You are probably aware that Minsteracres is very well situated for the main venues connected with the Northern Saints. So we decided some time ago to see whether there might be any interest in a mid-week retreat dedicated to this subject. To our delight the retreat was quickly oversubscribed.

Thus at the end of June a group of people from near and far descended on Minsteracres for a week of close encounters with some of the Northern Saints. There were retreatants from all over Britain and also from Canada and Australia!

We provided them with quite a lot of information on early Christianity in Northumbria, the saints of that period and the places we would be visiting. During the three full days of the retreat we went on day trips using the unsurpassed Minsteracres minibus with driver Frank McDonald at the helm! To get a feel for the lay of the land which St Aidan traversed on his way from Iona, we first visited Vindolanda and the Roman Wall.  There was also some time left over to stop at Heavenfield to see the church and its exhibition about St Oswald.

The next day we went to Jarrow and visited Jarrow Hall. We also saw St Paul’s church and the remains of the monastery where the Venerable Bede lived and worked. Following that we drove on to Durham and spent some time in the cathedral at the shrine of St Cuthbert and the tomb of St Bede.

The third day we were off early to beat the tides at Lindisfarne. It was a lovely day and very easy to step back in time to the days of Aidan and Cuthbert. Subsequently we drove on to Bamburgh to admire St Aidan’s church and Bamburgh Castle, and relax on the sun swept beach.

On the last morning we had just enough time to visit Hexham Abbey and dwell on what the formidable St Wilfrid got up to there! Soon it was Friday afternoon – it was sad to part from such an enthusiastic and responsive group of pilgrims.

by Jim Darlington and Elisabeth van Dijl