St Oswald's Way
A 97 mile (155 km) long distance walking route in Northumberland
Walkers' Data

This page includes information on the following topics:-

Walking Terrain
This has been divided into self contained sections, and may be helpful for those who are undertaking only parts of the route.

Section Terrain
Holy Island to Beal This initial section can be walked either on the shore road or if the tide is sufficently out using the Pilgrims Way. In either case the walk is on roadway or footpath for the first 1/2 mile out from the Holy Island community. Once the road reaches the shore road the walk can continue along the roadside or verge all the way to the Causeway Crossing (approx 1 mile) or if the tidal times suit the walker can take the line of the tall poles across the sand. If the latter is chosen you do have to be prepared for either taking off footware or having water resistant boots, as there will undoubtedly be times where there will be pools of seawater. On reaching the Causeway bridge cross to the mainland side and the carpark.
Beal to Bamburgh This section of the walk is along the side of fields, through forestry, over moorland, along the coastal dunes and some limited road or path walking. We would recommend that stout walking boots are the correct footware and we would also advocate good protective clothes as many parts of the route are open and exposed. This section also has some hills to encounter and the forest section can have some muddy and rough tracks.
Bamburgh to Beadnell This part of the route is over fields and narrow single track roads that are serving the local farms. As the route approaches Seahouses there is a local walking path that passes behind the gardens for the community before emerging at the centre of Seahouses and the harbour. Now there is a short coastal section before heading across the golf course and onto the pavement or fields on the section into Beadnell. This is generally easy and flat walking except for the initial section out of Bamburgh.
Beadnell to Craster The walk is mainly all close to the coast but sometimes separated from the sea by the dunes. Most of the walk is on grass or on the fringe of the golf courses. Around Low Newton by the Sea the walk has some slight ascents and descents but the rest is very close to sea level. At Dunstanburgh Castle the ground conditions change slightly and there can be a rather wet section around the base of the Castle mound. The final walk into Craster is on a wide slightly elevated grazing strip.
Craster to Alnmouth This section is again on the coastline but tends to be more varied and has more inclines and descents to the previous section. This section of the coast has more cliffs, although none are that tall. This is on mainly grass paths above the beach line although the route does descend onto the beach for a short section near to Foxton Hall. The entry to Alnmouth is over an elevated section on the cost before descending to the golf course.
Alnmouth to Warkworth The route starts around the tidal basin at the mouth of the River Aln and this is generally on tarred or hard tracks before the way hits the dunes on the south side of Alnmouth Bay. This is now walking on grassy paths and dunes then on the fringe of the Warkworth golf course. The final entry into Warkworth is on a quiet road leading inland from the coast.
Warkworth to Felton Starting form the Castle the initial part of the walk is along farm tracks over relatively flat countryside, but with a gradual increase in height. This is through arable farmland. As the route heads into a SE direction the tracks become rougher and sometimes this is no more than walking on the fringe of fields. After High Park the way descends onto the bank of the River Coquet on what is a generally wide and open riverside track. In wet weather some of the route could be muddy but generally easy walking.
Felton to Rothbury After leaving Felton the Way to Rothbury is always close to the River Coquet and changes from the north to south bank at Weldon Bridge. This is now in more hilly countryside where sheep farming and some cattle are much more prevalent. The walk is via woodland, undulating grazing land and then finally along the line of a now disused railway line. This is more challenging to the prior section with more ascents and descent (although none are of any duration) and there are more stiles and gates to negotiate. This section certainly requires the walker to have good walking boots.
Rothbury to Kirkwhelpington The start of the walk has a significant climb from the River Coquet up to the Simonside Hills. Although not crossing any of the three peaks the highest point is around 310 metres some 230 metre above the days starting point. The path gradually become rougher and narrower as the ascent progresses and there is then a high moorland walk on what can be a very exposed section. This is then followed by a section of forest walking along tracks and paths in the Harwood Forest. The final section is from Harwood over open fields and moor where the underfoot conditions can be uneven and wet. This is potentially the most exposed section of the whole way and walkers should be well prepared with boots and waterproof clothing as there are parts where there is little or no protection form the weather.
Kirkwhelpington to Military Road - Great Whittington The section is heading in a general southerly direction with a mix of open moorland and fell and sections of tarmac on very rural single track roads. the way passes through some very small communities that have been established to support what is mainly sheep and cattle farming. On the Todridge Fell there are wide open views over the Northumberland countryside. South of Great Whittington the walking is on fields, most of the moorland and fields being easy walking with little wet or boggy sections. Walking boots are however strongly recommended.
Military Road - Great Whittington to Heavenfield At this starting point the walk is now on the Hadrian's Wall Path and tend to be on grass tracks across fields adjacent to the B6318 road. Be prepared for several high ladder styles and some parts of the grass path being muddy especially at times of wet weather. Boots are recommended along with good weather protecting clothing, as this section is on the higher part of the route and sometimes exposed to stronger winds.
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Accommodation Locations
The intention of this section is to assist walkers define where accommodation is available in relationship to likely end points for all of the sections of the long distance route. This details to be posted soon.
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Transport Options
To and from Start and End Points
Holy Island being connected by a causeway is closed to bus and vehicles on a regular basis. This means that before setting off you want to check the tides and the safe crossing periods. This can be done by clicking here to link to the Safe Crossing Times.
Having ascertained the times there is a possibility that there could be a connecting bus running from Berwick upon Tweed via the Holy Island road end at Beal to the centre of the Holy Island. This is the Travelsure service No 477 which takes approx. 40 minutes. If this is not running a taxi service would be the best solution this being available from Berwick upon Tweed.
From Berwick upon Tweed and the GNER rail service the Holy Island Road End is accessible in approx 26 minutes by the following services

  1. No 505, 510 or 515 Arriva Northumbria
  2. No 411 Travelsure to Beadnell
From Newcastle upon Tyne there are bus services taking approx 2 hours passing by the Holy Island road end. The direct service is No 505 Arriva Northumbria.
Air connections are via Newcastle International Airport followed by a Metro ride to Haymarket(Newcastle upon Tyne) then access to Haymarket bus station.
Arriving by train we would suggest that it would be better to travel to Berwick upon Tweed.

Heavenfield is located on the B6318just east f its junction with the A6079, the road between Chollerton and Hexham. To find links to the Heavenfield site it is either necessary to arrive and depart by car or have an extra miles walk to arrive at the junction of the road with the A6079. From this point access to Hexham and Newcastle upon Tyne is via a bus nos. 880 (Tyne Valley Coaches) or 882 (Tyne Blue Line)to Hexham (approx. 20 minutes). From Hexham the train is the best link to Newcastle taking approx 20 minutes.

Linking start and end points
This is no direct link but via a combination of buses and trains this can be achieved. We would be suggesting the use of Heavenfiled to Hexham by bus follwoed by train to Newcastle and then Berwick upon Tweed followed by bus or taxi to the Holy Island.

Linking along the route
Details still to be added.

Useful Contact Numbers

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Refreshments
This is a walk where you can rely particularly on the eastern sections to finding a corner shop or pub to satisfy your lunchtime or break requirements. The walker will only need by necessity to plan for a packed lunch and adequate liquids on sections west of Warkworth and when walking the final two sections from Kirkwhelpington.
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Walking Kit
What the walker carries is to some extent a personal choice and a compromise between essential - desirable and space - weight.
For many walkers the ideal is to have the overnight luggage forwarded from place to place leaving you only with the need to carry the kit for the days walk. We list below what we feel you need in such circumstances. We would however point out that presently we are unaware of any baggage transfer service on the route and you may therefore require to make adeqaute provision and space for overnight requirements.

Some of the kit relates to what you will be wearing, the balance what you will take in the rucksack.

  • The most important kit relates to walking boots and sock, without this being correct and walked in your chances of completion or of enjoying the Path are unlikely. This is a walk that needs waterproof good quality boots for some of the sections.
  • Clothing that provides comfort, warmth and breaks the wind is vital, along with waterproof jacket and leggings for the poorer weather.
  • Hat and gloves, there are thermal and waterproof varieties. Remember that almost all of the route is close to the sea and if the wind is off the sea it can be cold.
The next consideration is what needs to be carried.
  • Rucksack which is of sufficient size and comfortable to carry. A waterproof cover is worth including or at least a bin liner of poly bags to protect the contents from the rain.
  • Sufficient water as well as other liquid refreshment
  • First aid kit including some blister pads
  • Compass, maps and whistle for the section west of Witton-le-Wear in particular.
We believe the following are desirable items
  • Walking poles
  • Gaiters to protect your legs and trousers in muddy conditions
  • Insect repellent and sun block (dependent on time of year)
  • Folding umbrella - to some this may seem unacceptable and we would have fallen into this camp until walking with two very experience international walkers. They used them to shed off the worst of the downpours keeping the clothing on the body's trunk dry.
  • Camera and binocular - there is plenty of wildlife to see along the river banks
  • Spare battery for mobile phone if you have one
This should be taken as a guide only, you should plan for the unexpected weather, and the unexpected difficulty that might mean you be in the open for longer than you anticipated. For this reason also look at the Emergency Precautions section.
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Maps
The walk is waymarked for the entire way using a variety of signs and symbols. The principal two are shown below. The left is the Nortrail logo and on this sign it also has the St Oswald's Rook disc. The right waymark is from the Hadrian's Wall Path and has the white acorn symbol.
Waymark sign
Waymark sign
Waymark sign
Waymark sign

The two pictures above show you the circular St Oswald's Way disc which will appear on some of the marker posts. On the right is a simple figure sign without any symbol, only the route name. Finally for the first 4 miles, you may also come across the St Cuthbert's Way symbol, this being a celtic cross.
We would not advocate that the walker navigates purely by the waymarks but also carries up to date maps to a scale of atleast 1:50000 and the walker comes prepared with compass. The OS Landranger maps relevant to the walk are Nos.75, 81 & 87.
If using the OS Explorer range (1 : 25000) the maps required are Nos. 325, 332, 340, OL43 and OL44.
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Weather
This can vary from day to day and area to area. Starting on the East Coast there can be a cold wind coming off the North Sea and at certain times this may also result in a mist that could limit visibility. As one moves west and towards the Cheviots rain and changeable weather needs to be considered.

For information on the weather forecast within the region you can call Weathercall. (This is a premium rate telephone service run by the Met Office.)
Relevant Region and Dial Number:
Durham, Nothumberland, Tyne & Wear Complete route 09014 722 068
Alternatively access the Met Office Website.
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Communications
Communications in the form of mobile phones are generally good along the length of the Way but they should never be relied upon as the only way that you can contact others or be found in the case of an emergency. Also remember that mobile phones rely on battery power and this can run out at just the incorrect time.
In addition to carrying a mobile phone all the main communities that are passed through have pay phones, but on the more open section between Rothbury and Great Whittington make sure that someone is aware of your walking plans and general timings.
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Emergency Precautions
The walk in the later stages takes you into more remote paths and locations, where you may not see others for some period of time. These are also areas where the terrain tends to be more uneven and demanding. Remember it is on this rougher terrain that ankle or leg injuries are more likely. Also remember that following Rothbury the walker can be in more exposed locations where wet or cold weather can be a problem unless you carry with you appropriate additional clothing. It is also at points south of Rothbury that the sections between communities extend and a walker should carry liquid refreshments and some high energy food.

It is always a sensible plan to leave a message or note with a trusted friend, who is not on the walk, telling them your walking plans and approximate times of arrival at key points.

We recommend that on the sections beyond Warkworth there is a person proficient with the use of a compass and carries with then a set of appropriate maps.
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Ordnance Survey Direction Table
This route is waymarked but on some older versions of the Landranger maps it may not be shown. However even with these directional aids it may be helpful to have a table of grid references with defined details for what to do all key points.
Walking Support (an associate business) has surveyed all but one section of the complete route using GPS and will shortly complete the missing section. To obtain a FREE copy of this (almost complete) directional table simply click here and you will be sent a return e-mail to the sending address with a Word Document attachment containing this valuable data.
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Distances and Options
The overall distance of the walk as meassured by GPS navigation is defined as 97 miles from Holy Island to Heavenfield.

There is no correct time in which to walk the route nor are there only specific defined stopping point, however we would recommend that it is at minimum a 6 day walk but that it could be split into a 7 or 8 day event dependent on the amount of time you want to spend at interesting location along the Way.

To assist you in making these decision Walking Support is shortly produced a chart of distance from point to point. This can be requested as a PDF file by clicking here once we have completed the work. Revisit this page to find out when this distance chart is available.

Suggested 6 day walking.

  1. Holy Island to Bamburgh - 19m
  2. Bamburgh to Craster - 14m
  3. Craster to Warkworth - 13.5m
  4. Warkworth to Rothbury - 18m
  5. Rothbury to Kirkwhelpinton - 15m
  6. Kirkwhelpingtom to Heavenfield - 17.5m
The first and last sections are the hardest based on the amount of distance to be covered so walkers may want to consider the following options.

Suggested 7 day walking.

  1. Holy Island to Belford - 12m
  2. Belford to Seahouses - 11m
  3. Seahouses to Howick - 12m
  4. Howick to Warkworth - 11.5m
  5. Warkworth to Rothbury - 18m
  6. Rothbury to Kirkwhelpinton - 15m
  7. Kirkwhelpingtom to Heavenfield - 17.5m

or
  1. Holy Island to Bamburgh - 19m
  2. Bamburgh to Craster - 14m
  3. Craster to Warkworth - 13.5m
  4. Warkworth to Rothbury - 18m
  5. Rothbury to Kirkwhelpinton - 15m
  6. Kirkwhelpingtom to Great Whittington - 10.5m
  7. Great Whittington to Heavenfield and on to Walls or Chesters Fort - 8 to 10m

Suggested 8 day walking.

  1. Holy Island to Belford - 12m
  2. Belford to Seahouses - 11m
  3. Seahouses to Howick - 12m
  4. Howick to Warkworth - 11.5m
  5. Warkworth to Rothbury - 18m
  6. Rothbury to Kirkwhelpinton - 15m
  7. Kirkwhelpingtom to Great Whittington - 10.5m
  8. Great Whittington to Heavenfield and on to Walls or Chesters Fort - 8 to 10m
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Cicerone Guide Book

A combined guidebook which covers not only this Way but the St Cuthbert's and the Northumberland Coastal Path is published by Cicerone. This is a pocket size book full of information and maps. For a fuller description and link to purchase this guide look at the review conducted by Walking Support.

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