St Cuthbert's Way Walking Holidays
Walking St Cuthbert's Way
The St Cuthbert’s Way sets itself apart from other walks in the United Kingdom: when you go on this walk in Northumberland you pass through two countries and end your walk on an island. This ancient pilgrimage reflects the life of the Northumbrian bishop St Cuthbert, who was associated with certain miracles. In Melrose (Scotland), the saint was born around 634 and this is where the walk starts. After a life of evangelism and devotion to the poor, St Cuthbert eventually became Bishop of Lindisfarne on Holy Island, the finish of this famous walk in Northumberland.
The St Cuthbert’s Way walk passes over several remote grassy hills and takes in some of the best area of hiking Northumberland. This includes hills such as The Eldons, Wideopen and the side of Cheviot, before descending to the coast, via the caves where the bishop's remains were hidden from Viking raiders.
The land covered by the St Cuthbert’s Way on this Northumbria holiday is generally a sheep and livestock grazing area. Visitors to the area may spot wild moorland birds such as the golden plover and the curlew, which has an eerie call. Around the hill called Yeavering Bell (meaning the ‘place of the hill of the goats’), you can find - you may have already guessed - a herd of goats. The area has been the home of a family of shaggy Feral goats for many years.
The St Cuthbert’s Way happens to have less walkers than many other of the UK’s long distance paths, which will be an attraction for some. There are some charming little market towns and villages along the route as well as places associated with the author Sir Walter Scott.
Best time of year for a Northumbrian Holiday
Although it can be walked at any time of year, the majority of walkers do the St Cuthberts Way between Easter and late October. In winter, quite a number of accommodations are closed and it is difficult for the vans to organise baggage movements.
April, May and June are the driest, sunniest and warmest months for walks in Northumberland. However, April can still be wintry, sometimes with snow remaining on the higher hills of the St Cuthbert’s Way trail.
October to January are the wettest months of the year in general and mid-June to September marks the boom holiday period when you will experience the best weather conditions for Northumbrian holidays.
Our Favourite Viewpoints along St Cuthbert's Way
Along the course of your walk on the St Cuthbert’s Way in Northumberland, you’ll come across a few fantastic viewpoints. Below, you can find a selection of our most favourites:
- During the latter days of the route, make sure you take in the view across to the Farne Islands. There are several locations from where this is a real treat, especially in good weather. For example, take in the view from Greensheen Hill, a few minutes from St Cuthbert’s cave.
- We love the view up to the Eildon Hills from Melrose and then also across the countryside from the summits of the Eildon Hills.
- You may enjoy the vistas of the beautiful River Tweed close to Dryburgh Abbey.
- Last but not least, take in the panoramas from Wideopen Hill and from near Cheviot.
Food and Drink on Your St Cuthbert's Way Hike
Northumberland and Scottish borders cuisine is all about hearty portions. Perhaps most famously known are Craster kippers: produced in the seaside villages of Craster and Seahouses (which you pass on the 10-day walk). Here in smokehouses the kippers are prepared in the traditional way using curing sheds and secret recipes. A breakfast favourite, the best way to eat these smoked sausages is simple: served up with hunks of buttered brown bread and a cup of tea.
With a coastline that spans almost 100 miles, seafood is a huge part of Northumbrian food heritage. From sustainably caught turbot to Lindisfarne oysters, the fruits of the sea appear on most local menus. A fresh crab sandwich is a must.
A few famous dishes to try while you’re on your Northumbrian holiday are stotties - a large round flatbread often filled with ham and pease pudding, or try a singin’ hinny - a type of scone, pan haggerty - the Northumbrian take on a French tartiflette, or Lindisfarne mead - a fortified honey wine blend that you can buy at the end of the St Cuthbert’s Way.
Did you know? Earl Grey tea was invented in Northumberland! The tea was specially blended by a Mandarin Chinese for Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey and British Prime Minister between 1830-1834.
Other Reasons to go Walking St Cuthbert's Way
Similar to followers of the various European ’caminos,’ for quite a number of people with religious or faith convictions completing St Cuthbert’s Way will be a way to meditate on the life of St. Cuthbert. In his life, bishop Cuthbert was of course associated with certain miracles and his remains became the centre piece shrine for the beautiful Norman-built Durham Cathedral, which itself became a pilgrimage point. We would urge anyone who is on a Northumbrian holiday to also visit Durham and its cathedral. Another building not to miss when visiting the area is Dunstanburgh Castle, located toward the end of the St Cuthbert’s Way.
For lovers of wildlife, the Farne Islands offer some of the best viewing opportunities in the entire British Isle. In fact, Sir David Attenborough has called it his favourite wildlife area of Britain. Between April and July, the islands become a veritable British ‘Galapagos’ with grey seals bobbing in the water and large colonies of birds in tiers on the rocks of the Farnes, making the islands a great finish to any Northumberland holiday.
Dere (or Deer) Street is an old Roman Road in Scotland and for those who are interested to see more of it besides the portions that are part of St Cuthbert's Way, can opt to add on some extra walks in Northumberland and along the Royal Way. These walks pass several sites of castles (eg. Cessford) and of battles (for example Ancrum Moor).
Festival and history lovers may be enticed to visit Northumbria between June and August for a chance to take in parts of the Return to the Ridings Festival. Common Ridings that can be traced back to the 13th & 14th centuries are commemorated via magnificent rideouts in traditional costume and involving hundreds of horses.
How to Get to Northumberland
The nearest airports for these walks in Northumberland are Edinburgh and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Both the start of our St Cuthbert’s Way walks in Melrose and finish in Lindisfarne are readily accessible by public transport. Regular buses run from Edinburgh, Kelso and Berwick-Upon-Tweed (where trains from Southern England & London arrive) to Melrose for the start of your walk. Then there are bus services between Newcastle or Berwick-upon-Tweed and the end of the route on Holy Island.
Trains from Edinburgh to Tweedbank (a short distance from Melrose) take 55 minutes on the Border Railway Line. Trains from Berwick-upon-Tweed back to Edinburgh are only 50 minutes or if you like to go to London, trains from here are just over 4 hours.
More information on Walks in Northumberland
As St Cuthbert's Way offers such fantastic opportunities for discovering Northumberland on foot, the walk made it into our Top 10 Favourite Walks in the UK. For those that like to learn a little more about the life of St Cuthbert, read this article from our blog about the people behind some of Europe's most famous trails.
Choose a Walking Holiday Along St Cuthbert's Way