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St Oswald's Way ~following the 7th century King/Saint in Northumberland

2020 Camino Guides

Melensdad

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 SJPdP to Santiago, Finisterre. Hadrian's Way, 2015. Sections of the AT + National & State Park trails.
Has anyone walked the (relatively new) 97 mile long pilgrim/walking route in northern England called ST OSWALD'S WAY?

Starting at Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in the north, and for about 1/2 of the route, St. Oswald's Way, follows the Northumberland coast adjacent to the North Sea. It turns inland roughly following the Coquet River, then south where it meets up with the Hadrian's wall Path and terminates at Heavenfield.

Apparently the route was developed by the Embleton Church Council and provides a link to some of the locations with which St Oswald was associated. St Oswald was a 7th century King of Northumberland and was one of the major influences in bringing Christianity to the north of England. Prior to becoming king, Oswald found Christianity while on exile in Scotland when he was converted by monks from the Isle of Iona.

The ST OSWALD'S WAY links 3 important sites related to St Oswald.
  1. HOLY ISLAND (where St Oswald installed the 1st Bishop)
  2. The city of BAMBURGH (his royal capital)
  3. HEAVENFIELD (the location where he camped prior to winning the battle that made him king).
It is believed that Oswald set up the standard of the Holy Cross at Heavenfield, the first time any symbol of Christian faith was ever used in the region. After becoming king, Oswald had the monks from the Isle of Iona (S.W. Scotland) send a spiritual leader to him to help bring Christianity to Northumbria.

We just finished hiking the Hadrian's Wall National Trail (not a spiritual/pilgrim route) and found the rural areas of Northumberland to be some of the most inspiring landscape ever and would love to get back to that area for another hike, but don't want to duplicate what we just completed.

Anyone hike this route? Any advice?
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
Hello Melendsdad. My daughter and I are walking St. Oswald's Way next month, only doing it the opposite direction, from Hadrian's Wall east to the Holy Island of Lindisfare and then on to Berwick Upon Tweed. It looks spectacular and the weather promises to be cool -- great for walking! Only hitch I see for walkers on that relatively new route is that accommodations are limited and somewhat pricey. We are staying in B&Bs mostly, so it's going to be plusher than the Camino. I will post some pictures and information after we return in July. Cheers.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
Hello Melendsdad. My daughter and I are walking St. Oswald's Way next month, only doing it the opposite direction, from Hadrian's Wall east to the Holy Island of Lindisfare and then on to Berwick Upon Tweed. It looks spectacular and the weather promises to be cool -- great for walking! Only hitch I see for walkers on that relatively new route is that accommodations are limited and somewhat pricey. We are staying in B&Bs mostly, so it's going to be plusher than the Camino. I will post some pictures and information after we return in July. Cheers.
(Sorry for type -- meant Lindisfarne not Lindisfare!)
 

northerngirl

Member
Camino(s) past & future
sept 2013 September 2014
This is a beautiful and interesting walk that we done a couple of years ago.
Paths and markings are good and plenty of accommodation along the way.
Another enjoyable walk in this area is St Cuthberts Way. It goes from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to Holy Island Northumberland
 

Melensdad

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 SJPdP to Santiago, Finisterre. Hadrian's Way, 2015. Sections of the AT + National & State Park trails.
Hello Melendsdad. My daughter and I are walking St. Oswald's Way next month, only doing it the opposite direction, from Hadrian's Wall east to the Holy Island of Lindisfare and then on to Berwick Upon Tweed. It looks spectacular and the weather promises to be cool -- great for walking! Only hitch I see for walkers on that relatively new route is that accommodations are limited and somewhat pricey. We are staying in B&Bs mostly, so it's going to be plusher than the Camino. I will post some pictures and information after we return in July. Cheers.
Enjoy the walk, we finished the Hadrian's Wall trail about 10 days ago. The most beautiful parts of the Hadrian's Wall trail are west of Heavenfield, which will be your starting point for this trail ... unless you are able to start farther west?

I'd love to see some of your photo highlights and hear your opinions of the route when you are done :)



This is a beautiful and interesting walk that we done a couple of years ago.
Paths and markings are good and plenty of accommodation along the way.
One of the nicest things about walking/hiking in the UK seems to be that the paths are very well marked.

Another enjoyable walk in this area is St Cuthberts Way. It goes from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to Holy Island Northumberland
I'm looking at that one too!

We have family and friends living in various parts of the UK so we tend to fly over there as often as possible ... taking advantage of your trails whenever possible.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
Hello, Melendsdad. How far west of Heavenfield do you think we should start, to get the best of Hadrian's Wall?
Glad to hear you had a great time walking along the Roman wall route!
 

Melensdad

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 SJPdP to Santiago, Finisterre. Hadrian's Way, 2015. Sections of the AT + National & State Park trails.
Hello, Melendsdad. How far west of Heavenfield do you think we should start, to get the best of Hadrian's Wall?
Glad to hear you had a great time walking along the Roman wall route!
Start somewhere around Walton.

We actually left the wall path and visited Lanercost Priory which is Southeast of Walton and stayed in Brampton, which is a bigger town, transportation options my make it easier to start in Brampton and then walk north up to the Wall, heading east to Heavenfield.

If that adds too much distance then start at Steel Rig/Twice Brewed. There are some stunning areas of the wall East of Steel Rig.
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Walked Hadrian's Wall from Solway to Wallsend this April loved it all but the Crag country and the lead up to it from Willowford is just spectacular. We got the most amazing weather too hot for me in fact but great for the views. The central section is also a Dark Skies reserve so remember to look up at night!
Nell
 

CW86

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Ingles
I did this route a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it - it was my first pilgrim walk. You can get a very good guide book from the website. We stayed in BnB's along the way, which we split into more manageable chunks as it was our first long distance walk and due to time we completed it over two years. Once we knew where we were going to stop each night we got in touch with the Berwick Tourist Information who booked all our accommodation for us - all the places we stayed were really good.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
Hello, Pilgrims,
My daughter and I are back from walking St. Oswald's Way in Northumberland, England, in June/July. I promised to report back. It's a WONDERFUL walk with gorgeous countryside, ancient priories, castles, historic houses and many other sites on or near the route. Northumberland food is fantastic -- a wonderful surprise, given the reputation of British cooking -- and the inns are uniformly excellent. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. The route starts inland, along the Hadrian's Wall Path, and goes east to the coast and then up the shoreline to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a truly magical place. I would recommend St. Oswald's Way to anyone -- with a few important caveats.

It is not designed for large numbers of walkers, though that's not a problem currently. We only encountered four other walkers on the part of the path that is uniquely St. Oswald's Way (it overlaps with other paths, in places). Be forewarned: the waymarking can be spotty and we were told it's primarily designed for walkers starting at Lindisfarne and walking southwest -- which is the opposite direction we walked. (We wanted Lindisfarne -- the high point -- to come at the end, not the beginning. And walking this direction gave us a nice tailwind.)

Another surprise to us, as Americans who'd never hiked in England, is that the Harvey map we used often showed a dotted line for the route that the map key defined as "no visible path." As a practical matter, this means you will get into a planted field or sheep pasture and sometimes be uncertain where, exactly, you're supposed to exit. Sounds minor but it's easy to drift into the wrong enclosure and spend a lot of time backtracking when you can't find a way to get out or feel you're moving in the wrong direction. "No visible path" means there is no path and, as it's private land you're crossing, some landowners are unenthusiastic about having markers there to show you the way. We were often lost, the first two days, and were about ready to give up. On the first day, we drifted off the path and found ourselves scrambling over rock walls with barbed wire, hoping to regain the route. You need to stay on the route because it's the one with gates and stiles to get you past those countless stone walls!!

The solution, for us, was to borrow a Garmin GPS unit from Shepherd's Walks in Rothbury, a walking tour company that lined up our B&B accommodations. This proved to be an absolute lifesaver as we were never lost again. A shout out to Jon and Jane Monks at Shepherd's Walks!! I intend to hike in Britain next year and I know now I will need a GPS unit and Shepherd's Walks has decided to rent them. We stayed at the fantastic Cornhills Farm, the first night, and one of the farmers told us that there's a debate between those who want the waymarking improved and those who think the St. Oswald's Way medallions should be taken down and people forced to navigate with GPS or ordnance map and compass. Yikes -- we had no idea!! It came as a shock since the Northumberland tourist council is promoting both St. Oswald's Way and the nearby St. Cuthbert's Way, which is an older route.

One last observation: if you walk, you might consider departing from the official route. It starts/ends in the middle of nowhere at the Holyfield battle site where St. Oswald -- the first Christian king of Northumbria -- won an important battle. Amateur walkers like us or those who would rather dream-walk than constantly study maps, might consider starting instead at the charming town of Rothbury (which is on the route) and walk from there to Lindisfarne and on to Berwick Upon Tweed, a fascinating city with Elizabethan fortifications. That would eliminate the part of the route that has the sparsest accommodations and the worst waymarking (although you'd also miss lovely Cornhills Farm, which would be a shame).

So that's my report. I freely confess that some of the confusion we encountered could have been avoided by doing more research in advance. I had read the Cicerone walking guide book, but didn't have a route map until we got there and thus was unprepared for the navigational challenge. In the end, it all worked out. We had lovely days traversing lush green countryside and enjoyed many tranquil moments in ancient village churches. We took a boat to the Farne Islands to see puffins and the place where St. Cuthbert retreated at the end of his life --though the din of thousands of seabirds made us wonder how much peace he got!

I'd go back in a heartbeat -- but would be prepared for walking that's different than what I've experienced as a tenderfoot hiking in the U.S. and walking the Camino Frances.
 

Melensdad

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 SJPdP to Santiago, Finisterre. Hadrian's Way, 2015. Sections of the AT + National & State Park trails.
THANK YOU so much for the great follow up!

I'm pretty surprised about the waymarking being so sparce. We walked Hadrian's Wall national trail and found the path amazingly well marked. I considered taking my portable GPS, glad I left it at home. I did take a compass and never even looked at it. BTW, I also enjoyed the food in Northumberland.

I'm looking to walk this path sometime over the next couple of years with my brother-in-law (a UK native). Hopefully they will have it waymarked better before I embark.
 

CW86

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Ingles
I walked this from Lindisfarne to Heavenfield the opposite way to what was described above - there was only one field that we got lost on as the way marker wasn't visible and the farmer hadn't kept it as well as the rest of the way - the rest was marked fine and we had the following book from the official website to help http://www.stoswaldsway.com/merchandise/
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
CW86 makes a good point -- one I'd forgotten to make. We were told the path is designed for people walking from Lindisfarne to Heavenfield and the waymarking is more visible for people walking in that direction. In any case, I accept that our inexperience in walking in Britain played a role. Others may have less difficulty than we. And we didn't have the official St. Oswald's Way guidebook -- just the Harvey Map. So forewarned is forearmed. Cheers.
 

aghamore

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked Chemin Piemont to Pamplona 2010/2012.Pamplona to Santiago 2013/2015
We enjoyed SOW a lot, despite the odd way-finding issue, probably due to walking from the Wall rather than to it. We also made a sizeable detour to avoid a suspicious looking bull.

There are pleasant towns along the way: Rothbury, Warkworth, Alnmouth, Beadnell, Bamburgh and Holy Island itself all spring to mind. Call in at Seahouses for fish and chips,Craster for kippers and the Ship at Low Newton for good beer and crab sandwiches but you'll find good places to eat and rest all along the coast.

We saw only a handful of walkers along the way and few people of any description until we reached the sea. We walked in September, after the holiday months so accommodation was generally easy to book, even in the more remote areas. We started with a short walk from Heavenfield and stayed at Red House Farm at Halton Gate on the first night which sits right near the start of the path.

We jumped a little early along the tidal Pilgrim's Path and ended up wading ashore on Holy Island in waist deep water to end the walk. What a memory!
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
Wonderful to hear you had a great trip. We stayed on the paved road to walk to Holy Island. So sorry you got into waist-deep water! It looked to us like there were some deep, wet channels even when the rest was mostly dry sand. Waist-deep walking would be quite a memory -- and picture!!
 

aghamore

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked Chemin Piemont to Pamplona 2010/2012.Pamplona to Santiago 2013/2015
It was a lot of fun even though the shoes were a bit of a mess for a few days. I wanted to walk to the island anyway and wading ashore gave it a viking feel. I'm glad you enjoyed it, rsmith,and you did well to choose such a great route with little experience of walking in England.

Even if there is no visible path and it's shown on the OS map or GPS, you still have the right to follow it but, like you, I found GPS a godsend in locating paths at times, even though we've walked quite a lot in England over recent years.

If you come back to England, I can recommend the Dalesway from Yorkshire into the Lake District and the Two Moors Way across the South West Peninsula as interesting walks. We haven't walked Alfred Wainwright's Coast to Coast yet but it might tickle your fancy. If you haven't seen Wainwright's Coast to Coast guide book, it might be worth a look.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
Thanks for the recommendations, aghamore. So many great walks and so little time!
 

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