St. Cuthbert’s Way: Introduction, Itinerary and Kit List

I once met a man from Chapel Stile,

With whom I sat and talked a while

Outside an inn, and three pints in,

He shared his thoughts on our British Isles;

“I was bored by the Broads, the New Forest got old

The Pembrokeshire Coast just left me cold

Exmoors exhausting, the Pennines just rocky,

Those great cliffs of Dover are chilly and chalky,

Skye was just fog, Snowdon just ice,

One hike to Scafell will more than suffice

The Peaks had me peaky, the glens had me glazed

The Forest of Bowland has seen better days…”

“OK!” I said loudly “I hear your story!

For you, this country has run out of glory!

Is there anywhere left that you haven’t condemned?

Anywhere at ALL that you WOULD recommend?”

He thought as he started on pint number four,

Pondering parkland, mountain and moor

“There is a place, and I have a yarn,

About how I got there, to Lindisfarne,

If you go there, it must take you five days,

And you must get there by St. Cuthbert’s Way…”

____________

The term ‘borderlands’ in literature automatically inspired visions of a lawless and anarchic place, a place of conflict and old grudges.

Whilst the modern day border towns are civilised and rather lovely places, their history is a bloody, bloodthirsty and sorrowful one. Subjected to endless raids; first from the Vikings in their brutal efforts to enact Danelaw, then from each other as the tensions between the countries rose, and eventually from their neighbours as loyalties disintegrated.

A history of ruthlessness, reivers and revolt. The path passes through old pillaging territory, by the ruined castles of those harrying clans, the old monasteries and abbeys that Henry VIII closed and sacked and, finally, the Holy Island where the Vikings laid their first attack on Britain.

It traverses the Eildon Hills and along the old Roman Road, now an ancient woodland path, past battle sites along the rivers Tweed and Teviot to the halfway point on Wideopen Hill. Across the border, it skirts the Pennine Way into the foothills of the Cheviots under hillforts that have sat there in ruin since long before the Vikings came. Past caves and, finally, through Fenwick to the sands where the hiker must remove their shoes to cross to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne at low tide.

Of course, this is a “Pilgrim’s Path”, and whilst I am not religious (not even a teeny bit spiritual), and am doing this trail as a hiker and history buff, not as a pilgrim, it would be unjust of me not to reference the saint whose name anoints the path.

St Cuthbert was born in Melrose, and died in his anchorage on an island off Lindisfarne. The path follows places of significance in his life. And a couple in his death, because not everyone’s story ends with a final breath.

And like St. Cuthbert was called to Lindisfarne, I was called to St. Cuthberts. Though Cuthbert’s calling came from a God and a King, and not from a drunk man on a rant down a Lakeland pub.

Itinerary

I would be arriving at Melrose sometime in the mid afternoon, and initially intended to walk to the tradtitional intervals each day. Of course, that didn’t happen.

Eagle eyes will notice that my mileage comes up at 69 miles rather than 63. In order to spice things up, I opted to divert from the traditional route as I approached the border from Kirk Yetholm, spending the night along the Pennine Way at the Auchope Hut and the next day climbing up and over Cheviot to Wooler rather than taking the standard foothill track.

I wildcamped through Scotland and the places on my itinerary reflect that positioning.

Elevation profile of traditional route from LDWA

Kit List

*Cat not included

It is now June, so insect repellent and tick tools are additions to my base kit. However, as it is Scotland, a warm hat and a rainshell are still much required.

40L Backpack 1500g
Tent plus pegs 907g
Groundsheet 113g
Sleeping Pad 340g
Sleeping Bag plus liner 900g
2L Water Bladder 200g
Trekking poles 500g
  4.46kg
Clothes Bag:2 x shirts 1 to wear, one to bag 
 2 x leggings 1 to wear, one to bag 
 2 x hiking socks 1 to wear, one to bag 
 2 x liner socks 1 to wear, one to bag 
 5 x pants 
 1 x sports bra 
 Fleece 
 Down jacket 
 Rain shell 
 Hat 
 Camp shoes 
  1.1kg
Wash bag*:Toothbrush 
 Toothpaste 
 Camping soap 
Sunscreen
Moisturiser
 2 x tissue packs 
 Wet wipes 
 Microfibre cloth 
 Medication 
 Hair ties and clips 
 Comb 
  0.33kg
Electrical bag:Power bank 
 3 x charging cords 
 Watch charger 
 Wall plug 
  0.41kg
Downtime:Guidebook 
 Maps (Harvey Map and OS16: The Cheviot Hills) 
 Journal with stamps and pen 
  0.8kg
Miscellaneous:First aid kit 
 Penknife 
 Electrolyte tablets 
 5 x small binbags 
 Headtorch 
Lighter
Water purifying tabs
Water filter
Trowel
  0.48kg
Bumbag:House keys 
 Wallet 
 Painkillers 
 Tissues 
 Phone 
  0.35kg
  Base Weight = 7.86kg
Food bag:Collapsible bowl 
 Sporknife 
 Tortillas x 8 
 Hummus with pesto 
 Cheese 
 Chorizo 
 12 x protein bars 
 2L water 
  4.8kg
  Pack Weight = 12.66kg
*All toiletries are travel sizes or mini
Pack weight was 27% of my body weight.
More than the classically preferred percentage, but it’s a comfortable weight for me to carry.
I may be small but I have a core of iron.

2 thoughts on “St. Cuthbert’s Way: Introduction, Itinerary and Kit List

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