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St Cuthbert's Way

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St Cuthbert's Way
Border fence and Eccles Cairn - - 1438488.jpg
St Cuthbert's Way at the Anglo-Scottish border
Length100 kilometres (62 mi)[1]
LocationScottish Borders/Northumberland
TrailheadsMelrose (55°35′56″N 2°43′08″W / 55.599°N 2.719°W / 55.599; -2.719)
Lindisfarne (55°40′55″N 1°49′23″W / 55.682°N 1.823°W / 55.682; -1.823)
Elevation gain/loss2,075 metres (6,808 ft) gain[1]
Highest point368 m
Hiking details
SeasonAll year

St Cuthbert's Way is a 100-kilometre (62 mi) long-distance trail between the Scottish Borders town of Melrose and Lindisfarne (Holy Island) off the coast of Northumberland, England.[1] The walk is named after Cuthbert, a 7th-century saint, a native of the Borders who spent his life in the service of the church. The route links Melrose Abbey, where Cuthbert began his religious life, with his initial burial place on Holy Island.[3] Cuthbert achieved the status of bishop, and was called a saint eleven years after his death, when his coffin was opened and his remains found to be perfectly preserved.[4]

The route was first devised by Ron Shaw, and opened in summer 1996. Shaw continues to sit on the walk's steering group, which is responsible for managing the path. Other members of this group are Scottish Borders Council, Northumberland County Council, Northumberland National Park, and Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Beauty.[2] The trail was originally developed as a walking route but some sections are suitable for cyclists and horseriders. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code permits cyclists and riders to use most of the trail in Scotland, but on the English section of the route this is generally not permitted.[2] Similarly, wild camping along the route is permitted (if carried out responsibly) in Scotland, but not in England.[1]

As of 2018 it was estimated that around 2,500 people completed the entire route each year.[5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ "St. Cuthbert's Way" with Dr Emma Wells the Super-Cut
  • ✪ 'Saint Cuthbert's Way with Dr Emma Wells' - Episode 1 Old Melrose to Maxton
  • ✪ St Cuthbert's Way Trailer


Hi I'm Dr. Emma Wells and join me as I explore this fantastic historical trail St. Cuthbert's Way! Saint Cuthbert's way is a 100 kilometre trail that begins in the Scottish Borders and ends at the holy island of Lindisfarne just off the coast of Northumberland. The route takes in sites significant to the life and death of monk, Bishop and Hermit St. Cuthbert who was born around 635 AD and whose example and legacy survived long after his death on Inner Farne island in 687. Afterwards he became one of the most important medieval saints of England, influencing such figures as Alfred the Great. Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of northern England. Here at Old Melrose on the banks of the River Tweed, St. Cuthbert began his ministry over thirteen hundred years ago and this is where we begin our journey - come on! Together with the chapel the former abbey site lies on a peninsula formed by a wide eastward bend of the Tweed cutting into Bemersyde hill. Although the present St. Cuthbert's way route begins at the site of Melrose Abbey two and a half miles to the west, Cuthbert was actually accepted as a novice here at the Abbey of Old Melrose or Mailros by St. Boisil in the seventh century. Old Melrose was founded by King Oswald and St. Aidan, the first bishop of Lindisfarne along with monks from the island of Iona in 635 AD. However the abbey was destroyed in 839 AD on the order of Kenneth MacAlpin, king of the Scots. In 1080 a chapel of Durham Cathedral was built on the site of the former abbey on what is now known as Chapelknowe, dedicated to their most notable saint, Cuthbert. This site was a place of pilgrimage until the Reformation in the 16th century when both the site and Chapel were left in ruins. The monastic community then chose to re-site their new abbey at the current location of Melrose Abbey. During the Viking raids, when Cuthbert's body was wandered around this landscape, it was also brought here for protection. Can you provide a sort of brief overview of Saint Cuthbert and his life? Well I wrote a book about the saints and of all of the saints Cuthbert for me is the one that reconciles the the the disparate aspects of what it meant to be an anglo-saxon saint most completely, because he has an early life possibly as a warrior possibly, it was certainly in a secular world, he's probably from a noble family, and from this life he then enters a Celtic monastic environment which is different to the Benedictine rules that we see rolled out on the continent. But he develops within this context and then he goes to Lindisfarne at a point really that that Lindisfarne is having to redefine itself, having to set itself up as a place where Roman and Celtic ideas can be merged together. And what we hear about Cuthbert, we don't get it from him, we get it from the people that write about him, that write about his his life and the art works that survive associated with him, which is all very carefully co-ordinated in order to present him in a certain way. What we learn is that he is this wonderful kind of point of reconciliation,, he is all things to all men he's the perfect saint, the perfect monk, the perfect Bishop. Of course that isn't possible as a living, breathing individual but but that's the impression we get from him through down the ages and actually the stories you do read about him there's a lot of stories associated with him and nature lovely stories about him talking to the Ravens and talking to the otters and and those things kind of humanized him in a way but we always have to be a bit careful that we are getting a secondhand account of who he is. The medieval church here at Maxton was first recorded as St. Cuthbert's Church of Mackistun afterwards Machiston, some 500 years after the saints era, but was very likely served by the monastic community of Old Melrose. Maxton was certainly linked to the later Melrose Abbey as the landowner allowed the monks to utilize its land for pasture and quarrying. Not only was the church therefore dedicated to the saint but until the 1960s, a well of Saint Cuthbert was sited at the west end of the village, although now it is completely untraceable due to later road improvements. The present building has lost its medieval character due to extensive enlargements and successive restorations throughout the centuries. The only medieval feature to survive is this beautiful western entrance on the south side with the round-headed doorway and it's moulded archivolts. Located on the banks of the River Tweed here within the grounds of Benrig cemetery, are the ruins of Old St. Boswell's. The original village of St. Boswell's stood over at Benrig on the area between the current River Bank and higher ground. As the site was prone to flooding, the villagers eventually moved to higher ground at Lessuden, the place of Aidan, and the present site of the village. The Church of St. Mary here was established in the 12th century, during the reign of David the First. Over time, the worshippers moved to the old Kirk erected at Benrig. The old Kirk here was built in 1652 to replace the church at Lessuden which was subsequently demolished in the mid 20th century. To the east of these ruins also stood the Chapel of St. Boisil, the seventh century prior of Melrose and Cuthbert's mentor. Saint Boisil is known to have made use of local springs and wells for healing power and no doubt medieval pilgrims followed in his footsteps. The most interesting of these are the Crystal well and Mule gang which are listed structures adjacent to The Way. They represent the mid 18th century landscape design so prevalent across Britain, where utilitarian structures were combined to create more picturesque and natural vistas. The current structure here at the Crystal well is a later folly, a grotto in fact, built in the mid 19th century by the Elliotts of Benrig House. Above is another interesting structure; the height of modern technology at its time the Mule gang comprises a rusticated stone arch set in the bank, with a hydraulic ram and circular gin house this allowed for a donkey to walk in a circular motion to pump water up to the house from the well below. There was quite clear guidelines within anglo-saxon England of how you developed a cult of saints. Saints were big business they meant masses of income, tourism, investment and relics were changing hands as if the equivalent of fine art works they were big big business but when it came to anglo-saxon cults of saints you've got these different groups particularly in the north of England, who are all slightly different they're all offering alternative setups, so over at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth you've got a hotbed of scholarship of scriptorial activity, more Roman than Rome with its glass windows with stone buildings and its massive Bibles. Over a Hexham and Ripon, you've got Wilfred and he is modeling himself much more on the all-powerful Bishop-monks of Gaul, so he has inpurpled manuscripts, he has caskets that replicate ivory caskets, that's his setup. Lindisfarne develops its own brand, its own unique approach to the cults of Cuthbert, which is deliberately blending Celtic art, Celtic ideas with Roman influences and very self-consciously so as an art historian I can look at it and say right those swells and spirals are Celtic, that Germanic pattern work there is Anglo Saxon, that's Roman, but they are doing that deliberately it's like graphic design you know there's their cultivating it to show that the saint himself but also the community is bringing all these ideas together. Here St. Cuthbert's Way cuts through Yeavering Bell, this is the largest Iron Age hill fought in Northumberland dominating the North Cheviot Hills fort, of the National Park. Covering over 13 acres it featured an important Iron Age royal settlement with stone ramparts ten feet thick and inside around 125 huts. The large ditched enclosure around the bells eastern summit, is later than the hut platforms that surround it. The hill fort is usually thought to date from the latter half of the first millennium BC, although it could be earlier such as the late Bronze Age. The word the 'yeavering' comes from the brithonic words 'gafr' and 'bryn' meaning 'goat hill' as around this area are many feral goats. At the foot of Yeavering Bell, you can see the Gefrin Memorial, an 8-foot stone wall behind which the royal palace is said to have stood. Here we are at Ad Gefrin, the site of King Edwin's seventh century royal palace. Nothing survives of the palace except a monument and an empty field. One of the most famous archaeological sites in early medieval Britain, it was excavated by world-renowned archaeologist Brian Hope Taylor in the 1960s. That revealed evidence from a settlement from the period of Christian conversion from the 6th to the 7th century. The Way then passes through St. Cuthbert's Cave Wood towards the cave itself. Perhaps one of the most evocative sites of the entire route. Known locally as Cuddy's Cove, 'Cuddy' being an affectionate term for Cuthbert, it is said to be one of the places where Cuthbert tended his sheep as a child. A clear path leads down to the large natural sandstone outcrop, located within the dense wood. The outcrop is supported by a pillar, while an area in front is contained within an enclosure formed by an earthen bank. This may relate to its later use as a nineteenth-century lambing-pen. It's also believed that Cuthbert lived here as a hermit in between spells on the islands of Inner Farne and Lindisfarne, while the monks of Lindisfarne also stopped on their journey when fleeing the invading danes bearing the exhumed body of Cuthbert in the 9th century. Lindisfarne, or holy island as it is known, is claimed to be the holiest place in all of England and it is certainly one of the most famous Christian sites in Western Europe. From here we arrive at perhaps the most spiritual and evocative part of the journey, where we can literally trace the steps of pilgrims past, from the causeway route to Holy Island. This is known as the Pilgrims Path as it has been the route followed by wayfarers and travellers to the island since Cuthbert's death. It is marked the entire way by a line of timber poles from the mainland to the entrance to Lindisfarne village Lindisfarne is intimately connected with the history of Christianity in Britain. the Northumbrian King Oswald summoned an Irish monk named Aidan from Iona, the island monastery off the southwest coast of what is now Scotland, to be Bishop of his kingdom. Oswald granted Aidan and his companions the small tidal island of Lindisfarne on which to found a monastery. Indeed Aidan established his monastery here in 635 AD and the christian message was established and sent out into the pagan North. This is furthered by the fact that the gloriously stunning, illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels were created here around the turn of the eighth century by Aedfith bishop of Lindisfarne. According to an inscription added in the 10th century at the end of the original text, the manuscript was made in honor of God and of Saint Cuthbert. The Lindisfarne Gospels, and others like it, helped define the growing sense of 'Englishness', a spirit consolidated by the Venerable Bede, the historian-monk in his 'the ecclesiastical history of the English people' completed in 731 AD. Today visitors flock to the current 12th century Lindisfarne priory, to see the original resting place of Saint Cuthbert, built on the site of the 7th century church where his tomb once stood. However, following the Viking raids in the 9th century, the monks of Lindisfarne decided to flee they took with them their most precious possessions, including the relics of Saint Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne Gospels. They wandered first for a full seven years when they were given a church at Chester-le-street near Durham. In the late 10th century, another Danish invasion threatened, so the body of Cuthbert was moved again, this time to Ripon in North Yorkshire for a few months before Cuthbert was once more carted off. The intention was to return to Chester-le-street, but on the way the bones lay at Durham, where apparently signs were shown indicating that it was the place the Saint wished to be buried. Located some 600 feet southwest of Lindisfarne, this small cell was also used by Eadberht, Cuthbert's successor. Identified now by a small wooden cross, the island's surviving remains include a t-shaped chapel, consisting of a room divided into two compartments, creating a possible cell and oratory and a northwest circular mound, associated with Cuthbert's original circular cell. The chapel foundations appear to be primarily medieval in date, not contemporary to Cuthbert's lifetime, but it is likely they were rebuilt for the purposes of medieval pilgrimage as a tourist attraction, for pilgrims to visit and observe where the Saint had lived and worshiped which is still the case to this very day. The archaeology that's coming out of the ground moment about the anglo-saxon community at Lindisfarne is really exciting and it shows that where that where we do have that later medieval building, the community itself is very nearby and actually that site was the site of Cuthbert and Aidan's community, so so there is there is continuity and with anything anglo-saxon it's very hard to reconstruct the space realistically in a genuine way because they built in timber predominantly. You know why are they on headlands? Why are they on tidal islands? There's a choice and they've they're chosen because there's their beautiful spiritual special places. Situated to the Priory's rear is a grassy mound known as 'the Heugh' upon which are these rectangular foundations, thought to be a former watchtower. In his account of Cuthbert's death, the Venerable Bede mentions a similar structure from which the monks of Lindisfarne learned of news of Cuthbert's death across the sea on Inner Farne. When the news came, those attending him lit two torches as a pre-arranged signal of his passing. A vivid view of Farne can be obtained from the watchtower here, raising the possibility that this is the same building recounted by Bede. The structure is also known as the Chapel of the Lamp, and is thought to be the site of an early form of Lighthouse dating from the 14th century, originally operated by the priors. But the story of Cuthbert does not end there; following his death on Inner Farne Island in 687 AD, his body was buried in Lindisfarne priory, where his tomb quickly became a magnet for pilgrims, as miracles were reported at his grave. In fact so numerous were they that Cuthbert was called the "wonder-worker of England". Journey's end for me, and I'm reminded of the words of Abraham Cowley "Curiosity does, no less than devotion, pilgrims make."


The route

In Scotland

Although the majority of walkers travel from west to east it can be as easily walked in the reverse direction with good waymarking in both directions.[1] The route starts at Melrose Abbey. It first climbs over the Eildon Hills to the village of Bowden, then turns east to Newtown St Boswells on the River Tweed opposite Dryburgh Abbey. It then follows the bank of the Tweed for 3 miles (5 km) downstream past St Boswells to Maxton. Near Maxton the trail joins Dere Street, which it follows south east past the site of the Battle of Ancrum Moor to Monteviot House on the banks of the River Teviot.

From Monteviot Bridge the Way follows Dere Street for another 1 km, before striking east and climbing above the village of Crailing to reach Cessford. A short stretch of roadwalking follows to Morebattle, from where the trail leads south up the valley of Kale Water. 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Morebattle the Way climbs steeply to the ridge of Wideopen Hill, the highest point of the trail at 368 metres (1,207 ft), before descending to the villages of Town Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm, where it meets the Pennine Way.

The route in Scotland is part of the E2 European long distance path, which runs for 3,010 miles (4,850 km) from Galway to Nice.[6]

In England

Posts mark the route of the Pilgrims Path which takes the trail across to Holy Island.
Posts mark the route of the Pilgrims Path which takes the trail across to Holy Island.

The border ridge is reached 2 miles (3 km) east of Kirk Yetholm. On the English side the trail descends through the Northumberland National Park to the village of Hethpool in the College Valley. The trail then climbs through the foothills of the Cheviot Hills, passing just south of the hillforts of Yeavering Bell and Humbleton Hill, to the town of Wooler.

From Wooler the Way ascends the valley of the River Till to the twin villages of West Horton and East Horton. It then follows farmland tracks to St. Cuthbert's Cave near Holburn. Near the cave it joins St Oswald's Way and the Northumberland Coast Path (part of the England Coast Path) to head north through Fenwick to the coast just east of Beal. The last section across the sands to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) can only be walked at low tide, either by the modern road or by the historic, more direct, Pilgrims Path, marked by posts.

Connecting paths

The route is designated as one of Scotland's Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage, and links with two other Great Trails: the Borders Abbeys Way and the Southern Upland Way.[1] In England, St Cuthbert's Way connects with the Pennine Way,[7] one of the National Trails of England and Wales, but is not itself classified as National Trail.[8] The Way also links to St Oswald's Way, the England Coast Path, the Roman Heritage Way and the Sir Walter Scott Way.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "St Cuthbert's Way". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "FAQs". BDSDigital. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  3. ^ "St Cuthbert's Way". BDSDigital. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  4. ^ "St. Cuthberts Way". The Sherpa Van Project. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  5. ^ "Scotland's networks of paths and trails: key research findings" (PDF). Scottish Natural Heritage. August 2018. p. 6. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  6. ^ "E2 Atlantic - Mediterranean". Ramblers Association. 2012. Archived from the original on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Kirk Yetholm to Wooler". BDSDigital. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  8. ^ "National Trails". Retrieved 20 September 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 25 October 2019, at 15:22
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