Alwinton and the River Alwin route is a favourite route with walkers, starting in Alwinton, that used to be one of many trackways in the border hills frequented in times past by cattle drovers, shepherds, pedlars and whiskey smugglers.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
(D/A) From the car park turn left along the road heading into Alwinton. At the T-junction cross the village green, and cross over the footbridge. Turn left onto a narrow tarmac road signed ‘Clennell Street/Border Ridge’.
(1) Follow the road until the tarmac ends, then keep on the track as it heads uphill. Ignore the gate and stile to the right, keep on up the farm track.
(2) Cross over the ladder stile and follow the track, skirting around the right of Castle Hills, an ancient Iron Age settlement.
(3) As the main track (Clennell Street) winds round to the left near the top of the hill, take right at the junction to a wicket gate, approx 50 metres away. Go through the gate and bear left across the field to the next gate. Go through this gate and follow the well worn path to the right along the hillside.
(4) Continue on this path passing a stone sheepfold down to your right. At a junction of many tracks, head downhill towards the forest corner.
(5) On reaching the bottom of the hill, go through the field gate onto the pink gravel forest road and turn right. Keep following the road, crossing the River Alwin three times, until you reach a crossroads.
(6) At the crossroads, follow the track round to the right passing through the field gate, keeping the dry stone wall to your left. Cross over the cattle grid and turn right over the footbridge.
(7) Once over the footbridge, turn left up the path. Go over a step stile then continue straight ahead walking along the headland to the stile at the opposite side of the field. Cross the stile and carry on along the edge of the field keeping the fence to your left.
(8) Go over a ladder stile and turn left onto the farm track that you came up. Head back downhill to Alwinton and along the road back to the car park. (D/A)
D/A : km 0 - alt. km 0 - National Park Car Park
1 : km 0.33 - alt. km 0.33
2 : km 0.84 - alt. km 0.84 - Castle Hills
3 : km 1.46 - alt. km 1.46
4 : km 2.19 - alt. km 2.19
5 : km 3.24 - alt. km 3.24 - River Alwin
6 : km 5.51 - alt. km 5.51 - Crossroads
7 : km 5.86 - alt. km 5.86 - Footbridge
8 : km 6.48 - alt. km 6.48 - Ladder stile
D/A : km 7.2 - alt. km 7.2 - National Park Car Park
Start & Parking: Alwinton - National Park Car Park (Toilets here)
Local Services: Alwinton and Rothbury
Terrain: Footpaths, tracks and roads with some short, sharp ascents, footbridges stiles and gates
Directions - To the walk start point
From Rothbury: Take the B6341 out of Rothbury and through Thropton. At the small farm/hamlet of Flotterton turn right, signed ‘Alwinton’. Keep following the road, through Harbottle and into Alwinton. The car park is through the village and on the right. Toilets are in the car park.
Public Transport Information
T: 0871 2002233 https://www.traveline.org.uk
Food and refreshments are available in Alwinton at the Rose & Thistle which is also a National Park Information Point.
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
There can often be timber and large agricultural vehicles on the roads and tracks around Alwinton so please take care. Military aircraft and loud noises can often be heard from the nearby Otterburn Ranges Ministry of Defence Training Area.
Points of interest
Kidland Forest was planted in the Second World War and is managed by the Forestry Commission. Tree felling has taken place over the years so please be aware that what you see on the ground may differ from that on the OS map.
Alwinton Border Shepherd’s Show takes place on the second Saturday of October every year and is well worth a visit. https://www.alwintonshow.co.uk
A little bit of history
Clennell Street is one of many Drove Roads in the Cheviot Hills which connected the market towns of Morpeth to Kelso across the border in Scotland. Clennell Street was used by cattle drovers and shepherds, pedlars and whisky smugglers. The remote tributary valleys of the Upper Coquet were used to distil illicit whisky during the 1800s. Smugglers like Black Rory made their whisky and sold it illegally at the remote farms up the valley. Excise-men would patrol the hills, stopping and searching carts and travellers for contraband liquor.
The ancient hillforts of Castle Hills and Camp Knowe look as if they stand guard over Alwinton and the entrance
to Clennell Street.
Wildlife to look out for
Wildflowers grow abundantly along the grass verges leading into the village of Alwinton. Meadow and wood cranesbill, knapweed and meadowsweet flower from June to September. They are huge favourites of all kinds of butterflies including common blues and meadow browns as well as bumblebees including the buff-tailed bumblebee.
Birds that you may see on the moorland include kestrel, buzzard, wheatear and whinchat. Alongside the river lookout for heron and dipper.
Sheep that you will see in this area include white-faced Cheviots which have been bred in these bleak, windswept hills for over 600 years and the horned Scottish Blackface. The circular stone pens that you may see are ‘stells’ which shelter the sheep in the winter blizzards.
The hills in the southern part of the Northumberland National Park offer some fine walking. This route starts from the small village of Alwinton and follows paths, tracks and quiet country lanes for the most part. However some sections are pathless and a good sense of direction is necessary. The walk is best avoided if low cloud is covering the hills. Also do be prepared for some boggy areas especially after rain.
An easy circular walk from Alwinton; taking in the ruins of the castle at Harbottle and then up to the Drake Stone in the Harbottle Hills. Descend to Harbottle Lake and return via the forest path. Great views on a clear day.
Explore one of the most remote and rugged landscapes in Northumberland with this invigorating half-day family walk offering stunning views.
Windy Gyle is the key objective for this walk in the deserted hills of Northumbria. Starting in the beautiful Coquet Valley the walk crosses wild moorland and includes a section of the Pennine Way.
The Shepherds Cairn is a memorial to two shepherds who lost their lives in the winter of 1962. They were found just half a mile from their remote home at Ewartly Shank. Because of this event the National Park Voluntary Rangers set up the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team - a volunteer organisation that turns out in all weather to help save lives.
Take time out to see Linhope Spout, a 60 foot (18m) chute of water, which lands in a plunge pool 6ft (2m) wide and 16ft (5m) deep.
Enjoy a circular walk suitable for most abilities, with fantastic views over Elsdon on the return leg. Enjoy a cuppa or a pint after building up a thirst and seeing the sights of this scenic Northumberland village. For the adventurous amongst you, why not pair this walk with our Elsdon Burn Walk.
A nice family walk following the Elsdon Burn, before heading over Gallow Hill. Take time to enjoy the views over Elsdon – the historic capital of Redesdale. Enjoy a cuppa or a pint after building up a thirst from seeing the sights of this pretty little place.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.