Holy Island Boat Sheds – Northumberland, England - Atlas Obscura
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Northumberland, England

Holy Island Boat Sheds

These upturned herring boats make nifty storage sheds for fishing goods. 

The sight of an upside-down boat is usually a cause for alarm, as it typically signals a seafaring adventure gone terribly wrong. But on this English island, the upturned vessels are actually a sign of recycling ingenuity. 

Fishing is a key part of life on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (commonly known as the Holy Island). In the past, when old herring boats became too battered and worn to safely sail the seas, the fishermen had a clever way of putting the unusable vessels to work. Rather than hauling the boats to a junkyard, they flipped them over to transform them into storage sheds.

People on the Holy Island have been keeping their fishing equipment in the topsy-turvy boats for more than a century. The tradition was actually common throughout coastal Northern England, but the island is one of the few places to boast such an impressive cluster of these architectural oddities.

The sheds are covered with a layer of tar, which keeps them largely waterproof though still subject to decay. The ones dotting the shore around the harbor look pretty worse for the wear and stand in contrast to the more intact examples up near the castle.

But even the sheds near the castle weren’t completely saved from destruction. Arsonists set a couple ablaze back in 2005, though they have since been repaired.

Know Before You Go

The boat sheds are located at the harbor, and there are three near the castle.


Access to the island is dependent on the tides and the causeway (low tide only). Check the website for safe crossing times.