St Cuthberts Way
Day 5 – Kyloe to Lindesfarne – via Pilgrims Path
The final day of the walk started with grey, but thankfully dry sky (we were yet to discover our planning faux pas). We had a little time to kill, with only a short walk of 4 or 5km to the Causeway and a safe crossing time starting at 10:00 a.m. After a brew up and chat with the very friendly campers we set off, aiming to be at the causeway at around 10:30, giving us plenty of time to cross and explore the island. On the way out from the campsite, a tree to the side of the track was happily supporting no less than three buzzards only a matter of feet away. Not wanting to miss this fantastic photo opportunity I hurriedly grabbed the camera to snap the birds, who didn’t seem to be concerned. As soon as the camera was on and pointing at them, off they flew, just as I was focussing in. Typical!
We crossed the busy A1, the path then following a minor road and farm track. This seems a bit odd at first as the farm track rises quite rapidly from the road but, predictably, there is a very good reason for this. The small gain in height here gives a quite fantastic panorama over Lindesfarne, a final treat just before you cross to the island. The weather was looking up too, with serene blue sky appearing out at sea. This wasn’t going to be such a bad day after all.
The East Coast Main Line is crossed at this point, with the path crossing at ground level. Fortunately there is a phone here to notify the signalman that you are about to cross a rather busy stretch of line. I seem to have read somewhere that there are plans afoot to put a footbridge across the railway. However, in the current climate it may be later rather than sooner before this comes to fruition. Hopefully I am wrong!
The path soon hits the coastline, complete with WWII sea defences (giant concrete blocks) then follows it briefly to the causeway which is adorned with a plethora of signs warning of the dangers of trying to cross when the water is coming up. I especially liked the picture of a half drowned Land Rover Discovery – you really have to wonder at people sometimes. (It is probably worth mentioning here that if you turn left along the road away from the causeway, there is quite a nice tearoom complex at Beal, around 1.5km away).
After a short distance on the causeway there is a bridge with a rather quaint refuge on it – I wonder how many people have spent an uncomfortable night in there? It is here that the intrepid
walker adventurer must make a choice. (OK it’s a bit dramatic but what the heck).
The Pilgrims Path is marked by a series of poles running across the sands and cuts the corner onto the island arriving at Chair Ends, a short distance from the town. We stood there a good ten minutes or so, swithering on whether to risk it or not. In the end, I think, if we had crossed by the Causeway we would have regretted not crossing the sands, so with the decision made, socks and boots came off and we started the trek across. There was also a steady convoy of vehicles now streaming onto the island which I must say contributed greatly to the decision.
This really was a pleasurable experience, if not the easiest walking in the world. Although there was a lot of water about there was something really satisfying and rather refreshing about wandering over the sand in bare feet. The surprising thing was that the water wasn’t cold in the slightest (things were brightening up a bit). There are two refuges for the walker – around 1/3 and 2/3rds of the way across, but they are both very open to the elements.
The central section is extremely muddy and great fun, (I would recommend shorts in retrospect), but things can get very very slippy at times and it was on more than one occasion I narrowly avoided landing head first into the rather soft mud. That would have been extremely messy. It took around 40 minutes to cross the sand and I would highly recommend anyone walking the whole St Cuthberts Way to finish like this. Unique (there cannot be too many Long Distance Paths in the World that finish like this) and satisfying, despite the fact it does leave the rather tricky problem of getting rid of the sand and mud from your feet!
A short walk from the beach, and one ice cream later we were stood in front of St Cuthbert himself at the end of the Way.
Day rating – 10/10
The perfect end to a great walk – even the sun had come out allowing us to sit in the beer garden of a local hostelry and enjoy an al fresco lunch. It gets a ten, just because of the walk across the sands. Pure Dead Brilliant.
On the flip side though, this is where we found out our mistake. If there is one piece of advice that you take away from this blog, it should be DO NOT FINISH ON A SUNDAY (unless planning on staying on the island overnight, in which case you are just fine). There is no bus on a Sunday, stranding you on the island, but during the week there is a regular servcice going to Berwick. Here you can pick up a bus to most of the Borders Area, or a train for further afield (most (probably all) London/Edinburgh East Coast trains stop here). There are also taxi firms that will quite happily pick you up, but by far and away the best option (if you have the time) is to walk up the coastal path to Berwick, adding an extra day (around 20km) to the trail.
Trail Rating – 40/50 (80%)
This is a wee cracker. A mid distance trail at a nice milage, and there are plenty of options to extend or adapt the route. Southern Upland Way, Borders Abbeys Way, Roman Heritage Way, Pennine Way, St Oswalds Way and the Northumberland Coast Path all connect at some point, not to mention the E2 European path and the fact it is a popular route for the Lejog’ers of the world. Don’t be deceived though, the St Cuthberts Way can be a little strenuous in places, especially if the weather isn’t the greatest, but then aren’t all trails at some point. This is a trail with a great start, even better finale and for those that like their history, plenty of interest along the way. Highly recommended