Few and far between are there places left where you can enjoy the solitude and unspoilt countryside still to be found on the Cheviot Hills. Striding high on the hills or ambling through hidden valleys, one feels a million miles from the stresses and strains of life, yet the Cheviots are within easy reach of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Scotland’s Central Belt and the northeast of England. These riding trails are part of the 350km South of Scotland Countryside Trails (SoSCT) network.
Larger scale maps should be used to follow routes on the ground, such as OS Landranger Map 1:50,000 no. 74 (Kelso and Coldstream), no. 80 (Cheviot Hills and Kielder Water) and OS Explorer Map 1:25,000 OL 16 (The Cheviot Hills).
The Cheviot Hills offer spectacular horse riding in near solitude on little known routes dating back to the Iron Age. They link to the Pennine Bridleway, Border County Ride and other riding routes south of the border, and north to the Jedburgh Circular Ride, Clennell Street and The Street.
The quiet hamlet of Hownam in the valley of the Kale Water was, in the seventeenth century, a favourite haunt of the covenanters. Built into the south and east walls of Hownam village church are six old gravestones, a not uncommon economy north of the border.
The Street was once an important Roman road with 7km of the parish boundary between Hownam and Morebattle running along it. Today it is largely a grassy path, climbing steadily up from Hownam towards the English Border. Take time to stop and admire the panoramic views along the way, as well as the numerous archaeological sites. Not for nothing did our ancestors build their forts and settlements high on the Cheviot Hills, where they had clear views of potential enemies approaching. South of the border, The Street continues as a grassy path, skirting around the edge of Otterburn Rangers to the small village of Alwinton.
For many years Clennell Street served as a drove road along which cattle were moved from the fertile Tweed Valley to the hungry markets of industrial Tyneside. The farm steading Cocklawfoot at the end of the quiet public road, which winds its way up the sleepy valley of the River Bowmont was an inn for many years, thriving on the trade of passing drovers. From here, take your horse along a grassy track that climbs steadily upwards through enclosed fields (in-bye) to open hill. Look out for the old forts above and below the track beyond the shelterbelt.
Straddling the border between Clennell Street and the Street lies Windy Gyle. With 360-degree panoramic views across to the Northumbrian coast, English Lakes, Tweeddale and the Southern Uplands, it is no wonder that this was chosen as a fitting place for the burial of Iron Age chieftains.
The link between Newcastleton and Kielder follows an old road, probably built in 1826 to transport coal from the North Tyne Valley. Bridges on this route bear the date 1828. A record in ‘Shadowlands Haunted Places Index’ sheds light on why Bloody Bush was so named. As you follow this route, think back to those who have travelled it before, but do not be off put by this dire warning!
“Kielder – Bloodybush Road – in the remote area of Kielder lies the lonely Willowbog Cottage, so old it is, in fact, mentioned in the Doomsday Book. From then on to the present day, every bridge ever built there, be it stone, metal or wood, has never stood for over a decade. They have all at one point been found completely demolished over night or had to be destroyed due to unexplained bloodstains that cover every inch of it. On certain nights the galloping of hooves has been heard from the nearby Willowbog Cottage (which itself is 20 miles from anywhere).