The Sandstone Way

The Sandstone Way is a 120 mile mountain biking route between Berwick upon Tweed and Hexham along the Sandstone Ridge in North Northumberland linking numerous sandstone features, crags and outcrops. The route traverses through an amazing ever-changing landscape which is rich in history, geological features and iconic scenery.

Day 1: Start Of The Sandstone Way (Berwick to Wooler)

Cycled to the Hub at this morning arrived about 08:40 then waited on for Mark to turn up which he did around 9 had a quick coffee before heading onto Central Station, which actually only took us 10 minutes. The train on time and we left Newcastle on our way to Berwick finally reached Berwick 45 minutes later then sorted out our gear to get to the start point of the Sandstone Way, had a quick chat with a fellow bikepacker who was attempting to get to Derby in 7 days along the SSW & Pennine Way from here on in we referred to him as “Chappers Norco”.

The steel ponies tied up at the station.

Followed the coast along from Berwick until we turned inland then a couple of miles we stopped at the Lindisfarne Inn for a spot of lunch & a couple of pints… 2 hours later!!

Back on the route to Wooler along the way whilst cycling through a forestry track we passed by St Cuthberts Cave so deciding we’d probably not come this way again decided to stop to take in some history, inside the cave were loads of markings from over the centuries the oldest we found dating back to the 1700’s.. pretty amazing to see.

St Cuthberts Cave

We arrived at Wooler around 19:00 knackered then spent 15 minutes trying to actually find the site!! Spoke to the security guy who sorted us out and after signing in and getting the keys we were all set with a home for the night.

Wooler campsite pod.

Wooler was a bit rough and the clientele at the Riverside Country Park a mixed bunch some nice caravans and some odd looking people especially in the club house anyway. We got ourselves set up for the night and decided to sleep with the bikes inside the pod (not taking any chances) the pod itself was alright with a carpeted floor and plenty of room for two with bikes, got ourselves showered and dressed then headed into town for a curry and a pint, but after a long first day decided to call it a night just after 22:30. Didn’t sleep brilliantly too hot not very comfy and drunken idiots shouting at 1 in the morning… needless to say I was glad it was just one night and we’d be heading off in morning.

Day 2: Wooler to Rothbury

Not a great nights sleep last night up at 06:30 went for a wander into town for coffee but nowhere open so settled for a bottle of coke from the local Co-op, by the time I’d got back to the pod Mark was awake and we slowly packed up the bikes and then headed over to the club house for a bacon roll and a coffee. Around 09:30 before we got ourselves sorted and headed out on our way to Rothbury the first climb of the day straight away out of Wooler took us over to the Cheviots and more hills/fields on our way to Ingram.

The climb towards the Cheviot Hills.

Decided to stop at Ingram for a coffee and some cake at a lovely little cafe with the next big climb lingering in the distance and after putting it off for as long as we could, we eventually bit the bullet and made our way upwards ‘n’ onwards.

Whilst on the climb we met two bikers a father & son team and got chatting at the top once we’d got our breathing back to normal, turns out the older guy was 71 and had two knee operations but still managed to get up the hill (Good effort) we stayed together for a couple of miles then the route split they took the more direct route to Rothbury (9 miles) we took the original route which turned out to be an epic 20 mile loop over hill ‘n’ dale and through forest, but some of it was really scenic which made up for it.

Finally seeing Rothbury in the distance (at one point I didn’t even think the place existed) we heading through some woods along the track only to find a wrong turn and end up pushing our bikes further into the forest, we decided to turn around and take a different path which happily did take us into Rothbury. Luckily Tomlinsons was easy to find, and with the codes managed to get in no problem finally found a room which just happened to be empty with only the two of us staying there… Bonus!!

Tomlinsons Bunkhouse.

Another curry for tea and a pint then bed in preparation for a long day ahead.

Day 3: Rothbury to Hexham

Final day and the longest of the route about 45 miles left til the end so we decided to skip breakfast and head out slightly earlier 08:00 quick stop at a local shop to stock up on sausage rolls, chocolate & water.

Once again another big climb straight out the gate this time it was up the Simonside Hills…

Epic!! Climbed for what seemed like forever only to end up losing the track at the top, so we doubled back to the last junction and got some local info from two walkers who told us that we had been on the right path only the forestry had felled all the trees in that area and hence ruined the route, so we ended up pushing the bikes up a footpath towards the top again!?!

After half an hour of hike-a-bike we reached proper track and I’ve never been more happier to see tarmac, found the markings again and off we set through the best section of the whole trip forest roads that went on for miles and relatively flat 😀.

Joined the road for a short section and stopped by an Anglo Saxon hanging gallows to take some pictures, it wasn’t long before we turned off the road and once again it was back to farmers fields and countless gates to open and shut.

(On August 10th, 1792, William Winter, along with two female accomplices, killed Margaret Crozier of Raw Pele, a hamlet two miles south of Elsdon. Winter and his companions were hanged near the site of the crime, and while the women’s bodies were given over to local physicians, Winter’s body was left to hang from the gibbet until his clothes rotted off. Once his body was cut down, the gibbet remained until weather and local custom destroyed the wood. The gibbet has been remade a number of times since the original stood, but no matter how many times the executioner’s pole has been stolen or destroyed, it is always rebuilt. It is also the local custom to hang a stone or fiberglass head from the noose, although this too tends to disappear regularly.)

Winter’s Gibbet.

We reached Bellingham around 13:30ish and stopped for coffee and water, Bellingham turned out to be quite a nice little town and the locals seemed friendly. The last push now towards Hexham which didn’t seem as well signposted as the rest of the route so once again we got suckered into a fast decent and missed our turning about a mile down the road 😡 at this point we were on as busy main road with poor visibility so it was good to finally turn off back onto farmers track and fields, we crossed a railway track which meant we were close and kept on pedalling into Hexham were we found the end marker just by the golf course.

Sandstone Way end marker.

For details check out the ride on komoot.

We never did catch up to “Chappers Norco” again.

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