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Hike wild moors, historic hills and heavenly coast — St Cuthbert’s Way

martin_kalfatovic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Hike wild moors, historic hills and heavenly coast — St Cuthbert’s Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

5-10

days

3-6 h

/ day

68.0 mi

6,900 ft

7,150 ft

St Cuthbert’s Way is a long-distance hike through the enchanting Anglo-Scottish border country. Exploring breathtaking hilltops, majestic moorlands, atmospheric woodlands, gentle riversides, pastoral farmland, heavenly coastline and countless historic sites, it is one of the most beautiful, varied and enjoyable trails in Britain.

The trail links the vibrant Scottish Borders town of Melrose, where St Cuthbert began his religious life in 650 AD, with Lindisfarne (Holy Island), off the coast of Northumberland. This was his final resting place and the site of his original pilgrimage shrine.

In between, the Way rises over the Eildon Hills, crosses the border in the glorious Cheviot Hills, winds through the northern tip of Northumberland National Park and concludes with an epic tidal crossing via Pilgrim’s Way. The official route is 62 miles (100 km). However, with a few detours to some worthy sites, this Collection totals 68 miles (109 km).

St Cuthbert was born around 635 AD in Northumbria. He devoted his life to religion at the age of 17, when he saw a light descend to Earth and then return to the sky on the night St Aidan died. For the next 13 years, Cuthbert was part of the Melrose monks. Age 30, he moved to Lindisfarne and ran the monastery. He then moved to a remote island, Inner Farne, and built a hermitage. Age 50, he became an active, travelling bishop. Feeling the onset of death, he retired to his hermitage and died on March 20th, 687 AD.

Following his death, many stories of miracles and acts of healing were associated with Cuthbert. He was the pre-eminent English saint for more than 500 years, until being surpassed by Thomas Becket after his martyrdom in 1170. Cuthbert’s remains were later moved to Durham, leading to the foundation of the city and Durham Cathedral.

Whilst the route is classed as a pilgrimage, there is much more to it. Each stage has its own unique character and every hike crosses changing landscapes and myriad places of interest. History from the Bronze Age to the present day is visible throughout. Wildlife thrives in these landscapes, too.

Highlights along the Way include: Melrose Abbey, a beautiful 12th-century ruin; views from the Eildon Hills; Dryburgh Abbey, one of the most complete ruins in the region; Cessford Castle, a 15th-century ruin that was home to a family of robbers; Wideopen Hill, the highest point on St Cuthbert’s Way; Yeavering Bell, the largest Iron Age hillfort in the region; Gains Law, a majestic moorland summit; St Cuthbert’s Cave, which the trail’s namesake once reportedly lived in; Pilgrim's Way, a wonderfully historic path across tidal sands; and Holy Island, home to the magnificent ruins of Lindisfarne Priory and the 16th-century Lindisfarne Castle.

In this Collection, I have split the route into five stages. The first four stages average 15 miles (24 km). The finale is a short 7-mile (11.3 km) hike, as it is dependent on tide times. If the tides are favourable and you have the energy, it is possible to link the last two stages.

As mentioned, the walking is varied throughout. There are some steep climbs to contend with and some remote moorland stretches. However, the hills are not overly technical, paths are clear and there is plenty of gentle lowland walking, too. Whilst a reasonable level of fitness is required, it is a good trail for all-abilities. Of course, sturdy boots, waterproofs and sunscreen in summer are highly recommended. It is also important that you carry enough provisions and navigational aids.

The best time to walk the route is between March and October. The Way is typically uncrowded throughout the year, but July and August are its busiest months. It is possible to walk in any season, though. Although the higher and wilder sections will require more care in winter.

The typical direction to hike St Cuthbert’s Way is east to west, as it mirrors Cuthbert’s life and the Pilgrim’s Way is a memorable ending. That said, there is nothing stopping you from hiking west to east.

You are well-served by accommodation and eateries on most stages. However, as options are limited at the end of stages 2 and 4, I have given you advice.

To get to the start of the trail by public transport, you can catch a train to Tweedbank and then the 67, 68 or 69 bus to Melrose. The nearest train station to the end of the trail is Berwick upon Tweed, which you can reach via the 477 bus. However, services are not abundant from Holy Island.

The end of the trail links up with St Oswald’s Way. To see a Collection on this long-distance walk, click here: komoot.com/collection/1065921.

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St Cuthbert’s Way

63.2 mi

6,050 ft

6,300 ft

Last updated: November 10, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Melrose to Harestanes — St Cuthbert’s Way

    Difficult
    06:54
    15.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 1 begins at the captivating ruins of Melrose Abbey, climbs into the iconic Eildon Hills and winds through countryside dotted with historical sites to Harestanes.

    

    After admiring the 12th-century ruins in Melrose, you begin a steep and challenging ascent into the Eildon Hills; through farmland initially

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    08:02
    17.7 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,875 ft
    1,750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This challenging stage winds through a picturesque patchwork of farmland and woodland, ascends to the highest point of the St Cuthbert’s Way, Wideopen Hill, and finishes in the historic home of Scottish gypsy royalty, Yetholm.

    

    With 17.7 miles (28.5 km) and 1,875 feet (572 m) of elevation gain to contend

    by Dan Hobson

    View
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  • Difficult
    07:51
    15.9 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,500 ft
    2,550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    A higher and wilder landscape awaits on this hike, which crosses the border into England via ancient forts, lofty hilltops and stunning heather moorland.

    

    With 2,500 feet (762 m) of elevation gain, this stage has the most ascent of any in the itinerary. Coupled with 15.9 miles (25.6 km) to cover, this

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:17
    11.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,025 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The penultimate stage winds northeast through moorland, farmland and pine forests, making a whistle-stop at St Cuthbert’s Cave, a mystical place shrouded in folklore.

    

    From Wooler, head east on roads and take the footpath left at a sharp bend on Brewery Road. You then rise over Weetwood Moor. A little

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    02:54
    7.01 mi
    2.4 mph
    125 ft
    250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The finale takes you on the historic Pilgrim's Way, an enchanting path across tidal sands to Holy Island.

    

    Depending on tides and how much energy you have, it is possible to combine stages 4 and 5 into one epic route. I have opted to separate them to ensure a safe crossing, resulting in a short-but-sweet

    by Dan Hobson

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    68.0 mi
  • Duration
    30:58 h
  • Elevation
    6,900 ft7,150 ft

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Hike wild moors, historic hills and heavenly coast — St Cuthbert’s Way

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