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United Kingdom

Northumberland - Reivers Trails

Guided Gravel Riding Holiday

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

7 days

Prices from

£1,495 P.P.
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Come and join us for a Skedaddle gravel experience exploring the wild borderlands between Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish Borders. This new holiday winds its way through England’s largest forest taking in parts of the vast network of forest trails and nearby moorland bridleways, byways and quiet backroads.
The rolling hills of Reivers’ country open up spectacular vistas across the forest landscape taking in Kielder Water – Europe’s largest man-made lake – and its artwork, cultural and wildlife attractions. The area is also a magnet for stargazers, with Northumberland’s International Dark Sky Park being the largest in the UK.
Our riding begins at Hadrian’s Wall and we soon escape any traffic and make the most of being in England’s most sparsely populated county to get away from it all. This journey will take in ancient drove roads and tranquil byways and the extensive network of gravel roads built to service forest operations.
No visit to the home of the Border Reivers would be complete without a raid across the border, so via a visit to the historically contested “Debatable Lands” of the Northumberland, Cumbria and Borders region, we will make our way to Newcastleton in Liddesdale, for an overnight stop in Scotland.
We’ll return to Northumberland via the ancient Bloody Bush drove road before spending three nights in Bellingham, a historic market town in the heart of the North Tyne valley and a perfect base to make the most of the myriad of trails on our doorstep. Two loop rides from here include parts of the Border County Ride, Kielder Forest Drive and the Lakeside Trail, with some hills (and exhilarating descents) to tackle.
Our final day’s riding will take us from Bellingham, through remote forest back-country to the Roman Wall before a transfer back to Newcastle.
With wide open spaces and miles of great trails, it's no surprise that this is a growing destination for UK gravel biking with a burgeoning network of Reivers Trails and home to the Dirty Reiver endurance gravel challenge event. 
This holiday is aimed at those who have enjoyed Skedaddle road cycling or mountain bike trips and want to have a taste of gravel riding in a remote area, as well as gravel bikers wanting to experience the best of the growing network of trails hand picked by expert local riders. 
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Holiday Highlights

  • Miles and miles of traffic-free gravel trails to explore
  • A raid across the Scottish Border and a night in Newcastleton, Liddesdale
  • A chance to spot ospreys which have nested in Kielder since 2008
  • A visit to the Skyspace installation designed by artist James Turrell
  • Fabulous vistas across Europe’s largest man-made lake
  • The flowing contours and switchbacks of Kielder’s Lakeside Trail
  • A delicious local pint from First and Last’s Bellingham-based brewery

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Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival – Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Our meet-up point will be in Skedaddle’s hometown of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Newcastle serves as the most convenient train station for those who wish to arrive by rail and included in the trip price is a late afternoon transfer from the station to our nearby accommodation.

For those arriving by car, you will be able to leave your vehicle in Newcastle (at no additional cost) as we’ll be returning here at the end of the trip.

Over the evening meal in Newcastle we’ll have the chance to get to know the rest of the group and chat with the Skedaddle guides about the next few days of riding.

Day 2
Transfer to Once Brewed/Hadrian’s Wall and ride to Newcastleton in Scotland
45 Miles / 73 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1150 Metres Approx.

The group will transfer by minibus / taxi to The Sill, the National Landscape Discovery Centre, at Hadrian’s Wall where we will have a chance to grab a coffee and have a look around before we set off on our gravel biking adventure to Scotland. We’ll very quickly get our wheels off-road taking in sections of ancient byway through the Roman landscape and passing milecastles and forts including the Roman Army Museum at Magna.

After crossing the line of the Roman Wall at Greenhead and the Northumberland-Cumbria Border at Gilsland we follow increasingly gravelly backroads alongside the picturesque River Irthing to Butterburn Flow, an important ecological and wildlife site known as a raised mire or blanket bog.

From here we’re heading westwards on gravelly forest roads through Spadeadam Forest, sticking with the Skedaddle guide to avoid encountering a deep river crossing which is unsuitable for bikes. On a clear day at Bullcleugh Gate we may be treated to views across to the Lake District Fells and the Solway Coast, before carefully negotiating a descent on ancient byways to Bewcastle.

At Bewcastle the Skedaddle team will provide the picnic lunch and we’ll have a chance to look around this isolated village whose church, farm, and castle are on the site of a Roman fort which straddled a Roman road, the Maiden Way.

Refreshed and refuelled, initially climbing on that Roman road we’ll cross the Bewcastle Fells by minor back-roads, forest tracks and centuries-old byways to the English/Scottish border at Kershope Bridge. From here we’ll track the border up the Kershope Burn for a mile before heading into the depths of Newcastleton Forest and on for a friendly Liddesdale welcome and our overnight stay in Scotland.

Day 3
Newcastleton to Bellingham
40 Miles / 64 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1000 Metres Approx.

Today we are heading back to England. Fuelled up with a nutritious Scottish breakfast we’ll be quickly out and onto the forest tracks which make Newcastleton such a draw for many cyclists – It’s one of the Scottish Borders “7 Stanes” mountain bike centres.

We’ll cross the Larriston Fells via the ancient Bloody Bush Toll Road. At Bloody Bush the border is marked by an 1830s stone pillar inscribed with the toll charges for passing with livestock or coal.

The location’s gruesome name is said to stem from the border region’s violent history. It’s said to be the site of a 15th or 16th Century battle when a group of English raiders camped out here were attacked and killed by a local warband.

From the Border Ridge we’ll follow the Akenshaw Burn and Lewis Burn downstream past the Forks to a welcome refreshment stop at the Skedaddle van.

Freshly nourished we’ll meet the Lakeside Trail at the mouth of the Lewis Burn before we head up to Cat Cairn, home to the Skyspace installation created by American artist James Turrell. Close to the Kielder Observatory and deep in the Dark Skies Park, Skyspace gives a unique perspective to contemplate the changing skies above, whether daytime or night.

The next part of our cycling adventure will head down to Kielder Castle and village, centre for the local mountain bike trails, and lunch.

Topped up with tastiness, we’ll cross the former railway viaduct to the North Shore of Kielder Water and follow the Lakeside Way, stopping for photos and to take in the fabulous views and art and sculpture installations on our way to the dam.

After traversing the dam we’ll venture back into the woods, crossing Roughside Moor and passing the remains of Dally Castle before making our way to Bellingham along the quiet south bank of the River North Tyne by Hesleyside.

Day 4
Wark Forest and Corsenside Common
46 Miles / 74 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1100 Metres Approx.

After a slightly rude wake-up climb out of Bellingham we’ll soon have gravel below our wheels again, ready to explore some of the less-frequented parts of this vast forest park. Wending our way through the Pundershaw and Blackaburn woods, we’ll come to Stonehaugh a Forestry Commission village with totem poles carved by local artist Jimmy Potts and a stargazing pavilion designed by Newcastle University architecture students.

The next part of our journey takes in the Shepherdshield and Henshaw Common areas, providing views south across Haughton Common to Hadrian’s Wall.

With energy levels topped up after a drink and snack near Whygate we’ll head into the main body of Wark Forest, passing Felecia Craggs and climbing Little Dodd Hill before dropping to the Chirdon Burn. From here we track the route of the Chirdon Burn towards its confluence with the River North Tyne to meet the Skedaddle van for well-earned Skedaddle picnic lunch.

The afternoon will bring a change of scenery. We’ll climb up little backroads onto Corsenside Common for the classic gravel segment, which descends to the River Rede at West Woodburn. From here it’s back to Bellingham along a mix of byways, farm tracks and minor roads.

Day 5
Blackburn Common and Kielder Forest Drive
47 Miles / 75 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1400 Metres Approx.

Today begins with a climb out of the North Tyne valley, gaining just over 200m in 15km. While on roads at first the surface becomes more broken with grass growing up the middle of the quiet country lanes, definitely terrain for a gravel bike! The elevation delivers panoramic views of the headwaters of the Tyne and the forest lands of Redesdale where we’re heading next. Approaching the forest edge, we say goodbye to the tarmac for some 44km of continuous gravel trails.

We’ll traverse of the flanks of Rooken Edge and Hindhope Law, bringing us to Blackhopeburnhaugh – and a refuelling stop for snacks and drinks as we meet the trusty Skedaddle back-up vehicle.

Suitably refreshed, we take the Kielder Forest Drive to the viewpoint at Blakehope Nick before descending towards lunch by the Kielder Burn at Hall Knowe.

After lunch we’ll follow the rolling forest tracks above the northern flank of Kielder Water, keeping an eye out for ospreys which have made this forest and lake environment their home since 2008. The trail will take us past the rustic walkers’ and cyclists’ accommodation at Wainhope Bothy (closed during osprey nesting season) and Pipers Cross before leaving the tree-lined track to make our way along quiet lanes back to our comfortable home for the night at Bellingham.

Day 6
Bellingham to The Sill & transfer to Newcastle
37 Miles / 59 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1050 Metres Approx.

This morning we’ll travel west from Bellingham on a quiet road before taking in a byway across Thorneyburn Common and Donkley Wood to the village of Falstone which sits below the Kielder Dam. The reservoir was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982 and took two years to fill, inundating the sites of a local school and a number of homes and farmsteads.

Saying farewell to the shores of Kielder Water we’ll make our way south on the gravel forest roads back into the heart of the forest. We’ll ride via Jock’s Pike, Rushy Knowe and Muckle Samuel’s Crags to Whygate where we’ll meet the Skedaddle van for a picnic lunch. The final leg of our Borderlands adventure ride will take us across Henshaw Common to the Whin Sill geological landmark and Hadrian’s Wall from where we’ll transfer to our final night of the trip and celebratory get-together in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Day 7
Departure – Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • Meals: Breakfast

This morning you can take a morning transfer to Newcastle central station or treat yourself to a lie-in and have a more relaxed morning before enjoying breakfast and heading on your way.

Should you have a little more time available Newcastle is a great place to have a wander around and take in the sights and sounds.

It’s a compact place with most things centrally located and with something for everyone. Highlights include the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, the Sage and numerous prestigious museums such as the Laing Gallery.

For those looking to take in a spot of cafe culture and wanting to kick-back and take it all in there’s lots of great options to choose from in what for us is the UK’s most fun and friendliest city

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The Cycling

Terrain

With a very strong emphasis on off-road riding this gravel biking tour will make the most of the region’s extensive network of forestry roads which range from hardpack to chunky loose gravel in places, with everything in between. While occasionally a bit muddy, depending on the weather, it’s not uncommon even in these parts of Northumberland and the Borders for things to get dusty in the warmer months of summer.

The moorland byways and bridleways feature a range of surfaces including grassy bridleways, occasionally stony or rutted farm tracks and narrower single-track sections. Even the tarmac sections we take in on little-used minor roads tend to be gravelly! You can find more information on riding on gravel surfaces here in our Guide to Gravel Trails

The rolling landscape of the Border region means that hills are unavoidable, though mostly of reasonably steady gradient with each day involving between 950m and 1150m of ascent and descent. A good degree of riding fitness is advisable for this tour.

For this trip we recommend gravel bikes with a minimum tyre width of 38mm. The route may also be suitable for cross country mountain bikes fitted with minimally treaded XC tyres if bringing your own. We wouldn’t recommend this route for road bikes unless fitted with a minimum of 38mm and a rider comfortable and experienced in tackling the off-road nature of these trails.

The Reivers Trails are being developed and improved by Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust to encourage people from different backgrounds and abilities to enjoy a multitude of activities across Northumberland and the Scottish Borders; an area rich with beautiful natural environments and heritage. The Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust works to promote sustainable development, provide recreational facilities, and improve knowledge of the natural environment. On this holiday, there’s the option to donate to the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust when you make a booking if you’d like to contribute towards helping accomplish this.

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Gravel Riding Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grade 3 : Moderate

Distances generally between 45-60 miles / 70-95 kms per day.

For gravel and off-road riders with experience, good fitness and a decent level of skill.

Some features that may be experienced more frequently in a higher-grade tour.

The gravel trails encountered are a mix of vehicle width and non-technical singletrack.

Trails can vary more in width and in surface type.

You will need to choose your line more carefully and might need to move from one side of the trail to the other to find the smoothest line and the best grip/least rolling resistance.

If you’re bringing your own bike, we would recommend a minimum tyre width of 38mm.

Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!

For more information about our grading system click here.

Is this suitable for you?

You regularly ride off-road, although you’re not necessarily into full-on mountain biking. You enjoy getting into the countryside and getting away from roads and traffic. You’re happy with climbing and descending off-road on vehicle width trails. The occasional cheeky section of singletrack with some roots or rocks to navigate over and around doesn’t worry you. You’re likely to own your own gravel bike, cyclocross bike or mountain bike. You might have tried one of our Grade 2 or 3 mountain bike trips or higher-grade road trips.

For more information about the grading of this holiday in particular, please check out the terrain section which will give you some specifics of what to expect on this tour.

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Dates & Prices

Secure Your Holiday With A Deposit

Book now with a £200 deposit and nothing more to pay until 60 days before departure. Choose a date to start your booking and see all prices, including bike hire and single room supplements.

Select a date to view prices and book
Start Date
End Date
Duration
Price p.p.
Start Date
* 12/05/2024
Return Date
18/05/2024
Duration
7 days
Price
£1,495.00
Start Date
07/07/2024
Return Date
13/07/2024
Duration
7 days
Price
£1,495.00
*

Late Availability

We want you to know which holidays are coming up soon, so you don’t miss out! If a trip has this symbol beside it, it means you don’t have long to snap up your place.

Whats Included Tick

A) Accommodation (shared twin / double en suite rooms)

B) Meals as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

C) Full tour service, including Skedaddle guides

D) Unless stated, at least one leader qualified in first aid

E) Support vehicle and luggage transfers

F) GPX files available upon request

G) Scheduled Newcastle train station transfers on day 1 and day 7

H) Financial Protection through ABTOT

What's not Included Cross

A) Bike rental (available if required)

B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike (if applicable)

C) Meals not stated in the itinerary

D) Single room (available if required)

E) Travel insurance

F) Personal clothing and equipment

G) Personal expenditure (souvenirs, bar bills, hotel facilities etc)

H) Entrance fees to museums and other attractions en route

I) Station transfers on days other than the scheduled arrival / departure days

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Private Departures

Private Departures

Are you keen to only travel with your family or friends? Struggling to find the right date? Well, we can organise a private departure for this tour and tailor aspects to suit your group's specific needs. Contact our friendly team and we'll help you turn your dream into reality.

The Essentials

Travel Options

The arrival point for this holiday is Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where we will meet up and overnight before transferring to the UK’s National Landscape Discovery Centre – The Sill. If travelling by car you will be able to leave your car in Newcastle for the duration of the trip at no additional cost.

If you would prefer to catch the train, the most convenient station for this trip is Newcastle with several services from London a day whisking you up north in around 3 hours. Please aim to arrive by around 16:00 on the Sunday afternoon. At the end of the holiday we include a 09.00 transfer to Newcastle train station on the Saturday morning.

Please check with us before making any travel arrangements to make sure we have reached the minimum number required to guarantee your holiday and to ensure your arrangements fit with our scheduled transfers and logistics.

Please note If you make alternative travel arrangements, which fall outside of the group schedule, there may be an additional charge for individual transfers.

Accommodation

For this tour we use a mix of B&Bs, country inns and small family-run hotels.

In Newcastle, where we start and finish the tour, we use the centrally based Hilton Gateshead/Newcastle on the quayside. Although much larger than the majority of the accommodation we use it is well placed for pick-ups and drop-offs and situated a short distance from the Newcastle Central train station.

Should you prefer to head home after the final day of riding there is a £40 reduction. It will however have been a long day and we don’t recommend this if you’ve a long journey ahead.

Where possible we prioritise locally owned businesses and those offering locally sourced food, drink and speciality products. This all promotes sustainability in-line with our responsible travel policy.

All our UK trips are operated on a double/twin-share basis. Single occupancy rooms can be provided for a supplement and are subject to availability at the time of booking.

Bike Hire

If you don’t own a suitable bike or would prefer to avoid bringing your own we have gravel bikes available to rent.

These bikes are typically full carbon Giant Revolt / Liv Devote, great bikes with good quality components. These bikes are set up tubeless on gravel-specific wheels and have 700×40c tyres on the Revolt and 700×38c tyres on the Devote. They provide a comfortable riding position and wide range of gears, running a 2×11 drivetrain with 32/48 chainrings and 11×34 cassette. They are fitted with hydraulic disc brakes.

If you do decide to rent and would like us to provide a helmet, please let us know at the time of booking, otherwise you should bring your own helmet with you.

Please also let us know if you plan on bringing your own clip-in pedals, or if you will use the flat pedals which our rental bikes come fitted with.

Given the variety of shapes and sizes of on bike luggage and the fact the mechanisms for fitting them varies so much, we aren’t able to safely accommodate customers own frame bags and on bike luggage on our hire bikes. This holiday has vehicle support and the riding group will meet the support vehicle at regular intervals, so you should be able to get away with using jersey pockets to carry any ride essentials. You are welcome to use a small back-pack on sections where you think it’s necessary.

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