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Kirknewton and Ancient Yeavering Bell

Views of the Cheviot Hills and the sea are the reward for climbing to this hilltop fort.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 1,115ft (340m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Tracks, field paths and moorland, steep ascent and descent

Landscape Farmland and hillside, wide views from Yeavering Bell

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL16 The Cheviot Hills

Start/finish NT 914302

Dog friendliness Dogs on leads

Parking In Kirknewton village, in wide area of road beyond school and church, off B6351

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the parking place, walk ahead towards the village centre, then turn left. Just before a gate, bend right along the lane, following the 'Hillforts Trail' sign. The metalled lane bends right again and becomes a grassy track. Go through a metal gate and straight on at the next waymarker. Go through two more metal gates and a gateway. At the next marker post bear right, signed 'Permissive Path' and go over a stream and a ladder stile.

2 Turn left after the stile, then go over another stile. Bear half right across the field to a hand gate in a crossing wall, Go through the gate, and bear right to reach a waymarked post beside the track. This is part of St Cuthbert's Way.

3 Turn left along the track and follow it through a wooden waymarked gate, past a farmhouse and over a cattle grid. Just before the next cattle grid turn right off the track, following the 'St Cuthbert's Way' sign. Bend left through a gate and continue along the grassy track uphill to a ladder stile in the wall on your left.

4 Go over the stile and turn right to follow the footpath uphill. At a low-level signpost, turn left, signed 'Yeavering Bell'. Follow the waymarks down into the valley, across the stream and then uphill. The path eventually passes through the fort wall. Bend right to reach the summit of Yeavering Bell.

5 After enjoying the view, go downhill to the valley between the two peaks. Bear right and head downhill, on the opposite side of the hill to that which you came up. Go through the wall and follow the waymark just beyond. The path is waymarked all the way down the steep hill, until you reach a stile.

6 Go over the stile, and then over a ladder stile on your right on to a track. Follow the track past a marker post and, just after it, bend left towards another track, which leads towards the farm buildings in the valley bottom. Go over a ladder stile by the buildings and turn right along the track. Go through a metal gate and past the cottages to reach the road.

7 Turn left along the road and follow it back to Kirknewton. At the 'Yetholm' sign at the entrance to the village go straight ahead, through the gate, then turn right back to the car.

The village of Kirknewton huddles at the foot of the Cheviot Hills, close to the beautiful valley of the College Burn. Often used as a stopping-off point for walkers, the village itself deserves exploration. It has some old farmhouses and a deceptive church, which appears Victorian but contains a chancel with a stone roof that curves to the floor like the hull of an upturned ship. By the arch leading to the chancel is Kirknewton's other treasure - a 12th-century carving of the Wise Men visiting the infant Jesus and his mother. It is roughly carved and has an almost cartoon-like quality, but is a fascinating and moving glimpse into a world nearly 1,000 years ago.

A memorial in Kirknewton church remembers Josephine Butler, the 19th-century social reformer, who is buried in the churchyard. She was born near by in 1828 and married George Butler, a lecturer at Durham University. They moved to Oxford after they married but, following the death of their five-year-old daughter, they set up home in Liverpool, where Josephine began her life's work of helping rescue women from prostitution and the 'white slave' trade. Her campaign included direct physical action against what she considered unfair laws, which were eventually repealed. She based her life on prayer and modelled herself on St Catherine of Sienna. She retired to Northumberland in 1890, after George's death, and died in 1906.

The first part of the walk skirts West Hill, which is topped by a small hill fort with a stone wall and the remains of a Romano-British settlement. You will then pass the head of the beautiful College Valley - it is possible to drive down beyond Hethpool only with a special free permit from Sale and Partners at 18-20 Glendale Road in Wooler. Only 12 a day are issued, and none in the lambing season from mid-April to the end of May. It is open to walkers at any time.

The climax of the walk is the hill fort at Yeavering Bell. Northumberland's most spectacular Iron-Age structure, the fort has a massive rubble wall, once 10ft (3m) thick at the base, surrounding the two peaks of the hill. The 13½ acres (5.5ha) within held more than 130 timber buildings, the largest of them 42ft (12.8m) across. Below the hill, just east of Kirknewton, once stood Ad Gefrin, the 7th-century palace of King Edwin. Mentioned in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the site was lost for centuries until identified by crop marks in 1949, and then excavated. St Paulinus baptised converts in the River Glen near by in ad 627, and probably preached in Ad Gefrin's most unusual feature, an open-air wooden theatre that held more than 300 people.

What to look for

Part of the walk follows the long distance footpath called St Cuthbert's Way. The 62½-mile (100km) route goes eastwards from Melrose in the Scottish Borders, where St Cuthbert first began his monastic life, into England, finishing at Holy Island off the Northumberland coast. Cuthbert is one of the most famous of the early English saints, and much revered in the north of England. His shrine in Durham Cathedral, where his bones were taken more than a century after they were rescued by the Holy Island monks during Danish raids in 875, was long a place of pilgrimage. Cuthbert's coffin and cross are in the cathedral's treasury.

While you're there

For a taste of genuine Northumberland farming life visit nearby Wooler. Set on the first slopes of the Cheviot Hills, it is a pleasant town, and the centre for a wide area. It has long held a cattle market, and the shops mix guides and souvenirs for tourists with agricultural supplies.

Where to eat and drink

Head for Wooler, where there is a wide choice of pubs and cafés. The Black Bull and the Red Lion are recommended, while the Tankerville Arms has a good reputation for its food. All welcome dogs; children are welcome at the Black Bull and Tankerville Arms.

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