Discovering St Oswald’s Way
By Katie Armitage
For the past 6 years I have had the pleasure of booking our clients on some truly beautiful walking routes from all over the UK. I grew up in Northumberland near Twice Brewed on Hadrian’s Wall and so when I found out that me and my partner Pedro would get the chance to walk the St Oswald’s Way this June I was very excited to explore more of Northumberland!
Day 1: Arrival day at Seahouses
The St Oswald’s Way begins on Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island) and finishes at Heavensfield which is just outside of Humshaugh. The full route is just under 100 miles and usually takes between 6-9 walking days to complete. Due to time constraints I have tailored my trip to 6 walking days starting in the fascinating fishing village of Seahouses and finishing at Heavensfield.
The main reason why I wanted to start in Seahouses was that we could go on a boat tour of the Farne Islands on our arrival day and we did just that! My parents who live nearby joined us for the boat tour which was great fun. I would really recommend the boat tour, we spotted hundreds of loveable puffins, grey seals and spotted so many different species of birds it was such a highlight of our trip.
After the boat tour we checked into our accommodation for the evening. We were welcomed with delicious homemade cakes in our room and an honesty fridge which was filled with everything you could ever want. It was a brilliant way to start our St Oswald’s Way journey.
Day 2: Seahouses to Howick
After a great nights rest we started the day with a scrumptious breakfast from our friendly host and left to begin our walk.
Today’s walking adventure from Seahouses to Howick was along the Northumberland Coastline, now part of England’s Coast Path, which is now the longest National Trail here in England. The Northumberland Coastline has an untamed beauty. Setting out South from Seahouses, we followed this scenic coastal path that offered breathtaking views of the North Sea and the rugged cliffs that hugged the shore.
Along the trail, we passed through the Tughall Dunes, which were covered in beautiful wildflowers. Following this we took the path along the beach to walk in the sand and dip our feet in the sea at Embleton Beach, where we saw the highlight of today’s walk, the awe-inspiring sight of Dunstanburgh Castle.
Perched majestically on a rocky outcrop, the castle’s ruins stood as a testament to its storied past. After exploring the castle (I found that National Trust Members can enter for free), we continued our journey and reached the picturesque village of Craster, famous for its legendary smoked kippers. By the quaint harbour was one of their famous smokehouses which looked very intriguing with the smoke clouds surrounding it.
We continue along the coast path for about 2 more miles until we came to our turning for Howick where our accommodation for this evening is. Howick (pronounced ‘Hawick’) is a tranquil village full of history, our accommodation dated back to the 1700’s. We then checked in and as the village doesn’t have a pub/restaurant our hosts provided a fantastic meal for us and their other guests and we thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them.
Day 3: Howick to Warkworth
After a very filling breakfast of French toast, we set off on our day’s walk and continued to head south on the Northumberland coast path. Passing charming hamlets and quiet coves, we reached the village of Boulmer, which, like many others along the coast, provided free public toilets which is always good to note. Today’s walk was relatively short, allowing us to take our time.
Sadly today it was raining so instead of walking on the beaches, we explored the path above, where we discovered several well-preserved WWII defensive structures, including a two-storey Pillbox near Alnmouth. Alnmouth, nestled at the mouth of the River Aln, showcased its tranquil ambience and picturesque landscapes, making it an ideal filming location for the TV series “Vera” which is set in Northumberland. This village was about halfway and is the perfect place for a café stop and to take cover from the rain.
After passing through a few more golf courses, we said goodbye to the North Sea and turned west into Warkworth. We could see its famous castle in the distance as we made our way over the old footbridge into the village. We checked into our accommodation for the evening and hung up our wet clothes to dry for the night.
Day 4: Warkworth to Rothbury
Our B&B stay was nothing short of delightful, doubling as a charming tea house that served us a scrumptious breakfast to start the day. The morning sun greeted us as we prepared to leave Warkworth, and we couldn’t resist exploring the village a little more. The historic allure of Warkworth was enchanting, with the majestic Warkworth Castle overlooking the village, standing as a testament to its rich past. We had a longer day today of 18 miles to Rothbury so we couldn’t spend too much time taking in the sights but we made the most of it.
As we ventured westward, we passed through picturesque fields of crops and crossed under the east coast main line railway to reach the charming village of Felton. It proved to be a perfect spot for a coffee break or sheltering from potential rain. Continuing on our journey, we encountered the remarkable St. Michael and All Angels church, dating back to the 12th century. To our delight, the church was open, and we took the opportunity to explore its ancient interior.
The trail continued alongside the serene Coquet River, offering a tranquil backdrop for our walk towards Weldon Bridge. However, due to recent warm weather, parts of the trail were overgrown with nettles, necessitating detours that took up extra time. The heavy rain combined with my blisters led us to decide to call a taxi upon reaching Weldon Bridge, which took us to the charming market town of Rothbury. There, we checked into our accommodation and took the opportunity to dry our boots by stuffing them with newspaper after the wet and challenging walk.
Day 5: Cragside – Rest Day in Rothbury
After a restful night’s sleep in Rothbury, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with our friendly host, discussing the day’s planned walk from Rothbury to Kirkwhelpington, a 15-mile stretch. However, considering my persistent blisters and the fact that today’s hike was the second longest on our trip, we made the decision to take a much-needed rest day. We promptly called the taxi company to adjust our plans, arranging for a pickup later in the afternoon from Cragside, just outside Rothbury.
The original route from Rothbury to Kirkwhelpington would have begun with a climb out of the village, leading us over the Simonside Hills renowned for their breathtaking panoramic views of the Cheviots. Continuing south, we would have traversed the captivating Harwood Forest, known for its rich wildlife, including the curlew, red grouse, mountain bumblebee, and even occasional red squirrels. After the forest section, the path predominantly takes you through picturesque farmland until reaching Kirkwhelpington, where the taxi company would collect us as there aren’t accommodation options in the village.
Since we decided on a rest day, we opted to visit Cragside, a magnificent National Trust site. This historic estate, once the residence of Lord William Armstrong, was a testament to pioneering technological innovation as it became the world’s first house powered by hydroelectricity.
Cragside’s Victorian-style house showcased a fascinating blend of architectural styles, while the extensive gardens, spanning over 1,000 acres, mesmerized us with enchanting water features and a rock garden boasting a myriad of plant species. We immersed ourselves in exploring the grounds and marvelled at the creativity and vision of Lord Armstrong, who shaped this remarkable place.
I highly recommend giving yourself a full day to explore Cragside, as there is much to see and experience. After a delightful visit, our friendly taxi driver collected us and we returned to our accommodation for some well-deserved rest, before indulging in a delightful Italian dinner, savouring the flavours and reflecting on the incredible journey we had embarked upon so far.
Day 6: Kirkwhelpington to Great Whittington – transfer to Corbridge
With renewed energy, we indulged in a scrumptious breakfast of fluffy pancakes and engaged in delightful conversation with our gracious host. Soon, our friendly taxi driver arrived, ready to accompany us on our journey to Kirkwhelpington. Throughout the drive, he regaled us with fascinating local knowledge, enriching our understanding of the area’s history and culture. Arriving in the peaceful village of Kirkwhelpington, we were instantly captivated by its serene ambiance.
As we embarked on the day’s walk, our path led us southward, and as we bid farewell to Kirkwhelpington, a magical encounter awaited us. At the edge of a woodland, we spotted a young deer, its gaze fixed upon us, creating an enchanting moment in the midst of nature’s embrace. Continuing through the picturesque farmland, we eventually reached Great Bavington, a quaint hamlet with charming houses and a rustic farm. Our route then intertwined with a section of the Reivers Way, an off-road cycling route, adding a sense of adventure to our journey. Meandering through farmlands and along tranquil country roads, we eventually arrived in Great Whittington.
With no accommodation available in Great Whittington, we settled in at the local pub, enjoying the warm hospitality as we waited for our pre-booked taxi to whisk us away to our accommodation in Corbridge. This vibrant village also serves as a stopping point on our Hadrian’s Wall adventures, boasting a wealth of historical sites and connections to the iconic Hadrian’s Wall. Eager to immerse ourselves in the rich history, we set off to explore Corbridge before settling down for a delightful dinner, brimming with anticipation for the next day’s adventure.
Day 7: Great Whittington to Corbridge
With my blisters causing discomfort and the relentless rain persisting, we made the decision to forgo today’s walk. After a hearty breakfast, we collected my car from Corbridge, which allowed us to follow the Military Road that closely mirrors today’s route. Though we missed some sights, we found solace in the fact that we didn’t entirely miss out on the experience.
We stopped at Heavensfield which is the endpoint of St Oswald’s Way. Here, atop a picturesque hill, we discovered the charming St Oswald’s Church, where King Oswald is said to have raised a wooden cross before the Battle of Heavensfield. Inside, we delved into the history of this significant figure, learning more about his life and the local parish’s enduring celebration of St Oswald’s Day on August 5th. It was heart-warming to read comments from our fellow trail-goers in the visitors’ book, further cementing the connection we all shared.
Although the weather posed challenges on the inland sections of the trail, we relished in the delightful variety this route offered. Starting along the coast and gradually moving inland to explore Hadrian’s Wall country, it has been a remarkable journey through my home county of Northumberland. The encounters with friendly locals, the delectable food we savoured, and, of course, the unforgettable boat trip around the Farne Islands, where we caught our first glimpse of charming puffins, were among the highlights we’ll forever treasure.
We offer a range of itineraries for the entire St Oswald’s Way route, as well as options for just the coastal section. With flexible daily walking distances, we can tailor a future holiday to suit your preferences. It would be our pleasure to assist you in planning an unforgettable adventure along this historically rich route. Simply email us [email protected] or give us a call 017687 72335.