A remote and scenic route through the wilds of England’s least populated county is probably the best way to describe the Sandstone Way. The riding is diverse, the scenery breath-taking and the sense of isolation inspiring.
Starting out from the walled border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the route heads south along the spectacular Northumberland coast with views of Lindisfarne – the ‘Holy Island’ of Celtic Christianity. From here we head inland and embark upon our adventure through some of the most remote regions south of the Scottish Highlands. The borders are scattered with history and we’ll be stopping by St. Cuthbert’s Cave on our journey inland. We pass over a selection of bridleways and through a few stream crossings, before passing Chillingham Castle on our final stint into the market town of Wooler and a well-deserved local ale.
We adjust the route to suit the group on Day 2, but, all going well, today covers an adventurous 55 miles. With a lot of ground to cover, it tends to be an early start and contains some of the trip’s cheekier climbs as well as some of the best riding, including thrilling singletrack sections that descend into Rothbury where we stop for lunch. Suitably refreshed and refuelled we pass by the legendary Simonside Hills and through Harwood Forest before descending to our rural guesthouse and a wholesome home-cooked meal.
A hearty Northumberland breakfast sets us up for the final day of our adventure to Hexham and the banks of the River Tyne. Our route skirts the borders of Northumberland National Park for most of the day, starting with a more challenging off-road section before dropping into the village of Bellingham. Making our way ever southward we tackle a few more cheeky climbs and testing bridleways before arriving at perhaps the best-known feature of our county; Hadrian’s Wall.
After a few compulsory pictures, we carry on over a last couple of singletrack sections, finishing the ride on a high and arrive into Hexham at the end of our journey. Over three days riders are treated to a stunning and memorable route, pass through out-of-the-way hamlets and explore a network of remote tracks. We sample some great singletrack and are treated to some of Northumberland’s legendary hospitality. An epic journey in the truest sense of the word. For more information about our mountain biking holiday in Northumberland click here.
Coming up with the goods…
People often ask us how we come up with new trips, and the truth is that every new holiday is different; sometimes we go to seek out new destinations while other times the trips come about more organically.
The Sandstone Way is one of those cases where it’s a little bit of both! As an organisation that is actively involved in cycle advocacy in Northumberland we are often consulted on local projects and the development of a new long-distance mountain biking route through the county was one that interested us straight away. We stayed in close contact with the developers as the route came together and a plan began to form.
There are a lot of decisions to be made when developing a holiday, and once the route has been finalised the real work begins; the itinerary, number of days and overnight stop locations need to be decided on. These in turn affect the grading of the holiday and the level of support required. Luckily with a route in our ‘backyard’ we are able to utilise our knowledge of the area to find suitable accommodation and put together the logistics for transfers.
Then finally we get to the really fun bit, to go out and ride; but we’re still working away evaluating the route options for suitability for our customers and risk assessing the whole itinerary. At this stage we’re also writing our guide route notes with particular attention to navigation, sites of special interest, shortcuts and alternate routes. After all this is done and we are happy with the trip we just have to write up the route, publish it on the website and hope someone wants to join us!