St Cuthbert's Way runs from Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland in England.
The route links several sites associated with St Cuthbert, who began his monastic career at Melrose Abbey from 650AD and eventually became the Abbot at Lindisfarne. Viking raids forced the abandonment of the abbey but its importance in the history of Christianity on these islands should not be underestimated.
A fascinating mix of landscapes unfolds as we walk along valleys, over hills and along rivers, stopping at lovely old towns and villages like Morebattle and Wooler en route to a dramatic tidal causeway and Holy Island itself.
Around midday we catch the train from Edinburgh. The Borders Railway passes through historic mining villages and the beautiful rolling hills of the Scottish Borders. It takes just under an hour to reach Tweedbank, where a private transfer takes us to Melrose.
The picturesque town of Melrose is a quaint border town, arguably one of the most beautiful small towns in Scotland. We have some time in the afternoon to explore or relax at the hotel.
The area around Melrose has been inhabited for thousands of years. In AD 79 the Roman army built a major fort nearby named Trimontium, ‘Place of the Three Hills’. Around 3 miles west on the banks of the Tweed is Sir Walter Scott’s romantic mansion of Abbotsford (easily accessible by taxi for those wishing to discover it). Overnight in Melrose.
We start at the gates of the magnificent 12th century Melrose Abbey and walk up over the Eildon Hills for one of the best views in the Scottish Borders: Melrose, the Moorfoot and Lammermuir Hills, with the mighty Cheviots to the south! The route then descends to the village of Bowden, before gently winding through farmland and woods to Newtown St. Boswells. Following the banks of the River Tweed, with secluded views to Dryburgh Abbey, we end our first walking day in St. Boswells itself.
Leaving St Boswells behind we follow the River Tweed and along Dere Street, one of the main Roman roads. This takes us to Harestanes from where we approach the River Teviot. The way across is via the Monteviot Suspension Footbridge, just below Monteviot House, from where it takes its name. We then follow along the banks of the river to Jedfoot to rejoin Dere Street which takes us towards Jedburgh.
Today's walking takes us through woodland to farm paths and tracks through rich agricultural land to Cessford and 15th-century Cessford Castle, once the stronghold of the Kerr clan, one of the most influential in the history of the Scottish Borders. The day ends at Morebattle, the site of human habitation as far back as the iron age, as is demonstrated by its iron age fort on nearby Morebattle Hill.
In Morebattle, we are picked up to rejoin our accommodation in Jedburgh for the night.
After a short transfer, we start our walk from Morebattle again, heading towards Wooler.
We start climbing via Grubbit Law, along the ridge to Wideopen Hill. At 400m, Wideopen Hill is the highest point on St. Cuthbert’s Way and the halfway point from Melrose to Holy Island. Remember to look back and take in the view of the Eildon Hills before we begin walking on to Kirk Yetholm.
The next section of St. Cuthbert’s Way coincides with the final stretch of the Pennine Way. Climbing up from Halterburn around Green Humbleton (287m), one of many hill forts along St. Cuthbert’s Way, we reach the border of Scotland and England, before crossing into Northumberland National Park. The Way then drops back down via Elsdonburn to Hethpool and onwards through woodland and a good track along the Cheviot foothills, heading for Yeavering Bell (361m), Northumberland’s largest Iron Age fort. A lovely path leads through the heather, over Gains Law, down to the small market town of Wooler and back to civilisation. Overnight Wooler.
The Northumberland countryside welcomes us today as we leave Wooler. After some time crossing farmland and woods our route takes us within reach of St Cuthbert's Cave. The remains of St Cuthbert, along with some of his relics, were removed from Holy Island for their protection following Viking raids that cost the lives of many monks and a good deal of gold and silver. The monks' escape took several weeks, and this cave provided them shelter and rest on their way to Durham, where St Cuthbert was reburied.
Our route will take us as far as the Lindisfarne Inn, just outside Berwick-on-Tweed, which is the nearest mainland pub to Holy Island. Popular for its warm hospitality and great food, it is also the perfect location for walkers hoping to head to the island, as it's only accessible on foot at low tide.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is one of the most significant religious sites in the history of Christianity in England. The monastery was founded in 635AD by Saint Aidan but is also well known as the place the bloodthirsty Vikings first landed in Britain. It was this attack and resulting deaths of the monks that prompted the monks at Durham to remark that it was a 'Holy Island, baptised in blood'.
It is home to just 160 people, and is a popular visitor destination as there is plenty to see. The original Lindisfarne Gospels, written around 700 AD are held in the British Library in London, however there is an interactive experience available to allow visitors to view them.
There is the National Trust property of Lindisfarne Castle (entrance optional) dating from 1550 and of course, the big draw, the ruins of the Priory that are still resisting the elements some 1400 years after their construction. Here you can also learn about the murderous Viking raid in the museum. If we want to get back to our hotel we'll need to keep to time today, as the only access is via the causeway which disappears when the tide comes in!
After Breakfast, we take a transfer to Berwick Station, where our trip ends and we can make our way back home.
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
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This 7 night guided walking holiday includes:
All breakfasts included
Transport as listed in itinerary & luggage transfer throughout week
How to book:
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This holiday is operated by our sister company, Exodus
7 nights in local hotels and guesthouses
6 days walking
Group normally 4-12, plus leader. Min age. 16 yrs
Low altitude throughout
Travel by private minibus and train