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A guidebook to walking the Reivers Way. Follow in the footsteps of the border reivers on this 240km (150 mile) route running from Corbridge to Alnmouth. The reivers route wanders through wild and scenic parts of Northumberland, and can be walked in 9 days. The book also includes variants and alternative routes.
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Walk in the footsteps of the notorious border reivers and discover how they survived centuries of strife and warfare.
The Reivers Way almost encircles the county of Northumberland, offering a wonderful opportunity to walk and explore its wildest and most scenic parts.
The trail starts at Corbridge in the North Pennines AONB. After following part of Hadrian’s Wall, a series of little towns and villages are visited, as the route heads in an out of the Northumberland National Park. After catching a glimpse of Lindisfarne, the route traces the scenic Northumberland Heritage Coast to finish at Alnmouth.
With an extra day to hand, walkers can include a boat trip to the bird reserves on the Farne Islands.
Unfortunately the bed and breakfast at Uswayford, the only accommodation on offer, has now ceased operating. As Uswayford is the end of Day 6 on the itinerary described in this guide, this will require breaking the trip in a different place or taking a tent.
Barrowburn and Trows lie 2 miles (3km) off-route from Uswayford. Barrowburn has a camping barn and tearoom. With careful planning and attention to finishing on time, it is possible to negotiate a pick-up at Trows. This is provided by Forest View Walkers Inn, far off-route at Byrness, and must be booked in advance, tel 01830-520425,
P94 ...along a vague and rugged moorland path... Apparently a reader reports that this wasn't visible at all, so he found a more obvious path to the right....
Comment from the author is: The 'vague' path will just get vaguer if people don't follow it! I'm sure it's easier just to aim straight for Broadstruther Cottage.
Also a general note: This route crosses a number of streams without bridges. In periods of heavy rainfall, these may become very fast moving and dangerous.
|Brief History of a Borderland|
|Geology and Scenery|
|Access Land and the CROW Act|
|Travel to Northumberland|
|Travel around Northumberland|
|Food and Drink|
|Tourist Information Centres|
|Planning Your Walk|
|Day 1 Corbridge to Allendale Town|
|Day 2 Allendale Town to Bardon Mill|
|Day 3 Bardon Mill to Wark|
|Day 4 Wark to Elsdon|
|Day 5 Elsdon to Rothbury via the Moors|
|Alternative Elsdon to Rothbury via the Forests|
|Day 6 Rothbury to Uswayford|
|Day 7 Uswayford to Wooler via the Cheviot|
|Alternative Uswayford to Wooler via Linhope|
|Day 8 Wooler to Bamburgh via Belford|
|Alternative Wooler to Bamburgh via Chillingham|
|Day 9 Bamburgh to Alnmouth|
|The Farne Islands|
|Appendix 1 Route summary table|
|Appendix 2 Accommodation list|
|Appendix 3 Useful information|
|Appendix 4 The Archbishop's Curse|
|Start||Bardon Mill – NY781645|
|Finish||Wark – NY860770|
|Distance||21km (13 miles)|
|Terrain||Moorland paths can be vague and need care. Also some fiddly field paths between farms|
|Maps||OS Landranger 87 or OS Explorer OL43|
|Refreshments||Housesteads visitor centre kiosk. Old Repeater Station Café off-route from Sewing Shields. Pubs at Wark.|
|Public Transport||The Hadrian's Wall Bus links Housesteads with Carlisle and Newcastle daily through the summer. Tynedale buses serve Wark from Hexham and Bellingham daily, except Sundays.|
Although this day seems relatively short and easy, Hadrian's Wall and Housesteads Roman Fort are intensely absorbing and occur before this stage is even half completed. If you want to explore thoroughly, then split the day and stay overnight nearby, bearing in mind that the Hadrian's Wall boasts a busy national trail, and accommodation comes under considerable pressure. The continuation to Wark crosses quiet and unfrequented moorland and fields.
Leave Bardon Mill by following the road signposted for Thorngrafton, heading uphill and passing beneath the busy A69 bypass. Turn right at a junction, again signposted for Thorngrafton, and climb steeply to a road junction at Westend Town. Turn left and head downhill towards a farm, but turn right up a track before reaching it. This grassy, walled track runs uphill, down across a dip, then uphill again to reach the moorland slopes of Thorngrafton Common.
Turn right, then quickly left, to follow a grassy ribbon of a path up a rushy slope. When the path forks, head left and keep climbing. The path becomes a rough-vegetated groove flanked by rushes, bracken or heather. Pass a marker post and climb to a very slight gap on the moorland crest, well to the left of a trig point at 279m (915ft). Even further left is the Long Stone, an ancient marker that is worth a short detour.
Pass through an old gateway in a drystone wall and head downhill, aiming for a road junction. Go through a gate to reach the junction, then turn right – or turn left to inspect the nearby Crindledykes Limekiln, the only Northumbrian kiln with four draw arches to a single pot.
The road rises and follows the course of the Stanegate – a Roman road pre-dating Hadrian's Wall. Its course can be distinguished as grooves running parallel to the road. A marker for Hadrian's Cycleway stands on the highest point of the road. Further along the road, turn left down a farm access road, crossing a dip and climbing to Crindledykes.
Keep to the right of the farm, dropping down through two gates before climbing as marked over a grassy crest. Aim directly north to reach a gate leading onto the B6318, or Military Road. Go through a gate on the other side to follow an access road to Housesteads.
This site has a long and complex history, with some notable gaps. Bronze Age farming settlements were cleared during the construction of Hadrian's Wall. The Augustan History notes that the Romans decided ‘to build the Wall, 80 miles long, to separate the Romans from the barbarians’. The fort at Housesteads, known to the Romans as Vercovicium, was probably garrisoned by 500 men. The fort was abandoned at the end of the fourth century and no one seems to have occupied the buildings afterwards.
The Venerable Bede noted ‘it is eight feet in breadth, and twelve in height; and, as can be clearly seen to this day, ran straight from east to west’. There is no evidence of settlement at Housesteads until 1326, and even then there were only summer shielings. Permanent settlement was probably inadvisable due to border strife. Interest in the wall increased from 16th century, due in part to the curiosity generated by William Camden's Britannia. He didn't visit Housesteads, declaring ‘I would not with safetie take the full survey of it for the rankie-robbers thereabouts’. General Wade's construction of the Military Road in the 1750s made Hadrian's Wall more accessible. Unfortunately, he destroyed much of the masonry to lay the foundations of his road, but some of the ‘best bits’ remain around Housesteads.
In 1801, at the age of 78, William Hutton explored Hadrian's Wall in a remarkable 600 mile (965km) round trip on foot from Birmingham. The Rev John Hodgson published the first detailed description of the wall in 1840. The archaeologist J Collingwood Bruce led the first ‘pilgrimage’ along the wall in 1849, and such ‘pilgrimages’ continue to this day. Some excavation work was done at Housesteads in 1849, but work to restore Hadrian's Wall commenced in earnest from 1908. Housesteads fort was given to the National Trust by JM Clayton in 1930, and it has since acquired other properties in the area.
Some 20 miles (32km) of the best stretches of Hadrian's Wall were included in the Northumberland National Park when it was designated 1956. After a lengthy period of consultation, the course of Hadrian's Wall was designated as a national trail in the year 2000 and is also a world heritage site.
There is a museum at Housesteads, with an admission charge to visit the ruins. A path leads down to the main road, where there is a visitor centre, refreshment kiosk, and the Hadrian's Wall Bus linking all points of Roman interest between Wallsend, Newcastle, Carlisle and Bowness-on-Solway. There is accommodation at nearby Beggar Bog, Moss Kennels and the Old Repeater Station, the last one having a café, but all of them are popular with people walking Hadrian's Wall.
If not visiting the interior of the fort, note that the land outside the walls is access land, allowing close-up views of the exterior. Simply walk round the perimeter wall of the fort and head down to a gap to cross Knag Burn.
Gateways were rarely constructed along Hadrian's Wall, with north–south traffic and trade largely regulated through forts or milecastles. This gateway was built in the fourth century, and featured double gates flanked by guardrooms.
Follow the course of Hadrian's Wall uphill, crossing a stile to enter a wood, and leaving the wood at a higher stile. The wall alongside is not Hadrian's Wall, but was built much later on its foundations using pillaged stone. Note the regular shapes of the stones, which match those seen earlier near Housesteads.
Go down to a gap, then climb steeply uphill, down to another gap, then uphill again. There are fine views of Broomlee Lough and the Whin Sill ridge that bears Hadrian's Wall. The parallel earthworks of the Vallum, an earlier Roman frontier, are best viewed when the sun is low.
Drop down to a broad gap and cross a stile beside a gate, then climb onto Sewingshields Crag, where a trig point stands at 325m (1066ft). Some good fragments of Hadrian's Wall run across the top of the crag. Pass the square base of Turret 35a, followed later by the base of Milecastle 35.
Milecastles were built every Roman mile, with turrets every third of a mile between them. The numbering system runs from east to west and is an invention of modern archaeologists, since no one knows whether the Romans had names for them. A gaming board was discovered at this milecastle. The site was used as a shieling in the 13th century, but abandoned by the 15th century.
Go through a gate into Sewingshields Wood, which is Scots pine and beech. Pass to the left of Sewing Shields Farm and leave the wood by another gate to reach a farm access road. Turn sharp left down the farm access road, turning right to follow it over rough pasture. The road turns right again and runs towards a farm called Town Shields. However, well before that point, turn left down a lesser track as marked by a post, and cross a bridge over Crook Burn.
Climb gently up a grassy track and go through a gate. Cross a grassy rise and note Folly Lake, surrounded by forest, on the left, with the dam of Halleypike Lough on moorland to the right. Go through another gate and follow the grassy track to a remote farmstead at Stell Green.
Take great care with route-finding over Haughton Common in poor visibility on the next stretch. Keep to the right of Stell Green to find a stile over a fence. Follow another fence to a corner and drift uphill to the right, passing a marker post. Keep to the left side of a tumbled drystone-walled enclosure on rugged moorland, to obtain a view onwards.
Look down a steep slope to spot a footbridge over Sell Burn, then aim for it and cross it. Turn right to avoid a boggy patch, then aim for a marker post. Turn right at the post to reach a gate and cross another footbridge.
Climb up past some sandstone boulders, then drift a little to the right. The idea is to get off the rugged, wet and tussocky moorland and onto a gentle crest of short grass at Townshield Bank. However, it is essential to head in the general direction of a distant farm. A marker post might be spotted, where a left turn reveals a grassy track crossing a boggy dip, then running parallel to a drystone wall.
Turn right to go through a gate in the wall, then walk straight towards the farm of Great Lonbrough. Keep to the right of the farmhouse, then go through a gate into the farmyard and leave along the access road. If you don't like farmyards, walk parallel to the drystone wall long before reaching the farm, which is all on access land, and join the access road to the left of the farm.
The farm road is plain and obvious as it wanders over the moors towards Ravensheugh Crags.Just before reaching the crags, a tiny stone circle containing only four boulders might be noticed up to the right.
The farm road reaches a minor road at the Manor House. Turn right along the road, then left over two drystone walls as indicated by a signpost.
Walk down a field to enter and leave a stand of pines by using stiles. Climb past the farm of Catless and cross a ladder-stile. Walk down a thistly field and watch for a couple of marker posts, swinging right at the bottom to follow Gofton Burn to a road.
Turn left along the road, then right across a stile, then cross a footbridge. Head downstream to pass a house at Shielahaugh, but later climb away from the stream before it enters a narrow, wooded valley. Go through a gate and follow a track through the farmyard at High Moralee.
Walk down the access road only until it bends right. Go through a gate and look up a grassy slope to spot a stile over a fence linking a line of trees. Continue over a grassy rise, then go down to a stile where a wall meets a fence. Follow the wall downhill, crossing it using a ladder-stile at a gateway, then head for the end of the wall. Turn left down a muddy slope, linking with a track that leads down to Ramshaw Mill and Warks Burn.
Cross a bridge over the river, then turn right up steps to go through a small gate. Walk as directed up a rough pasture and turn right to follow a track towards a farm at Woodley Shield. Cross a stile near the farm and follow marker posts uphill, keeping to the right of a large barn. Turn right to walk alongside fields as marked, and the path eventually runs down to a road. Turn right to follow the road into the village of Wark.
Wark-on-Tyne is a village of stout stone cottages built partly around a staggered crossroads and partly around a fine green dominated by a huge horse chestnut. In the 12th century Wark was held by Scottish kings and, as the capital of the Lordship of Tynedale, was the administrative centre for a huge area. In 1715 Wark was part of the Earl of Derwentwater's estate and was forfeit, along with his life, when he supported the Jacobite rising that year. In the 19th century the Duke of Northumberland presided over the peculiarly named ‘Wark Court Leet and View of Frankpledge’. A fine building, easily mistaken for a town hall, was built in 1874 facing the village green.
Facilities in Wark include the Battlesteads Hotel, Black Bull, Grey Bull, a post office shop and a butcher. Unless you are prepared to detour off-route for supplies, there are no more shops for the next two days, until Rothbury. Tynedale buses run daily, except Sundays, to Bellingham and Hexham.