Book Review: Walking in Northumberland (Cicerone)

I was recently sent a copy of the new book ‘Walking in Northumberland’ to review by Cicerone Press. I quite enjoy opportunities like this as it gives me an excuse to go out and test some of the routes, however this one was particularly exciting as I’d never actually been walking in Northumberland before. The book is written by Vivienne Crow, an award winning freelance journalist and avid hillwalker. She has now authored over a dozen walking guidebooks.

So I’ll start with the outline from Cicerones website:

The book comprises 36 short walking routes between 4 and 14 miles in Northumberland, England’s most sparsely populated county. Ranging from easy ambles and gentle woodland trails to long days on the hills: there is something for all types of walker – and all types of weather. Taking in the beautiful coast with its immense, empty beaches and dramatic crag-top castles to the remote hills of the Cheviots and Pennines, the whole county is covered. Most of the routes are circular, but there are a few linear walks that make use of local bus services.

The landscapes are rich in history, featuring Hadrian’s Wall, Lindisfarne Priory, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles, and much more.

The walks are divided into five geographical areas: north-east Northumberland, National Park (north), Kielder, Tyne Valley and National Park (south) and the North Pennines. Each walk description contains information on start/finish points, distance covered, total ascent, terrain, approximate walking time, grade, maps required, transport options, public toilets and refreshments, and is accompanied by 1:50k OS mapping. The book also includes a handy route summary table.

The book is very nicely laid out with plenty of well chosen photographs to show off the highlights of the routes. The guides themselves are well written and easy to read. It’s not just a ‘go here, turn there’ set of instructions. Plenty of useful information is included about the surroundings and places of historical interest. I journeyed up to Northumberland for a couple of days and tested three of the routes from the book: Border Ridge including Windy Gayle, Rothbury Terraces, and Simonside Hills. It turned out to be a quite wonderful two days due to an extremely hot and sunny Bank Holiday weekend, and of course the utterly gorgeous scenery of Northumberland. I may have fallen in love with it a little bit!

walking in northumberland

Along with a map (because you really shouldn’t go wandering off across the moors armed with nothing more than a book!), I had no trouble at all following the directions for the three walks in question. Points of reference were clearly explained and little snippets of text prompted me to explore a little more when it was appropriate to do so. The only unpleasant aspect of the three routes that I tested were the 25 (approx) dead sheep that I passed on the stretch of Buckham’s Walls Burn between Buckham’s Bridge and Rennies Burn (a section of the Border Ridge walk). The smell made me feel more than a little nauseous. Hardly the fault of the book though!

At the beginning of the book, before the walks start, there are a few mini chapters on subjects such as geology, wildlife, and history. I found these chapters to be very interesting and felt they made a nice addition to the book. The section on wildlife informed me that there was a chance I could encounter an Adder basking on one of the paths – and that’s exactly what happened! It was my first ever sighting so I was very excited about that.

The walks are also split into several sections covering different areas. There’s a nice variety to the walks that cover both high and low level walking, hills, forests, coastline, and sections of Hadrians Wall. Everything is logically laid out and therefore easy to find.

All in all, if you’re interested at all about visiting Northumberland to walk, then I highly recommend this book. It has a wonderful variety of walks to choose from across all of Northumberland, and all the important information you’ll need on those walks. Access for dogs, transport options, parking, facilities, etc… It’s all there.

Walking in Northumberland is available to purchase at Cicerone Press here.

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