A spectacular walk across the sands

The final day of walking St. Cuthbert’s Way had us walking only 5 km from Beal to Holy Island Lindisfarne, finishing the last 3 km along the Pilgrim’s Path, marked by tall wooden poles, across the sands. Holy Island is a tidal island and so it is only safe to walk or drive to it during low tide. This safe time is obviously different each day so it is important to check tidal charts for safe crossing times. The safe time Sunday May 28, 2017, was from 9:20 a.m until 3 pm, so the timing as well as the weather were perfect for us. We left Beal at 9 am and started crossing the sand about 10. Our guide book suggested wearing welly boots or walking bare foot because areas will still be very soggy and others still have ankle deep pools of sea water, but we started out with our hiking boots, since that’s all we had. Once the water had seeped in over the top of my boots and through the lace holes I finally succumbed and walked bare foot and it was actually quite wonderful and added nicely to the experience, so I wish I had removed my boots sooner. My boots would be dry this morning if I had!

The walk was magical as the sunlight sparkled on the water rippling in the slight breeze making everything seem to sparkle.


Once we were over the sands we sat to let our feet dry and looked back over where we had walked and celebrated by eating a stash of cookies we had squirreled away in our back packs.

The above pictures are from inside St. Mary’s church on Holy Island, and I was especially drawn to the lovely display over a side altar which looked like it must have been decorated to honour fishermen. I hope it is clear in the picture how there are fish in the netting draped around the altar.

Before a grand dinner of fish and chips to mark the end of our walk we ambled down to where the road off the island was now submerged under a high tide. We looked back over where we had walked earlier in the day, glad to be settled in for the evening and looking forward to moving on the next morning to pick up a rental car and make our way more quickly by automobile for a few more days of holiday, probably now involving shops, tea rooms and manicures, in Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby and York, with a little less walking each day.

But what a lovely view.



Feeling a little bit proud


If you look closely you will see the time on the church clock in Wooler was just before 9 a.m. as we were setting out on our penultimate day of our walk along St. Cuthbert’s Way for our longest scheduled walking day. 24 km and 35000 steps later we arrived at Lindisfarne Inn, in Beal, just before 4 p.m., very very close to our final destination of Holy Island Lindisfane which we will reach tomorrow.

Although a physically tiring day due to the length of the walk, neither Chrisy nor I are as exhausted as we were yesterday, probably because we aren’t pyschologically tired in addition to being physically tired as we were yesterday after becoming separated from the marked path.

Interesting sites along the way today included lions made by Italian prisoners of war who had been captives at the prison camp on the site of  Wooler’s current middle school, a wooden carving represting St. Cuthbert and St. Cuthbert’s Cave where we stopped for about 15 minutes to have our lunch. The cave is supposedly where monks in 875 CE hid St. Cuthbert’s body after several attacks by Viking’s at Lindifarne (Shaw’s 2016  St. Cuthbert’s Way, p. 66). By the way, I continue to pester Chrisy and others I meet along the way about the fact they might enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom series – the books more than the television series – because the series starts in Lindisfarne with the Vikings attacking.


None the less, we are proud of ourselves. We’ve walked over 100 k.m., and it was very rewarding to look back from time to time to admire the vista but also think, ‘we walked those hills!’

The added excitement today was actually the weather forecast since we were told that showers would begin in the afternoon and thunderstorms could begin by 4 p.m. in the North of England, so we were keen not to dilly dally on our longest walking day as we hoped to reach our B&B prior to the thunderstorm . . And we did. We did pass sheep (and cows) seemingly preparing for the rain and finding shelter also, but maybe these sheep above were just staying out of the sun.)

Anyhow, it was great to sit in the restaurant at 6 and watch the rain and lightening and know that we had managed to out run the rain!

A trying sort of day

The best laid plans! We left Hethpool House B&B at 8:30 a.m. hopng for a head start and to cover much of our 13 km walk to Wooler through the most barren part of St. Cuthbert’s Way before the main part of the heat of the day. We took a wrong turn almost immediately due to talking too much and not paying enough attention looking for the St. Cuthbert’s Way markers.  We caught our problem quicky, turned around and we had only wasted about 30 minutes.

We scrambled down a precarious hill and then had to climb back up again after realizing we were the wrong side of a fence. Again we hadn’t noticed a sign pointing us in the proper direction.

Then we must have missed a crucial marker or post because we became quite confused. We both acknowledged how quickly we each would have become quite panicked if we had been out on these barren hills alone and had become confused and unsure of where we were. This was also quite an unexpected test for us and we each stayed calm and patient despite our individual concerns.

Eventually we found ourselves close to a farmhouse contemplating whether we needed to ask for help when we finally spotted another trail marker (after climbing over private fences and scampering through chicken pens! Thankfully the barking dogs seemed also to be penned.)  So on we trudged, and on and on . . .until:


This is a picture of happiness and relief as we spotted Wooler in the distance after walking non stop for about 5 1/2 hours. It took another 1 1/2 hours to actually get there, but that’s  another matter.

Oh my, how slowly and painfully we staggered along the High Street to our B&B, but it is amazing how motivating the thought of removing boots, cleaning up and heading out to dinner can be after 7 hours, 21 km and 30000 steps.

Only two more days left of the walk, but tomorrow is meant to be the longest planned day at 19 km (today should have only been 13) so we’ll see how that goes, but at least it is meant to be flat and fairly straight forward.

Who would have expected we would need sunscreen?!

Even the sheep were sheltering in the shadow of the stone wall as we were leaving Kirk Yetholm this morning . . . We had a touch of sun burn from yesterday so we asked our lovely B&B hostess at Mill House if she had any sunscreen. Thankfully she had a container with a little left in it which she gave us so we were able to reapply often.

Much of the day was up in the hills again with St. Cuthbert’s Way following part of the high Pennine Way. Many pauses again as we manoeuvred our way up the hills in the heat. Who knew it could be so hot and sunny in Scotland and England in May?! We brought hats, mitts, and rain gear with us, but no sunscreen.


We seemed to be looking our most bedragled by the time we were at the Scottish English Border, but Chrisy convinced me this was worth a photo. It was certainly barren and deserted up there but absolutely wonderful also.

I had been partly hoping that I could have recreated my lunch time picnic experience from yesterday again today, but it was far too hot out in the sun on the hills, so rather guilty we walked purposefully towards a a little gathering of sheep under a bush by a stream who then scuttled away and so we were able to sit in the shade briefly for our lunch. The area wasn’t quite conducive for stretching out for a rest, so we carried on knowing we were going to be arriving at our B&B far earlier than we had arranged. We wondered whether we should just find another shady spot to wait, but then thought we would risk knocking at the door and asking if we could at least sit in a shady spot in their garden. Lo and behold, our rooms were ready and we were able to come in out of the heat.


A shower, clean clothes, promise of a glass of wine and a home cooked meal, with  a friendly dog . . . a nice end to a hot walk in the hills, followed by fascinating dinner conversations. But fellow travellers/pilgrims we’ve met and the ensuing conversations may just need to wait for another blog post.

Picnic on Wideopen Hill in the Cheviots


My highlight from today was a picnic lunch break in the Cheviot Hills on Wideopen Hill. After a hot and huffy puffy walk up the ‘hill’side with several stops to catch our breath, it was rewarding to reach the midway as well as highest point of St. Cuthbert’s Way.


We stopped and marked the moment, not just taking a photo of the sign, but Chrisy completing a bit of a happy dance I thought. We had made it up there in about an hour and a half and knew we would have time today for a proper picnic lunch break since we had fewer miles to walk than we had had in previous days.

We found the perfect spot and even took our hiking boots off: the simple pleasures. After finishing off my tuna sandwich and apple I lay back in the sun in the grass and was blissfully happy. I could feel the warmth of the sun with a slight breeze and the texture of the grass. I could hear birds singing and sheep baa-ing not too far off. Eventually the birds stopped singing and it was so very quiet. It felt completely peaceful. It will be a good memory.



Protective mother cows . . . and welcoming border collies.


Tuesday’s very long and tiring walk (21 km and 30000 steps, the majority of which seemed to be taking us gradually higher) started off in a pleasant wooded area near Harestanes. An animal theme began quickly as a beautiful horse startled us from our focus on the path by neighing from the adjoining field. As we looked over he seemed to be looking at us and saying good morning. Of course, by the time we had our cameras out he had given up on us, but I thought it a good reminder to look about and enjoy our surroundings a little more even though we needed to be purposeful about the distance to be covered with an attempt to make our 4 p.m. pick up for the evening’s B&B.

We saw lots of sheep and the highlight perhaps was another deer, who looked at us from the pathway ahead for a moment before leaping away through the forest. The sound of him bounding and twigs breaking was quite lovely.

However, our funniest moments, looking back, involved crossing a farmer’s field of very large cows and their very young calves.

We entered the field having crossed a small stream and gone through a small gate. The field seemed quite large and sloped with several cows, which all seemed off in the distance. We followed the St. Cuthbert’s Way signposts and soon realized that we were being directed, not around the edge of the field as had been happening in fields of crops, but rather across the centre. ‘Hmm,’ I said to Chrisy, ‘the path seems to be taking us straight through where the cows are crossing with their calves right now. ‘ We thought it best to let them pass.  Although Chrisy was sharing stories from her earliest childhood on a farm and suggesting the cows would be used to walkers through their field, I was reminded of warnings in our book about how protective mother cows can be of their young in the spring, although usually quite placid.

There seemed to be a lull in the cow traffic so we decided we would walk up to the protective screen of gorse bushes, although we would then have cows either side of us, and suss out the situation and make our next decicion. At this point a large, dare I say enormous?, black mother cow turned back, stared at us for a few moments and then started making her way back down towards us. ‘Oh, Nelly, we don’t want your babies’ one of us said and we scampered back down the hill a way.

Having noticed that the next sign for our walk seemed to be having us zig zag back and up, we thought it wisest to skip the zig part and just head up, which thankfully had us skirting the edge of the field and just past a farm house. Chrisy was telling me a cute childhood cow story at this point as we realized there were more large cows the other side of the house. The story stopped mid sentence and it was pointed out to me that the cow closest, quite close in fact, was not only large but also had a horn. Only one horn . . . . On the side of its head of course. It wasn’t a unicorn. Chrisy stayed back as I ventured up to the corner and had to report that the signs indicated we did have to go that way but once around the corner we would be going through a gate and a couple of strings of barbed wire would separate our path from the cows. We scuttled quickly one after the other and then all of a sudden the barbed wires seemed to bring on all kinds of confidence in Chrisy who proceeded to slow down to take pictures of said cow.

We were oddly pleased with ourselves, but a long slow climb was ahead of us.


The scenery was lovely, and for much of the second half of the day we could see the Cheviot Hills. These comprise much of the walk for us on days four and five, our book informing us that day four will be the hardest, due to very steep sections, and that day five will have us staying in a B&B in the wildest section of the walk.  So on we trudged, with only brief pauses now and again to catch our breath or refuel. We have learned that we don’t end up feeling hungry, but rather perhaps just experiencing a drop in energy.

We had never before experienced such relief at the site of a cafe before: we had made it in time for our pick up to our B&B. As we spotted the old church which had been converted into a small cafe we were greated by the friendliest and most excited of border collies. He ran out to say hello with wiggles and whimpers and then rushed back into the cafe to tell his owner he had customers. Peppermint and licquorice tea with a border collie and elderly man originally from Australia was a nice end to the walk for day three.


Undulating landscape and hedgehog giggles


Yestrday afternoon when we arrived at our hotel we were asked to leave our muddy boots in the main floor lobby rather than traipsing mud throughout the carpeted hallways. This morning as we left there was quite the collection from which to choose.

The guidebook described our second day as consisting of eight miles again, starting out along the River Tweed and then progressing through ‘undulating landscape’ but much easier than our first day with steep climbs.

About an hour in to the walk, enjoying the babbling sounds of the river, we found ourselves itching to take photos despite knowing that what made it special was the sound which we couldn’t capture, but then modern day pilgrimage troubles hit. Chrisy’s camera on her iPhone wouldn’t work . . . She was receiving a message that there was no room to store anything despite the fact she had taken the time to delete photos earlier in the morning. She fiddled and then said she would wait to fix it later. But there was no rush and I suggested she take as long as she wanted since it just gave me time to go down to the river to feel how cold the water was and pick out a pebble. A reminder that there is no rush. Better to slow down and smell the wild garlic . . . Why are roses privileged so much? . . .and watch the swallows swooping about.


There were some very pretty sections of the walk again today, some definetly through ‘undulating landscape’ as the book described it. However there were some less interesting sections too. For a short while we walked on a narrow paved road with high hedges either side blocking views and we found the road surface almost jarring after the springy pathways through the fields and woodlands.


Aptly, given my fondness of hedgehogs and my earlier reflections on Teresa of Avila’s comments on the hedgehog metaphor in relation to the spiritual journey, our day’s walk ended at The Harestanes’ Visitor Centre where there was a gallery display of hedgehog pictures, with cards and prints that could be purchased. This was also amusing given an incident which had occurred yesterday. As Chrisy and I walked into Bowden yesterday I spotted a little cottage with a house name plate: Hedgehog Cotage. ‘Oh, lovely,’ I said, or something similar as I was tempted to take a picture of the name plate. At this point Chrisy asked, ‘What’s that?’ We’ve laughed about this a few times since because she says I gave her the oddest look and said, ‘It’s a small animal,’ to which she replied, ‘I know.’ So what had she been asking? It turns out, she has explained, that since she is unfamiliar with houses having names and name plates in stead of street numbers, or in addition to them, and because she is in tourist mode, she had thought that the sign might have been for tourists, explaining the style of brick work and she wondered if there was a special pattern to hedgehog cottage brickwork. She says I was looking at her as if I thought her stupid to ask such a question whereas I was confused by the question. It was just one of those funny cross cultural moments. Later as we discussed the hedgerows I pointed out that they are the habit for the wildly exotic animal known as ‘hedgehog’. Today we each bought a lovely little print of a hedgehog trudging along which we will frame when we get home and which will be sure to make us giggle again when we look at them and are reminded of the odd looks we must have been giving one another.

Anyhow, we are now feeling like we are almost in the lap of luxury in a beautiful Georigian House/B&B in Jedburgh. The owner picked us up in Harestanes to bring us here and will return us to Harestanes tomorrow morning so we will resume our walk where we left off. We walked into town for dinner, past Jedburgh Abbey, and now, having left our muddy boots at the front door here as well, we are each having a quiet evening before 10 miles of walking tomorrow.