Hike into England's last wilderness — Northumberland

Hiking Collection by komoot

The least populated of all England’s national parks, Northumberland is a forgotten wilderness that boasts the cleanest rivers, freshest air and darkest skies in the country.

The picturesque valleys, rolling hills and empty moorland within this national park are rich with historical landmarks, most notably Hadrian’s Wall, the north-west frontier of Roman empire for nearly 300 years.

Perhaps the greatest asset of this park is the abundant solitude it affords visitors. England’s last true wilderness is the perfect place to stargaze, too. The lack of population helped the area receive dark-sky status by the International Dark Skies Association in 2013.

This Collection introduces you this beautiful and intriguing part of country, where antiquity is as abundant as the raw nature around you.

In these routes, you will see some of the most iconic spots along Hadrian’s Wall, including: the dramatic cliffs of Steel Rigg; a picture-perfect spot that was featured in the movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Sycamore Gap; the most complete Roman fort in Britain, Housesteads; the ancient Walltown Quarry; Aesica Roman Fort.

You also hike to the highest point in Northumberland, The Cheviot, visit a supernatural stone with mythical healing qualities, Drake Stone, and a beautiful waterfall with plunge pool, Linhope Spout.

This Collection explores Bull Crag Peninsula, at the heart of Kielder Forest Park.
Home to the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe and the largest working forest in England, Kielder Forest Park is famed for its remoteness, stunning night skies and abundant wildlife.

A good base for your stay is Rothbury. A traditional market town in the heart of Northumberland. Rothbury, also known as the ‘Capital of Coquetdale’, has plenty of shops, hotels, pubs and restaurants.

As Northumberland is so remote, having your own transport makes getting into and around the national park much easier.

However, if you are using public transport, you can travel by train to Newcastle Railway Station, which has direct connections with all major cities. From there, you need to take the Green Line tram to Regent Centre, where you can catch the X4 bus to Rothbury.

For information about Northumberland National Park, visit:northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk.
For information on getting in and around the national park, visit: northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/visitor-info/travel.
For the X14 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/x14-thropton-newcastle-city-centre.
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    7.23 mi
    2.3 mph
    500 ft
    475 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This hike packs a lot of punch for its size. In three hours, you can explore one of the most scenic parts of Hadrian's Wall and visit some treasured spots.

    On this route you see the dramatic cliff face of Steel Rigg, a striking example of how the Romans used nature in their defences, and see Milecastle 39 fort. You also visit the most famous Sycamore tree in showbusiness, Robin Hood’s Tree, and explore the best-preserved Roman fort in Britain, Housesteads.

    From the car park, follow signs for ‘Hadrian's Wall’ and, when you reach it, go down the grassy bank to the footpath. Turn left and ascend the stone steps of Peel Crag and enjoy a great view.

    Follow the Hadrian's Wall long-distance trail past Milecastle 39 and moments later you arrive at one of its most iconic attractions, Sycamore Gap, also known as ‘Robin Hood’s Tree’.

    The spot was made famous after being featured in the movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner. The tree’s position within the dip is extremely stunning and makes for an excellent photo opportunity.

    From here, head east on the national trail for another two miles (three kilometers) until you reach Housesteads, the most complete Roman fort in Britain. Set high on a dramatic escarpment, there are great panoramic views here and the opportunity to explore ancient barracks, a hospital—even some Roman toilets.

    When you reach Milecastle 36, make a sharp left onto the public footpath. With Broomlee Lough and Greenlee Lough to your right, follow this path for around three miles (five kilometers) until you reach the road. Go left and you will see Steel Rigg Car Park.

  • Intermediate
    7.04 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,050 ft
    1,050 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You can really step back in time on this spellbinding stroll.

    In this route, you explore the largest Iron Age hillfort in Northumberland, Yeavering Bell, and walk amid the ruins of a once-grand palace for Anglo-Saxon kings, Ad Gefrin.

    From the car park, head left along the road, cross over the bridge and take the footpath on the left. Follow the haugland path as it meanders through the College Valley like the river itself.

    You soon find yourself on the St Cuthbert’s Way, a 62 mile (100 kilometer) hiking route that crosses the Scotland and England border. This lovely section affords some splendid views.

    Just before the dry stone wall, turn right up to the field gate and follow the track to the stile. From here, follow the path as it winds to the summit of Yeavering Bell.

    On Yeavering Bell, you can walk through the largest Iron Age hillfort in the region. Housing the remains of more than 100 roundhouses, there is plenty to explore. You can enjoy spectacular views from the summit, too.

    Follow the path north west over the moorland and, when you reach the road, head left and follow it to the start. Before, though, you can enjoy one final piece of history, Ad Gerfin.

    During the 7th Century, Ad Gerfin was the palace home to King Edwin of Northumbria and his successors. These days, you can wander amid the ruins and imagine what unfolded there many years ago.

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  • Difficult
    9.62 mi
    1.8 mph
    2,525 ft
    2,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This challenging hike takes you to the highest point in Northumberland, The Cheviot.

    Standing at 2,674 feet (815 meters) tall, the summit of The Cheviot affords breathtaking views that stretch as far as the Lake District and even to Edinburgh on a clear day.

    With steep ascents and descents, as well as bogs to contend with, this route can be tough in places. As such, a good level of fitness is required and decent boots are essential.

    From the car park, follow the permissive path uphill then turn left onto the footpath towards Scald Hill. Follow the path along the fence before climbing steeply to the summit plateau of The Cheviot. Be aware, this section can get boggy.

    From the summit of The Cheviot you are afforded extensive views over to The Schil and down into the College Valley. On a clear day, this is one of the best vantage points in the Cheviot Hills.

    Soon after, you arrive at another superb viewpoint, Cairn Hill. At 2,549 feet (777 meters) high, Cairn Hill boasts spectacular views over the wild and remote landscape.

    From the summit of The Cheviot and past Cairn Hill you actually follow the final steps of long distance trail The Pennine Way.

    Take the first footpath left off the Pennine Way a short time after Cairn Hill and follow the path as it loops around Comb Fell.

    The path eventually leads to Hedgehope Hill, which affords picture-perfect panoramic views over the wild landscape. At the summit, take the north east footpath down and back towards the start.

  • Intermediate
    6.18 mi
    2.3 mph
    325 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This circuit explores Bull Crag Peninsula, at the heart of Kielder Forest Park.

    Home to the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe and the largest working forest in England, Kielder Forest Park is famed for its remoteness and stunning night skies.

    It is not all big claims here, though. This area is home to some seriously rare wildlife, including the famously-shy red squirrels. Furthermore, Kielder Water has recently hosted breeding ospreys; the first in Northumberland for more than 200 years.

    From the car park, head down to the shores of Kielder Water and take the path to the right. Once beside the water, the route is simple: follow the path all the way around the shoreline of Bull Crag Peninsula.

    There are lots of great views on this hike, but especially good ones are found at Otterstone Viewpoint, and the Headland, which affords an impressive view of the dam.

    If you do not manage to spot any birds of prey along the way, fear not. Kielder Bird Of Prey Centre, is located near the finish and has eagles, falcons, hawks, vultures and owls you can see up close.

    This route follows well-maintained forest tracks and paths, so is suitable for all ages and abilities.

  • Intermediate
    4.32 mi
    2.2 mph
    500 ft
    525 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Great for any fitness level. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This circuit takes you to the Drake Stone, a mystical boulder with legendary healing powers, and to the medieval ruins of Harbottle Castle.

    The landscape this route explores has been designated a Special Area of Conservation, due to its distinctive heather moorland and blanket bog. Keep a look-out for wren, wheatear, owls and buzzards, as well as red squirrel and roe deer.

    Leave the car park and follow signs for Drake Stone. Head uphill through woodland and over heather moorland until you reach the legendary large boulder itself.

    According to myths, children passed over the stone would be cured of illness. Some people have even reported voices coming from the supernatural stone.

    Retrace your steps to the path, turn left and head towards Harbottle Lake, a serene stretch of water nestled amid rugged moorland.

    Turn right at the end of the water and follow the trail through the woodland. Turn right at the gate and follow the footpath to the road. Go left, then take the minor road right.

    From there, follow the lane and continue along the track when it ends. From there, it is a leisurely stroll through lush green pastures.

    Cross footbridge on the right over the River Coquet and keep to the path. Soon after, you arrive at the impressive ruins of Harbottle Castle.

    A Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I-listed building, it is worth taking some time to explore the castle.

  • Intermediate
    8.34 mi
    2.3 mph
    650 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This route takes you to one of the most rugged sections of Hadrian’s Wall.

    You can really travel back in time here. Aside from the mighty Hadrian’s Wall itself, this route explores Aesica Roman Fort, the only fort built south of the wall, and the 12th-Century ruins of Thirlwall Castle.

    Within the first few moments of this hike the ancient cliffs and crags of Walltown Quarry strike drama into the landscape; chiseled by Roman armies centuries ago. With a serene quarry pond, it is a very beautiful place to be.

    From there, you follow the Hadrian’s Wall long distance trail past four turrets, until you reach Aesica Roman Fort. With clearly defined walls and gateways, it is easy to imagine life in the fort in times gone by. The views are particularly stunning from Aesica.

    At Great Chesters, head right down the country lane and go right again along the farm track. On this section, you can admire Hadrian’s Wall from afar.

    You cross Hadrian’s Wall close to Walltown Crags and begin the latter part of the figure-of-eight circuit. Continue along the path until you hit the road, then go left, taking the first right at High Old Shields.

    Follow the path west through farmland, cross the river ford and continue along the road. Go left at the junction and follow the lane until you reach Thirlwall Castle.

    Built during the 12th Century using stones from the nearby Hadrian's Wall, Thirlwall Castle was built to protect wealthy family, the Thirwalls, as the border wars raged. These days, the impressive ruins are a great place to explore.

    From there, you head left, cross the river and follow the county lane back to the start.

  • Difficult
    16.2 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,275 ft
    2,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    If you visit Northumberland for the solitude, look no further than this challenging Cheviot circuit.

    One quality of hikes in the Cheviot Hills is the abundant solitude they afford. Covering a vast landscape of rolling hills, empty moorland and grassy ridges, you can hike for long periods without encountering anybody.

    From the car park, walk out of Inglam and when you reach the sharp bend, take the access path to the right.

    From here, you ascend steeply up to the summit Wether Hill. At the settlement, take the permissive footpath to the right and ascend Cochrane Pike.

    After a challenging push to the summit of Cochrane Pike, you are rewarded with spellbinding views over the empty moorland. Due to how remote it is, there are lots of birds to spot, including curlew, oyster catcher, skylark, buzzards and kestrels.

    Take a sharp right on the summit and follow another permissive path north until the bridleway crosses your path. At this point, head left down the bridleway and follow to Alnham Moor, at which point you take the byway to the left.

    Follow the byway until you reach the ancient Salter's Road, which was once used by traders carrying salt, which was vital before refrigeration to preserve meat and fish.

    You leave the ancient road, take the bridleway left and make a steep ascent of High Cantle. Your climbing efforts are richly rewarded with a beautiful panorama when you reach the summit.

    From there, you follow the bridleway over Rig Cairn towards Linhope. It is worth making a slight detour to see Linhope Spout, as this route does, especially if the weather is fine.

    This breathtaking waterfall cascades almost 60 feet (18 meters) down a rock face to a plunge pool below. From here, follow the lane east back for the final few miles.

    This is a challenging route and should only be attempted by those with a good level of fitness. For much of the way paths are faint and can be hard to follow. Inexperienced hikers should only attempt this route in good weather.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    58.9 mi
  • Duration
    27:22 h
  • Elevation
    7,800 ft