Grand Tour of Northumberland

Route Out – Coldstream to Cornhill on Tweed to Town Yetholm to Kirknewton to Wooler to Harthope Valley. For route map click here.

Route Back – Harthope Valley to Chatton to Belford to Lowick to Ford to Crookham to Braxton to Cornhill on Tweed to Coldstream. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – mainly bright, sunny and reasonably warm but very windy at times and cloudier later in the day.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 67.93 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 22 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 36.9 mph
  • Average speed – 12.6 mph
  • Height climbed – 4500 feet

It’s a long time since I’ve posted anything on here but don’t worry, I haven’t thrown away my bike and started playing computer games day and night… In fact, I’ve been cycling more than ever and I’ve really just not had enough time to write about any of the brilliant routes that Dad and I have been riding recently. But it’s the school holidays just now and today is very windy so there’s no hope of a bike ride, so I’ve decided to rewind to a sunny day exactly 1 year ago to tell you about a really nice route we cycled on in North-East England.


It’s less than an hour’s drive from our house to the town of Coldstream which is basically the last place in Scotland before you head across the border into England. So we started the route here and immediately crossed over the River Tweed via a magnificent old bridge and entered the Northumberland region of North-East England. After a short time on the reasonably flat and smooth A697 road, we came to a village called Cornhill on Tweed where we turned right onto a minor road that took us mainly south and slightly uphill through some lovely, peaceful countryside with views of the Cheviot Hills in the distance. After a very long straight section of road, we came to a cross roads and went straight over onto the B6352 which took us over the border and back into Scotland again. This is a very nice part of the country and to be honest, you can’t tell whether you are in Scotland or England around here – it all just looks the same.


The road more or less follows the Bowmont Water for quite a few miles until reaching unusually named Town Yetholm. After crossing a bridge over the river on the left, we soon came to the similarly named Kirk Yetholm as the road headed north-east again, following the river but on the other side this time, and skirting right round the edge of the Cheviot Hills. This is a really nice, quiet road with fantastic views of the hills and the river valley. It has some ups and downs but nothing too hard at all. Soon, we crossed the border back into England and a sign told us that we had entered the Northumberland National Park. The road keeps going around the edge of the hills in almost a semi circle for quite a long time and Dad and I agreed that this was one of the most scenic and enjoyable stretches of road we’ve cycled on. Eventually, we arrived at a junction with the A697 road again and turned right heading for Wooler. We could have taken the main road all the way from Coldstream and saved ourselves 10 miles or so but I think it’s fair to say that taking the long cut on the quiet, picturesque back roads was a good idea.


Wooler is supposed to be a nice old market town but there was some sort of gala day taking place so we couldn’t cycle through the town centre when we were there. Instead we diverted around the outskirts on the main road and then followed a sign on the right which pointed to cycle route no.68 (also known as the Pennine Cycleway) and the Harthope Valley, which is where we were heading next. This part of Cycle Route 68 is really hilly with lots of short but steep ups and downs so it’s hard going but the views are good at least. Soon enough we came to Middleton Hall where we turned right onto a very narrow, straight road which looked as though it was climbing vertically up to the sky – it looked that steep! The sign warned of a 1:5 gradient and it definitely felt like it. As the road headed up into the trees, it was hard to even keep our front wheels on the ground and we both ended up zig-zagging across the road to help us keep going. Thankfully, it wasn’t a long climb and after a short section of flat, we crossed a cattle grid and finally we got our first view of the Harthope Valley. This must be one of the most scenic valleys in England and I would definitely go back there to have a walk in the hills one day. We sped down a very steep slope into the valley and cycled along the narrow road, following


the river further and further into the hills. It was all slightly uphill and into a very strong wind so the going was very slow. It was also surprisingly busy with cars full of people heading out to enjoy the beautiful countryside and although the views were stunning, I was glad to finally reach the end of the road at a farm. From there we turned around and sped back down the hill, wind-assisted, in half the time it had taken to cycle up the valley. That really was great fun! We then had to cycle up the short but stupidly steep hill to leave the valley behind, before heading down the scary 1:5 gradient road back to Middleton Hall as safely as we could.

We then turned right onto route 68 once more for a short while, cycling through deserted rolling countryside. After a few miles we turned left and arrived at the A697 yet again where we turned right and cycled south-east for less than a mile before taking the next left turn onto the back roads again. We were now heading generally north-east again, though miles and miles of almost traffic free roads through fields on barley and wheat on mostly quite flat gradients. This was a really pleasant area to cycle in. Eventually, a couple of miles north of the village of Chatton, we turned right onto the B6349 and started heading uphill once more. This was a long gradual climb that seemed to go on forever. Thankfully the views behind and to the left were incredible, and you could see practically the whole of Northumberland. The Cheviot Hills looked amazing from here.


From the top of the hill, we sped down to the town of Belford where we stopped at a shop to buy more water to keep us going for the journey back. Then we turned left, up another short but steep climb until we could see some nice views of the Northumberland coast a few miles away on our right. We could even see Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle away in the distance. Just before reaching the extremely busy A1 road, we turned left onto a more suitable minor road which more or less stayed parallel to the A1 for a while before heading west at Fenwick. From this point on the ride became a bit of a struggle. It had clouded over by now and the wind was really strong and blowing straight into our faces, making progress very slow as we cycled along the B6353 in more or less the same direction and slightly uphill for what seemed like forever. Thankfully, we eventually arrived in the historic village of Ford and the road suddenly became very fast and steeply downhill for a bit, passing a castle along the way, before we turning left across a bridge over the River Till and then quickly right again to head for Crookham.


After Crookham, we took a very quiet and narrow back road to a place called Branxton which was signposted as being the site of the Flodden Field battle which took place between English and Scottish armies in 1513. Despite the signage, we didn’t really notice the battle site – it must just be a random field now and soon enough we were back onto the A697 once again for an easy few miles back to Scotland where we rounded off the day with a fish cake supper for tea.

It had been a long but really enjoyable day out, despite the wind making things difficult for long periods. Northumberland is a beautiful part of the country, perfect for cycling. I have been back there several times since – hopefully I will find time to tell you about those adventures before too long!


Grand Tour of the Scotland-England Border

Route out – Rowanburn to Kershope Bridge to Newcastleton Forest to Kielder Forest to Kielder Water to Kielder. For route map click here.

Route back – Kielder to Newcastleton to Rowanburn. For route map click here.

  • Weather – mostly sunny and relatively warm with a light breeze but one long rain shower later in the day.
  • Distance travelled – 49.91 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 3 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.9 mph
  • Average speed – 9.8 mph

On the way home from our holiday in Wales in July, we had stopped for a rest in the lovely (and brilliantly named) village of Rowanburn in Dumfries and Galloway, not far from the border between Scotland and England. I had noticed that the roads near Rowanburn looked perfect for cycling so I’d been thinking of going there for a cycle for ages. Finally, last Saturday, Dad and I managed to go back there with our bikes to have a grand tour of the Scotland-England border.

We headed north out of Rowanburn along the B6357. This is lovely smooth road for cycling on and not too busy with traffic. After less than a mile we entered the Scottish Borders and had to cycle up a short but steep 11% gradient section of road so that fairly warmed our legs up. Soon after, we turned right onto the B6318 which immediately took us steeply downhill to a bridge over the Liddel Water and back up another extremely steep hill into Cumbria. We were in England for the first time today! Around here, the Liddel Water marks where the Scotland-England border is for quite a long distance and our route basically followed this in a north-east direction along very quiet, scenic and narrow roads for about 5 miles until we almost reached a place called Kershopefoot. Here, the border changes direction, heading more towards the east along a different river called the Kershope Burn. At a junction, we headed right and then over the border river and up a very steep section, back into the Scottish Borders. The road goes relatively high up here and the views are really nice. Soon we doubled back on ourselves at an acute angle and headed back down the hill to England again at Kershope Bridge. We stopped here to have an early lunch among the sheep to give us an energy boost before tackling the hardest part of the route.

At Kershope Bridge we turned left and followed the signs for National Cycle Route no.10 which took us into the forest on a reasonably smooth landrover track. After a short while the track crossed over a bridge across the burn back into the Newcastleton Forest in Scotland. After this the path followed the border burn for a long time and the path seemed to become bumpier and bumpier along the way. It was also all uphill and really hard going at times and I almost thought about turning back. Luckily I spied some wild blueberries growing at the edge of the fir trees so I stopped to fill my face and I cheered up a bit after that. Eventually, we reached another bridge and this took us over the border again to England and the Kielder Forest in Northumberland. This was the worst section of all as the path became un-ridable due to the loose stones and the steepness of it, even on a mountain bike. After pushing up the slope to the highest point, the path leveled out but the loose stones made it very unpleasant to ride along. I really was wondering why Sustrans had made this a signposted cycle route. It must have been someone’s idea of a joke surely… It would have made a nice walk though. Thankfully, the bumpy loose stoney path ended when it joined onto another forest road. This was a really nice smooth track and was all downhill so we sped the last few miles to the Kielder Water in no time at all. After about 15 miles of deserted forest, we were finally back in civilisation and saw people for the first time in over 2 hours…

We stopped at the reservoir for a much needed break and a snack of oatcakes. Then we headed onto lovely smooth road once again and sped off northwards in the direction of Kielder. This road is unclassified but on this section it was more like an A road, nice and wide with a white line down the middle and a nice surface for cycling on. Not too much traffic either so that was good. Dad spotted a sign post pointing to an interestingly named place called Gowan Burn and we thought about taking a detour to see what was there. But Dad didn’t think we’d have time for that as we still had about 25 miles to go and we wanted to be back at the car by tea time. So, at Kielder village we just stopped at the shop for Smarties (me) and Yorkie (Dad) before heading in the direction of Scotland once more. The road had by now reverted to single track with passing places and the weather had reverted to rain. Despite the weather, we stopped at the border to photograph all the amazing signs.

The last 20 miles or so of the route was along the B6357 again, heading roughly south and following the Liddel Water once more. It was also almost all downhill and very fast through the quiet countryside along the nice smooth road surface. We stopped in the pleasant little village of Newcastleton to have our last proper break of the day before following the river (which turned into the Scotland-England border once again) back to Rowanburn. It was a long and tiring day but we had crossed the border a total of six times and I really enjoyed most of the route. The roads are very good quality, quite quiet and the scenery is nice so I would highly recommend cycling in this area. Apart from cycle route no.10 through the forest that is – that is NOT recommended at all!