On a day like this, with strong sunshine and blue skies pouring across Northumberland, there isn’t a more welcoming range of hills in these islands than the Cheviots. Bosomy, rounded and dressed in brilliant green and purple, they seem to beckon, especially to walkers. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
In the farming hamlet of Akeld, just outside the regional capital of Wooler, stands a bastle, a rare reminder of a savage history. These old fortified farmhouses with their tiny windows, ‘upstairs’ doors and walls many feet thick date from the days when the Scottish Borders were aflame with cattle-thieving and murderous feuds. Back then, any man who wanted to live would barricade himself and his family into the upper floor of a bastle and hope to see out a siege.
Above Akeld a winding path led us away through bracken and heather across the hunched back of White Law. We dipped into a hollow, then climbed past the circular foundations of ancient beehive huts to the summit of Yeavering Bell. This high and handsome hill is the king of the north Cheviots, its knobbly brow encircled by a great wall – once ten feet thick, now scattered – and crowned with a cairn.
Up there we sat, catching our breath and savouring the view – the chequerboard plain stretched north at our feet, a steel-blue crescent of North Sea, and the rolling heights of Cheviot as they billowed away south into the heart of the range. Then it was down from the peak and on through the bracken to find the broad green road of St Cuthbert’s Way striding purposefully through the hills.
The hard rock outcrop of Tom Tallon’s Crag rode its heathery hilltop like a salt-brown ship pitching in a russet sea. We passed below the crag, then followed a grassy old cart track into the cleft of Akeld Burn. Suddenly all the birds of the air seemed to be flying about us – meadow pipits in undulating flight, kestrels and sparrowhawks hanging in their hunting stances, and a raven flapping with a disdainful cronk! out over the northern plains before us.
Start: Akeld, near Wooler, Northumberland, NE71 6TA approx. (OS ref NT 957297)
Getting there: Bus service 267 (havant-travel.info), Wooler-Berwick
Road – Akeld is on A697, 2½ miles west of Wooler. Park carefully beside green – please don’t obstruct entrances!
Walk (6 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL16. NB: online map, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Walk through farmyard; up track (blue arrow/BA). Pass to right of Gleadscleugh cottage (952290); through next gate; in 100m, right over stile (950288; yellow arrow/YA). Follow path, bearing right up left rim of stony Glead’s Cleugh*. Follow YAs on posts for 1¼ miles over White Law (943290) and down to stile and gate in fence under Yeavering Bell (932290). Path up to saddle to right of summit; at wooden palette marker (931294), left on path to summit cairn (929293). Follow path half left off summit, though scattered stone wall (928292); here fork right (YAs, ‘Hill Fort Trail’) to St Cuthbert’s Way/SCW at stile (923287). Left, following SCW for 1 mile. Pass Tom Tallon’s Crag; through gate in wall (933278); in 300m, at near corner of conifer plantation, turn left off SCW through gate (935277); follow track to Gleadscleugh. Right (951289, BA) on track to right of house; zigzag across burn; on by wall; follow yellow arrows to Akeld, passing bastle (958294) on your left.
* NB Cottage is Gleadscleugh, valley is Glead’s Cleugh, as written!
Accommodation: Red Lion Inn, Milfield, Northumberland, postcode (01668-216224; redlionmilfield.co.uk) – cheerful village pub with rooms.
Info: Wooler TIC (01668-282123); visitnorthumberland.com
Berwick-upon-Tweed Walking Festival, 5-7 April: 01669-621044; berwickwalking.co.uk