These walks all start close to Drakestone Cottage in Harbottle, either a walk from the door or a short drive away. They have been chosen as suitable for families or casual walkers rather than hikers, and all of the photos you’ll see here have been taken by us when we’ve walked the routes ourselves.
1. Drakestone & Harbottle Walk
2.5 hours, 5 miles
Enjoy a circular walk with some short steep inclines and stiles. This lovely walk takes you up to the ancient Drake Stone, a mythical place from where there are stunning views over the surrounding countryside, Harbottle village and the ruins of Harbottle Castle.
There has been a castle in Harbottle since c.1157 when Henry II ordered Odinel de Umfraville to build a ‘strong castle’. Harbottle Castle consists of a motte (mound), with east and west bailey. It was built to form part of chain of sites against the ‘auld enemy’ – Scotland
The area is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designated for its heather moorland and blanket bogs. Plants to look for include Calluna or ling heather, cross leaved heath, bilberrry, cowberry and sphagnum moss.
The start of this walk is a short walk from the cottage, in the Harbottle Forest (turn left from the cottage, through the village until you come to the forest car park entrance). There is a printed and laminated version of the map in Drakestone Cottage, you can view it here.
There are two places to eat/drink in Alwinton, The Rose and Thistle and Clennell Hall – a nice half-way stopping off point during the walk. Harbottle also has a small pub, The Star Inn, which serves drinks only.
2. Alwinton & The River Alwin Walk
3 hours, 4.7 miles
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. There are great views of Alwinton and the surrounding countryside on this walk.
Northumberland National Park has been involved with local landowners in a tree planting scheme. The trees are primarily deciduous – oak, ash, rowan and hazel. The conifer forest that you can see is Kidlandlee, planted in the Second World War and now owned by the Forestry Commission.
The start of this walk is about 2 miles from Harbottle, in Alwinton. There is a National Park car park (payable) if you’d like to drive there (or park on the grass verge as you enter Alwinton), or you can walk along the roadside, which is usually quiet. There is a printed and laminated version of the map in Drakestone Cottage, you can view it here.
There are two places to eat/drink in Alwinton, The Rose and Thistle and Clennell Hall – a nice way to end the day after the walk. Harbottle also has a small pub, The Star Inn, which serves drinks only.
3. Holystone Forest Walks
3 hours, 5 miles
or just wander around the forest paths
Holystone is tucked away in a quiet corner of Coquetdale, a tiny stone-built village about 2 miles from Harbottle. . The peace and tranquillity of the area attracted a religious order that built a nunnery here in the twelfth century, around which Holystone village grew. The nunnery has long gone, but the tranquil surroundings remain, offering both beautiful walks and much of interest for the historian and naturalist alike. There are waterfalls, crags and plenty of aged broadleaved woodland which is a delight to walk in at any time of year.
Nearby Holystone Common is a Site of Special Scientific Interest jointly managed for conservation purposes by Forestry Commission and Northumberland Wildlife Trust and lying within Northumberland National Park.
Forest walks include the Woods and Wells and Holystone 6. Both walks start at the car park sign board, a short distance out of the village. It is also possible to walk to Holystone from Harbottle, through the forest.
There isn’t anywhere to get food or drink in Holystone but you could take a packed lunch and enjoy it on one of the picnic tables in the forest.
4. Cragside & Rothbury
1,000 acres of estate paths at Cragside and a 30 minute riverside walk in Rothbury
With over 1,000 acres to explore there’s plenty of walking to enjoy at Cragside. From a gentle stroll through the Pinetum to a challenging hike through the heart of the estate, you’ll find a perfect walk to suit all abilities. The National Trust have a few different walks on their website, which should also be available in hard copy at Cragside itself.
Cragside is about 9 miles away from Drakestone Cottage – just the other side of Rothbury, a traditional market town with lots of amenities and places to eat/drink. There is also a short 30 minute riverside walk in Rothbury, along the River Coquet, which you can find here.
5. Fontburn Reservoir
2 hours, 6.2 miles
Fontburn Reservoir is one of Northumberland’s smaller lakes and its walk is a mixture of pretty waterside walking and wide open spaces. The going is straightforward but can be muddy in places during/after wet weather. There are attractive views for most of the walk not least towards the Simonside Hills. There is a chance of seeing some interesting birdlife including pied flycatcher, redstart and lapwing.
Fontburn Reservoir is in the valley of the River Font and was completed in 1908 to provide water for the Morpeth and Bedlington areas. It also provides a pleasant trout fishing opportunity (licences available at the shop).This walk starts from the car park (payable) by the reservoir and makes use of the waymarked footpath by its southern shore, created by Northumbrian Water.
Fontburn Reservoir is about a half hour drive from Harbottle, not far from Rothbury if you wanted to combine a walk at Fontburn and then some shopping or something to eat or drink Rothbury on the way back. There is a printed and laminated version of the map in Drakestone Cottage, you can view it here.
6. Elsdon Burn
2 hours, 2.5 miles
Explore the rich history of Elsdon on a gentle walk from the village to the burn and back again. Enjoy refreshments in the friendly tea room or pub after building up a thirst and seeing the sights of this pretty little place.
Elsdon, the historic capital of Redesdale, is a pretty Northumbrian village about a 20 minute drive from Harbottle. It has an ancient parish church, a tower house and even the remains of a castle. The houses which gather round the teardrop-shaped village green make it the largest settlement within the boundaries of the National Park.
The trees in the village green mark the old cock pit, and a bear baiting site is marked by a stone near the bus stop.
The 18th century circular Pinfold is the old pound,where stray animals were kept until owners could pay for their return. Pinfold Cottage used to be a smithy and the Old Smithy itself is on the other side of the green.
There is a printed and laminated version of the map in Drakestone Cottage, you can view it here.