St Cuthbert’s Way is no ordinary long-distance walk. It combines history and religious interest with wonderful scenery, but what makes this such a unique journey is that it starts and ends in spectacular locations with a very special story.
Eventually known as the ‘wonder-worker of England’, St Cuthbert was a monk, bishop and hermit associated with the monasteries of Melrose and Lindisfarne. He grew up near Melrose Abbey and ended his days on the Farne Islands.
Having accomplished a huge amount in his lifetime, he died in his early fifties and his body was moved and reburied several times (his reputation as a healer meant that it was in great demand!). He was finally laid to rest in Durham, and his legacy lives on through this wonderful walk.
Melrose is a wonderful place to begin, and here you can explore 12th century Melrose Abbey. This is where it all started for St Cuthbert as he began his Monastic career in this very place.
From the moment you begin walking you will encounter a great variety of hills, rivers and farmland. A steep climb from Melrose into the Eildon Hills offers a wonderful vista back across the town and abbey, and provides a taster of the lovely scenery you can expect over the next few days.
From St Boswells you’ll continue through the Scottish Borders with pleasant walking and lovely surroundings, before you reach Harestanes Visitor Centre near Jedburgh, with its tearoom and craft shops.
The next stages take you through Morebattle and into Kirk Yetholm, where you will experience a fantastic ridgewalk and absorb more amazing scenery.
Walking from Kirk Yetholm to Wooler is one of the most demanding stages of this walk and is very remote, so be sure to prepare yourself on all levels. The challenge comes with a great landmark as you cross the border from Scotland into England.
With their unforgiving wide open spaces, the Cheviot Hills give way to an impressive but gentler landscape.
Wooler is a small market town on the edge of the Northumberland National Park and is referred to by walkers as the ‘Gateway to the Cheviots’. It is a popular and bustling place, a good end to a long day.
The walk gets a bit easier now as you start descending towards the coast. You will pass St Cuthbert’s Cave, where the body of St Cuthbert was brought by the monks in 875, and soon after you will start to see Holy Island coming into sight.
From Fenwick, a very special experience awaits with the crossing over to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. It’s important to know the tide times so you can cross safely. You have the choice of walking on The Causeway, or on the much more exciting Pilgrim’s Path.
The road to Lindisfarne was only constructed in 1954 and, until then, poles in the sand were there to show you the way. It’s a well-known tradition that the best way to cross is barefoot! This experience is certainly a unique one, as you approach Holy Island with the posts as your guide. Enjoy a cool walk in the wet sand, and follow the footsteps of our Medieval ancestors.
The outstanding Lindisfarne Castle will quickly come into view. Perched atop a volcanic mound known as Beblowe Craig, it’s extremely distinctive and can be seen for miles around. The exterior of this prominent icon is constantly being repaired and nursed to protect its longevity from the unforgiving elements.
When you reach The Priory you will have completed this massively interesting walk. In these grounds you will find the statue of St Cuthbert, and where at one stage the shrine to Cuthbert brought great wealth to the Monastery. Lindisfarne is still considered the ‘Holiest Place in England’, and you will most likely be sharing this very special place with lots of other enthusiastic visitors.
St Cuthbert’s Way is abundant with tremendous landscapes, history, religion, and impressive landmarks. It spoils walkers with a bit of everything, and that is my idea of a very successful long-distance path.
I believe that you need to experience this memorable walk to fully understand the wealth of variety it offers. The path is 63 miles long, very well way-marked, with easy to moderate walking.
It’s not often you can say that you’ve crossed between two countries on foot in a day!
P.S. If you’re inspired to follow in the footsteps of St Cuthbert yourself, Absolute Escapes offer four itineraries to walk the trail over 4, 5, 6, or 7 days. Our packages include carefully selected accommodation, baggage transfer, guidebook/map, and everything you’ll need to have a wonderful walking holiday!