The geology, archaeology and history of Northumberland have created some distinctive landmarks which number among my favourite walks. If unusual rock formations, rock art, sacred stones and caves are your thing, then these moderate walks of between 5 and 10 miles (one with a scramble thrown in) are routes which you might enjoy.
- Simonside Crags circular. 5m/8km. Moderate
- Roughting Linn Rock Art circular. 6.5m / 10.5km. Moderate.
- McCartney’s Cave, Thrunton Woods circular. 9m / 14.5km. Moderate.
- St Cuthbert’s Cave circular. 9.5m / 15km. Moderate
All these routes are now available to download on Viewranger. Maps are courtesy of Viewranger and Ordnance Survey ©.
Simonside Crags circular. 5m / 8km. Moderate.
This is a moderate 5 mile circular walk starting at Simonside Car Park near Rothbury, and following an eroded plantation track for a mile or so to emerge at the base of Simonside Crag. Here the route involves a reasonably straight forward 230m scramble to reach the summit ridge.
Around this area and along the ridge you will find many large sandstone rocks which have been moved by ancient glaciers to form part of the striking, present day landscape of this area. Alongside these huge, ancient stones, heather and bilbery bushes cover much of the ground. The route follows a stone flagged path along the summit ridge via Simonside cairn, Old stell crag, Dove crag and Beacon cairn, before dropping down to the road by Lordenshaw carpark (which also has some cup and ring marked rocks nearby) where you turn back along the road to your starting point at the car park.
- Roughting Linn Rock Art Circular. 6.5m / 10.5km. Moderate.
Ford to Roughting Linn is a 6.5 mile moderate, circular walk which begins at Ford Village on the Joicey Estate, parking on the layby just outside the village on the Lowick Road. The route begins by going through Ford Moss Nature Reserve, where the industrial chimney and stone ruins are the remains of an old coal mine, around which a whole community built up between 1860 and 1910, when it closed. Now it is a kind of ghost village which forms part of the 19th century industrial archeology of the county.
From here the route heads along Broom Ridge to Goatscrag Hill and then down to Roughting Linn Farm. Walkers should beware that the route across Goatscrag Hill had high bracken growing on it when I visited, and the nearby farm had a large amount of livestock, so dogs should be kept on a lead. A mile or so from the farm, hidden in some trees, you can see the Roughting Linn stones, with their fine examples of prehistoric cup and ring marks, before the walk circles back around the fields to Ford Village.
- St. Cuthbert’s Cave circular. 9.5m / 15km. Moderate.
This is a 9.5 mile figure of 8 walk which starts in Belford, an old coaching stop from Newcastle, before heading out on the footpath to Swinhoe Farm and up Virgin Hill to briefly join the St Cuthbert’s way. Here it turns along the track through a plantation and around Copsey Hill to Holburn, where you turn along the side of Greensheen hill to St. Cuthbert’s Cave wood.
The cave is said to have been a resting place for St. Cuthbert’s remains on the circuitous journey from Lindisfarne to their final resting place at Durham Cathedral. Pilgrims visit the site at certain times of year to commemorate the life of the saint. There are many examples of old carvings on the rocks which date back to the 1800s. After the cave, the route heads north east across fields, over the outgoing track at Swinhoe Farm, before it returns back to Belford via Square wood, Craggyhall and Westhall.
- McCartney’s Cave circular. 9m / 14.5km. Moderate.
This is a 9 mile moderate circular walk from Thrunton Woods Car Park near Rothbury. There is a lot to see on this walk around the managed conifer woodlands to the north of Rothbury. The walk starts by heading around Humbleton hill to the north, before turning south to visit a hill fort site on the wooded summit of Castle Hill, and a small, hidden away cave nearby. McCartney’s cave was made as a retreat by a 19th century monk and hermit.
From the cave the route then heads south before turning eastwards to Long Crags and along a ridge path with fine views across the hills, to Coe Crags. It then returns to the road via a path which follows close to the small stream running through the woods, back to the starting point at the car park.