Pennine Way Stage 14 – Bellingham to Byrness / Windy Gyle
Officially, Stage 14 of the Pennine Way is an easy 15 mile walk from Bellingham to Byrness at the foot of the Cheviots. Highlights of this section include Whitley Pike, Brownrigg Head and Kielder Forest. However, with a 29 mile walk to Kirk Yetholm the following day I decided to walk an extra 8 miles to the Yearning Saddle refuge hut in the Cheviots. As a result, additional highlights today include a walk into and overnight in the Cheviots as well as a total walk distance of 23 miles.
As you leave Bellingham, the Pennine Way passes the disused but well maintained Bellingham North Tyne railway station. Train enthusiast may be tempted to take a quick look. Did you top up on food at the supermarket? Bellingham is your last easy chance to top up on food until you reach Kirk Yetholm in 2-3 days at the end of the Pennine Way.
Ascent from Bellingham
The Pennine Way is clearly marked as you make the ascent out of Bellingham. The good news is that it’s not a strenuous ascent and by day 14 of the Pennine Way you should be fit and strong by now!
Sheep Dog as Company on the Pennine Way
When the Pennine Way crosses the busy B6320 I was joined by a sheep dog. I had no idea where he came from but had obviously escaped from a farm in the vicinity. He had a tracker on him and I couldn’t find a phone number of any nearby farm so I decided to continue. The sheepdog walked with me and if there were any sheep in the moors he’d run off and bring them to me. This wasn’t what I expected as I passed through Whitley Pike and Brownrigg Head! I was looking for a farm I could take him to but this part of the Pennine Way is moorland.
Anyway, as I entered Kielder Forest Park his owners had tracked him and had driven out to pick him up. I was happy he found his owners but was also thinking, had I been tricked into taking him for a walk? Each day does a different Pennine Way rambler take this dog for a walk?
You don’t really notice an incline as you head over Whitley Pike. The peak is 355 meters height but all the surrounding moorland is around this height. Lastly, on a clear day there are stunning views for 360 degrees around you.
Brownrigg Head is at a height of 364 meters. However, it’s largely flat with only a single up and down. Although it’s a beautiful walk, the route is not well marked or used around this area. Pay attention on this section and once you get to Kielder Forest the route becomes much clearer.
Kielder Forest is the largest man-made woodland in England. As you walk through there are wonderful views of the forest leading to out next destination, the Cheviot Hills. What a beautiful day.
Hindhope Linn Waterfall
You can take a small detour from the Pennine Way to view the stunning Hindhope Waterfall. In addition, this makes a good place to top up your water bottle or bladder. Don’t forget to add a water purification tablet! Maybe sit down and enjoy a snack at the waterfall?
I mentioned filling up my water at Hindhope Linn waterfall. When I passed through Byrness, I saw a man watering his garden next to the church and replaced this water with fresh tap water. Make sure you have plenty of water as you head into the Cheviots, especially when it’s hot and sunny like when I visited. I crossed the A68 road in Byrness ready to ascend the Cheviots. It’s a steep climb in a straight line from Byrness to the first summit of the Cheviots, Byrness Hill. As a matter of fact, you may need to sit on a rock at the top and recover a little before continuing. Once this is done the remainder of the day is mainly flat.
The Pennine Way route traverses the England Scotland border as you pass through the beautiful Cheviot Hills. The Highest peak in the Cheviots is the Cheviot, however you’ll have to make a detour to reach the peak. Additionally, Windy Gyle is another high peak which again requires a detour from the Pennine Way.
Otterburn Training Area
There are some very serious signs as you pass through the Cheviots. Otterburn Training Area is the UK’s largest firing range where around 50,000 soldiers train each year. Thankfully, all was peaceful as I walked past.
Wild Goats in the Cheviots
Feral goats which roam the Cheviots date back to early Neolithic farmers. They live a wild existence here atop of the Cheviots. I saw them both days I was here so there’s a high chance you will too.
Yearning Saddle Refuge Hut – Where to Stay in the Cheviots
The first bothy on the Pennine Way is found in Bronte Country on Stage 4. Following this, there’s one close to the summit of Cross Fell on Stage 11. Yearning Saddle refuge hut is the third bothy of the Pennine Way and can be found before you reach Windy Gyle. The fourth and final bothy can be found after Windy Gyle.
Do you still have energy after the 23 mile walk today? Consider making a quick round trip to the Windy Gyle Summit.