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.
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.
- Day T-1: Melrose to Bowden (4 miles)
- Day 1: Bowden to Cessford Moor (19 miles)
- Day 2: Cessford Moor to Auchope Hut (18 miles)
- Day 3: Auchope Hut to Wooler (12 miles)
- Day 4: Wooler to Beal (13 miles)
- Day 5: Beal to Lindisfarne (3 miles)
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
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.
|Tent plus pegs||907g|
|Sleeping Bag plus liner||900g|
|2L Water Bladder||200g|
|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|
|2 x tissue packs|
|Hair ties and clips|
|Electrical bag:||Power bank|
|3 x charging cords|
|Maps (Harvey Map and OS16: The Cheviot Hills)|
|Journal with stamps and pen|
|Miscellaneous:||First aid kit|
|5 x small binbags|
|Water purifying tabs|
|Base Weight = 7.86kg|
|Food bag:||Collapsible bowl|
|Tortillas x 8|
|Hummus with pesto|
|12 x protein bars|
|Pack Weight = 12.66kg|
–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.