St Cuthbert's Way

  • South from Eildon Hills saddle - © William Mackesy
  • St Cuthbert"s Way - © Flickr user Alun Ward
  • Melrose Abbey - © Flickr user Les Haines
  • St Cuthbert"s Way - © Flickr user Keith Holmes
  • Lindesfarne Castle - © Flickr user floato
  • Lindesfarne Ruins - © Flickr user Brett
  • The River Tweed - © Flickr user Nick Barlow
  • Middle Eildon Hill from saddle - © William Mackesy
  • Melrose Abbey from north Eildon Hill - © William Mackesy
  • South hill from central Eildon Hill - © William Mackesy
  • Rain shower from middle Eildon Hill - © William Mackesy

Key information: St Cuthbert's Way

    • St Cuthbert's Way runs for 100km between Melrose in Scotland's Borders to Lindesfarne on the Northumbrian coast.
      • St Cuthbert of Lindesfarne became famous in the 7th century as a prophet and a performer of miracles. The trail winds through countryside associated with him, over hills, across farmland and along river valleys to the sand and mud flats at Lindesfarne, through historically rich and naturally interesting (as well as lovely) countryside, usually on old tracks.
        • Lovely and interesting towns to explore. Staying here is a pleasure, not a function.
          • Unpredictable weather. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating82
  • Beauty30
  • Natural interest14
  • Human interest10
  • Charisma28
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating82

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 100km/7 days
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate
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St Cuthbert's Way - © Flickr user Keith Holmes

WALK SUMMARY

St Cuthbert's Way runs for 100km between Melrose in Scotland's Borders to Lindesfarne on the Northumbrian coast.

St Cuthbert (634-687) was Prior, a hermit and finally Bishop at Lindesfarne, and became famous as a prophet and a performer of miracles. He was educated at Melrose by Irish monks, evidence of the somehow surprisingly (to us moderns) international world he lived in.

While northern England received many pilgrims after Cuthbert's death, the eponymous Way is a recent creation, although following ancient routes - back to the Romans and before - for much of its course. It has variuous associations with St Cuthbert himself, as he walked this land extensively spreading the Word, as well as the periods of his life at lovely Melrose and holy Landesfarne.

Historical remains range from hill-forts and a Roman signal station on the Eildon Hills  to stretches of Roman road, to towers and castles recalling the centuries of raiders and border turmoil, to churches and abbeys, farms and towns, to the final causeway, ruined alley and castle at Lindesfarne.

The Borders, the hill country between England and the Scottish lowlands, is a beautiful and atmospheric area - and relatively empty of walkers. These are generally  grassy  hills and ridges, rolling rather than sheer, treeless other than a certain amount of rather depressing conifer forest, which separate valleys which vary from rushing upland streams to the grand, valleys of impressive rivers such as the Tweed. The scenery includes rough crags, moorland, hill farmland and wide stretches of good arable land. And even coastal cliffs and wildlife reserves. 

The landscape is shaped by its geology: sedimentary rocks have been buckled and lifted by the impact of the Highlands with the European tectonic plate, resulting in gentler, in more rounded hills than the rough, broken grandeur of the ancient, igneous Highlands.

The route is divided into the following sections:

  • Melrose - St Boswells via Dryburgh
  • St Boswells - Harestanes
  • Harestanes - Morebattle
  • Morebattle - Kirk Yethholm
  • Kirk Yetholm - Wooler
  • Wooler - Fenwick
  • Fenwick - Lindisfarne

The Way begins by crossing the peculiar but delightful Eildon Hills , a group of three steep volcanic tumps  protruding from the rolling countryside just south of Melrose, which offer grand 360? views of the surrounding landscape. A hill fort and Roman signal station crown the northernmost hill. Unusually for the area, they are heather-clad. 

After that it is the Tweed valley and rolling farmland for some way. The 25km (16 mile) stretch of the Way between St Boswell's  and Harestanes, south-east of Melrose, follows a delightful curve of the Tweed then a stretch of Roman Dere Street.

The path then skirts the Cheviot Hills between Cessford castle and Wooler, crossing the border into England. Then it is the rather bleak moorlands of the Northumberland National Park.

After some relatively tame coastal plain walking, you get your first sight of Landesfarne at St.Cuthbert's Cave, where the Saint's body is said to have lain after being purloined by maurauding Vikings.

You then cross  the tidal sand and mud flats to the Holy Isle, either on the modern causeway or along ancient Pilgrim's Way, which is marked by stakes in the sand.     

There are lovely and interesting towns to explore, from the pleasing market town of Moffat to ancient Melrose, to Kelso and Jedburgh. Staying here is a pleasure, not a function.

Have a look at the dreaded TripAdvisor - you should get some good, current views on relevant areas.

This page is at an early stage of development. Please help us by recommending your best walks, making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!

See also our Scottish Borders  page

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Books on this walk

St Cuthbert’s Way – Cicerone. Indispensable.

Scottish Hill Tracks – published by ScotWays – 2012. Brilliant book.

Other books

ScotlandLonely Planet Country Guide

Wainwright in Scotland

Maps

All relevant Ordinance Survey maps can be bought locally, easily.

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

April to October. Summer is likely to be warmest, May and June for the best chances of good weather - and fewer people( Spring and Autumn can be lovely).

Weather

Variable and changeable at all times. Always come prepared for rain, even though these eastern areas are surprisingly dry. Can be lovely.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Skyscanner is an excellent (relatively new) site for finding the flights you need; otherwise try Lastminute.com, or look at what’s available on Tripadvisor.

Trains to/from various towns, including Dunbar, Berwick on Tweed. Local buses are available, reasonably plentifully, to/from the main towns such as Melrose.

No permits are needed to do these walks.

An excellent option is “slackpacking” – ie, having your bags carried from one night stop to the next, and walking with a day pack only. Baggage carriers for slackpackers:

· try www.maketracks.net [others per Cic Apx 3] (check)

Local taxi services generally exist in the towns, can (eg) take to or pick you up from a roadhead, or transport luggage.

Route(s) and wayfinding

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See Walk Summary above.

Wayfinding is generally easy. That said, experience and care are needed on the hills, especially in poor weather.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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· Mountain weather: rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year, snow in winter. Come prepared.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do this walk independently, although the higher or remote mountain walks require preparation, experience and common sense.

Guided/supported

Scotwalk provide guided and slackpacking options. And www.maketracks,net will carry slackpackers’ bags.

Any recommendations for good guides? Tell us about them on our “Participate” page.

Accommodation

One of the pleasures of the Way are the towns and villages, and their accommodation.

There is endless accommodation available, from grand and trendy hotels, to pubs, to B&Bs, to hostels and campsites. The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation. There are various relevant accommodation websites. 

Camping: there are some lovely sites. Short term wild camping (2-3 nights in any one place) is generally permitted in the hills. See www.mcofs.org.uk/mag for further details. Be careful and considerate!

An official accommodation guide is published annually, and this includes campsites.

A good range of hotels can generally be found on the unimaginatively but effectively named Hotels.com; if you’re on a budget, Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation, or perhaps try for some bargain luxury on Lastminute.com.

An excellent option is “slackpacking” – ie, having your bags carried from one night stop to the next, and walking with a day pack only. See “Getting there/transport” etc above for information on relevant companies.

It is always worthwhile seeing what the commentary on Tripadvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.

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Other information and tips

Carry a compass on high ground, in case of bad weather.

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

· Scottish Borders Tourist Board – sbtb@scot-borders.co.uk. Various local tourist offices at Dumfries, Moffat, Melrose and elsewhere (see Cicerone for more info)

· VisitScotland Borders – tel 08706080404 – rather amazingly, not for internet

· www.outdooraccess-Scotland.com for information on access rights and responsibilities.

· www.wikipedia.org - as usual, a good starting place.

· Try www.flickr.com for pictures of this walk.

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Other things to do in the area

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Endless..…

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Lindesfarne Castle - © Flickr user floato

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Melrose Abbey from north Eildon Hill - © William Mackesy...
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