Winter Walks: The Cheviot
Remote and hilly, this circular walk is hard going in places as it takes you through the wilds of the Border country and even includes Cheviot’s summit
Starting in the beautiful Harthope Valley, a favourite for birdwatchers and walkers alike, and taking in the peaks of Hedgehope Hill, Cairn Hill, Cheviot and Scald Hill, this is a challenging route and covers some uneven and boggy ground, but you’ll pass historic landmarks and possibly not another soul until you get closer to Cheviot’s summit, as Pennine Way walkers pass by as they near the end at Kirk Yetholm. Cheviot itself, for all its claim as the highest point, is rather unprepossessing as its wide, flat dome- shaped summit means the views are somewhat obscured.
Start at Langleeford (follow the signs from Wooler) where you can park your car. You can walk either way round this route but there is a steep section at the end of Harthope Burn Valley and the descent from Cheviot is long, if not overly steep, for anyone concerned about their knees! Start by the white bridge at the end of the road at Langleeford, crossing the bridge and following the farm drive which forks by the farm. Take the right hand track and keep on going, ignoring signs for Scald Hill on your right, and continue on for three miles along the Harthope Burn Valley. The burn cuts a deep valley in the Cheviot Hills, tumbling over Harthope Linn towards Wooler, and the valley, surrounded by high hills dissected by smaller streams and isolated farms dotted over its remote landscape, has always attracted walkers, most notably 18th century writers Sir Walter Scott and Daniel Defoe.
The view just gets better as you climb steadily. Head for the notch in the valley ahead but leave the burn as it bends west and head for the fence on the skyline. Turn right at the fence and keep climbing onto the higher ridge and Cairn Hill, where you’ll find a circular shelter (Scotsman’s Cairn) and a great vantage point as the hills roll away to the south. Climb the stile and head onto the paved path (part of the Pennine Way) where you’ll find a post directing you to Cheviot’s summit three quarters of a mile away. Don’t be fooled, whilst the paved path may look easier than rough walking, it crosses boggy land and is quite uneven in places. The summit is market by a triangulation pillar – the third to be built, as the last two have disappeared into the bog! Once past the summit, you begin to descend to Scald Hill, with its views into the remote Lambden Valley and across Broadhope Hill and Cold Law as far as the North Sea. Head over the stile and follow the fence to the left until directed by a finger post to turn right, which is your route back to the valley floor. To your left is Blackseat Hill, and to the right Hedgehope Hill reminds you of just how far you have walked. Keep going, over yet another stile, and keep on the track until you hit the road where you turn left to find your car.
As you would expect, this wild and remote part of north Northumberland doesn’t have anywhere for refreshments, so you will need to head back into Wooler to find anything you didn’t think to bring with you. This little market town has a good range of independent shops, most of which are scattered along the High Street. The Good Life Shop is a family-run grocery store specialising in local cheese from Doddington Dairy and worth a visit. There’s a 17th century inn, The Tankerville Arms, a good pub, The Red Lion, on the Milfield Road, a renowned Italian, Milan, and nearby is The Black Bull at Etal, Northumberland’s only thatched pub with a great garden for sunny weather.