- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
Gravel Riding Grade
Moderate/Active – Aspects of both our grade 3 and 4 holidays. Distances generally between 40-75 miles / 65-120 kms per day.
For gravel and off-road cyclists with stamina and a good level of fitness.
This is gravel riding for experienced riders.
The gravel trails will be predominantly loose in nature and can include sections of much larger pebbles/small rocks. You will definitely need to pick your line carefully.
Traction may be difficult on climbs and descents can be loose and a little sketchy at times.
There might be sections of smooth/non-technical singletrack and the surface width will vary from one section to the next.
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?
Holidays that are graded as a 3-4, will have aspects of both our grade 3 and 4 holidays. You’re an experienced off-road rider and enjoy riding on a variety of surfaces and gradients. You can happily pick the smoothest line on a trail and don’t mind some trail obstacles to navigate over and around. You have a good level of fitness and are happy with spending 6 hours and more on the bike each day. You will be an enthusiastic and fit road cyclist or mountain biker and either already own a gravel bike or are seriously considering buying one.
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.
Dates & Prices
Secure Your Holiday With A Deposit
Book now with a $250 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.
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
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
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.
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