Lindisfarne. But others think it was here at St Cuthbert's Cave.
Nearly two hundred years after Cuthbert's death, during the Danish invasion of 875, Bishop Eardulf and the monks fled for safety. They carried the body of the saint with them and wandered for seven years. They brought him to Cumberland, then to Galloway and back to Northumberland. St Cuthbert's Cave is said to have been one of their stops.
Look at the surrounding rocks to see inscriptions, particularly those of the ‘Leather’ family. The family originated in Leeds, but in the middle of the 19th century purchased Middleton Hall, just north of Belford, and most of the surrounding land - including St Cuthbert's Cave. During the First World War, five of the six Leather brothers were regular soldiers. Three of the brothers were killed in the trenches two more were wounded. Only one was unscathed because he was too old to be sent to the Front and instead commanded depots in the areas behind.
Because St Cuthbert's Cave is in such a beautiful position, he decided that he would be buried there, so had the land consecrated in about 1936. He died in 1941 and is buried below one of the large rocks just to the left of the cave entrance, which is split into two halves - he used to say it was the 'Rock of Ages cleft in twain'. The 13-acre wood surrounding the Cave was left to relatives, and they decided to give it to the National Trust so that it could be enjoyed by the widest possible public.
Follow the signposts to St Cuthbert’s Cave, then scramble up the pathway to the right of the cave and climb a stile. All of our walks are dog-friendly and there is plenty of space to get the mutts through the fence, there are then a couple of gates at the top corner of the field which are on the route of St Cuthbert’s Way. If the ‘scramble’ seems a little steep, you can take the path to the left and either use that stile or walk over the top of the cave and use the dog-friendly one.
Go up to the cairn for spectacular views of Holy Island to one side and the hills to the other.
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