An intro to... St Cuthbert's Way
Fancy following the footsteps of a saint? Well, you can walk like one at least with St Cuthbert's Way in Northumberland.
Where is it and how far is it?
St Cuthbert's Way was opened in 1996, its route covering a distance of 62 miles from Melrose, in the Borders, to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) on the north Northumberland coast.
Why should you walk it?
This short long-distance route links several sites associated with the life of the seventh-century St Cuthbert: Melrose Abbey, of which St Cuthbert was prior; St Cuthbert's Cave, where monks fleeing from Lindisfarne carrying the saint's body and other relics stopped to rest; and Holy Island itself, where St Cuthbert was prior and later bishop.
St Cuthbert's Way is divided roughly equally between the Borders and Northumberland, visits three of the great Border abbeys and several unspoilt villages, before crossing the Cheviots and winding through more history-studded landscape to the Northumberland coast. Both St Oswald's and St Cuthbert's Way meet and share routes at times with other, well-known trails, including the Pennine Way and Hadrian's Wall Path meaning that the signage is mostly very good and directions are easy to follow.
Despite their many charms, St Oswald's and St Cuthbert's Way are remarkably quiet with walkers - both a blessing for us and a shame for the area which deserves more recognition.
When should you go?
This walk is doable at any time of the year although at it's busiest over the summer when walkers can enjoy the reasonable weather and long days. May-July are best for seabirds whereas the months of October and November sees winter migrants and seal pups arrive.
Where should you stay?
There are plenty of options along this route so you can choose from a hostel to a hotel according to your budget. Options for camping are limited though and forbidden in the Northumberland National Park. Bear in mind too that many places on Holy Island ask for a minimum three night stay and can be booked up months in advance.
There's so much going on in this area of Northumberland - magnificent architecture, sites of enormous archeological and geological interest, Special Areas of Conservation and, according to Rudolf Abraham, some outstandingly good pubs!
The St Oswald's Way and St Cuthbert's Way guidebook by Rudolf Abraham. This book also contains the Northumberland Coast Path.
The National Trails guidebook by Paddy Dillon
How to pack for a long distance trek - Cicerone Extra article