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Dunstanbrugh Castle
Dunstanbrugh Castle

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Route No 47 - 6 to 12 April 2002
A week walking in Northumberland

Some time ago my neighbour, Jim, and I had booked a week's walking holiday in the Grazelema nature reserve in southern Spain, but at the last minute it was cancelled by the tour company. Rather than waste the full seven-day pass that Jim's wife had granted we decided to go walking in Northumberland.



Route No 47a - Saturday 6 April 2002
Simonside Hills circuit - 11km
Rothbury,
Northumberland . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer OL42 Kielder Water Bellingham & Simonside Hills 1:25000

Above Dove Crag. We arrived in Rothbury where we had booked a holiday cottage at lunch time on Saturday and after a snack in a cafe on the main street we headed for the Simonside Hills just outside the town. We parked at map ref. NY 053988 and climbed the hill opposite the car park onto the permissive path around the rocky escarpment.Selby's Cove The weather was perfect, clear and bright with a cool breeze, giving us a lovely view across Coquetdale. We followed the permissive path for 3km to the end of the hill and made the steep descent to Bob Pyle's Struddie. From there we followed the footpath south skirting the edge of the forestry for 2.5km and turned east for 500m to Coquet Cairn. From there we headed north east on a footpath for 3.5km back to the car park. It had been a very pleasant introduction to walking in Northumberland and we were back just in time to drive into Rothbury to collect the keys for our cottage, settle in and find a good pub for an evening meal.

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Route No. 47b - Sunday 7 April 2002
Kirk Yetholm, Pennine Way, The Schil circuit - 13km
Cheviot Hills, Northumberland . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer OL16 The Cheviot Hills. 1:25000

The low level alternative Pennine Way route from the Schil towards Kirk YetholmThe next day, Sunday, the weather was just as good with brilliant blue clear skies and a nice cool breeze for walking. We drove to Kirk Yetholm, the northern end of the Pennine Way. About 1.5km out of the village along the Pennine Way route is a parking area off the road at map ref. NT 840277 From here we climbed the Pennine Way route onto the ridge where the path follows the Scotland/England border. We continued heading south along the Pennine Way for about 6.5km from the car park to The Schil, a 601m peak with a wonderful 360 degree panorama of the Cheviot hills from the top. We had our lunch at the top and fell asleep in the warm grass beside the summit cairn. We returned to the car via the alternative low level Pennine Way route. We had walked about 13km and it had taken us almost five hours including a nap on the Schil. Now back to Rothbury for another good meal in the pub.

The Cheviot seen from the Schil
The Cheviot seen from the Schil

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Route No. 47c - Monday 8 April 2002
Coastal path from Craster, Dunstanbrugh Castle,
Low Newton, Benthall and return - 18km
Northumberland Coast . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: Explorer 340 Holy Island & Bamburgh 1:25000

Dunstanbrugh CastleOn Monday we headed for the coast and parked in the fishing village of Craster. We walked up the coast past Dunstanbrugh Castle and then along the beach to Low Newton-by-the-sea. From there the path cuts across the headland behind the dunes. About 3km from Low Newton we crossed a footbridge over quite a deep watercourse and then walked along the beach into Benthall, the little harbour settlement just south of Beadnell. We had a look at the old lime kilns on the harbour and then found a sheltered spot in the dunes for our lunch. It was another fine day but the cool wind was quite strong on the open beach. After lunch we returned the way we had come to Craster. It had been a very pleasant day beside the sea. The whole route was about 18km and took us about 6 hours including a short stop at the pub in Low Newton on the way back.
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Route No. 47d - Tuesday 9 April 2002
Wedder Leap, Border Ridge, Windy Gyle - 16km
Upper Coquet Dale, Cheviot Hills,
Northumberland . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer OL16 The Cheviot Hills. 1:25000

Our return route from the border ridge to Wedder LeapWe just could not believe our luck. The weather on Tuesday was just bright and sunny again so we headed for the Cheviot hills again. This time we drove to Alwinton, where there is a fell race in August, and continued along Upper Coquet Dale to the car park at Wedder Leap, map ref. NT 866103. From here we walked up the lane for about 1.5km to a bridleway called The Street, on the right hand side of the lane. It follows a spur for about 5km up onto the border ridge. Near the border ride we saw our first group of Cheviot wild goats with their dark chocolate brown coats and long horns. At the ridge we kept north for a few hundred metres, then turned east for 2km to Windy Gyle. We stopped there for lunch and to admire the view. It was spectacular with the hills rolling away in every direction under a brilliant blue sky. After lunch we continued on the border ridge for 2km heading north east to map ref. NT 871160 where we took the bridleway south for 5.5km back to the car park at Wedder Leap. The whole route was about 16km and took us five and a half hours including our stops.

The view from Windy Gyle.
The view from Windy Gyle

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Wednesday 10 April 2002
A sightseeing day

On Wednesday we decided to give our old knees a rest and see some of the visitor attractions of Northumberland. We drove to Seahouses and took one of the boat trips to the Farne Islands to see the seals and the sea birds coming to nest and hear the story of Grace Darling's amazing rescue mission. Then we drove to Bamburgh to see the castle and then on to Chillingham to see the wild white cattle with a fascinating commentary by the warden about the history and ecology of this unique herd. Finally back to Rothbury for yet anothe great meal in the Newcastle Hotel - by this time we had aquired a regular table.


Seals on the Farne islands

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Route No.47e - Thursday 11 April 2002
Buckham's Bridge, Border Ridge,
Chew Green fort, Deels Hill circuit - 15km
Upper Coquet Dale, Cheviot Hills,
Northumberland . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer OL16 The Cheviot Hills. 1:25000

The refuge hut on the border ridgeOn Thursday the weather was not the mediteranean blue that we come to expect. If fact it was just an ordinary fine walking day - the kind we would have been very happy with before the week started! Our last chance to head for the Cheviot Hills. We returned to the Upper Coquet Valley and parked at Buckham's Bridge, map ref. NT 824107 We followed the permissive path along Buckham's Walls Burn and up onto the border ridge at the mountain refuge hut. There was an entry in the visitors' book at 10.00am that morning (we arrived at about 11.00am) from a group of people who were running the Pennine Way.Cheviot wild goat with two kids It said that they had left Edale in Derbyshire on 2 April and were expecting to finish in Kirk Yetholm that evening, Thursday 11 April. On my reckoning that's the equivalent of about a marathon a day for ten days - wow! Reading the entry exhausted us so we sat on the step of the hut for some lunch. We followed the ridge south for about 5km to the site of a roman fort at Chew Green. There are just grassy earthworks remaining. We returned about 500m back to the Border County Ride and followed the bridleway for about 3km back over Deels Hill to the car park at our starting point. The whole route was about 15km and took us five hours including our usual stops.


The border ridge from Deels Hill

We had planned to have a quick look at part of Hadrian's Wall on the way home on Friday but on Friday morning it was raining so we drove home ready for a walk with some friends on Saturday in Bilsdale. It's the route we checked out on 2 April before we went to Northumberland.


The lighthouse from which Grace Darling carried out her daring rescue


View north from the Pennine Way