The host of the inn had left me breakfast. It was early, about 6am. This was required as the distance was long and I was hoping to walk for at least few hours before midday when it would be very hot. When I was eating, a very friendly couple who were mountain-running the same route were just heading out. I would see them at the end of the day in Kirk Yetholm over a celebratory pint. On the previous day I had also met a friendly group of 3 young people from Northern Ireland. I would meet them on the way – they were heading out later, getting a lift to a place midway between Byrness and Kirk Yetholm from Colin (the host).
Out of Byrness Village, the route took me north-east through Byrness Plantation first then emerging into open air to Byrness Hill (414m) – a short, but man!, incredibly steep ascent – and I mean, incredibly steep! – 600ft in just half a mile! The first photo below is from just below the peak, looking to the west; the second is the actual top of the hill. I got there to be greeted by the spectacular sunrise.
What followed over the next 20+ miles is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. So beautiful in fact that I am finding it difficult to put in words. I was now in The Cheviots, starting early in the day in the proper “middle of nowhere” – surrounded by glorious landscape that you will see in the photos; surrounded by nature and what I call after Simon and Garfunkel “The Sound of Silence”. It was exquisite. I have no words whenever met with such experiences.
Once on Byrness Hill, the route turns directly north – there are frequent ascents and descents, but nothing like the slog up from Byrness Village. The first photo below was taken just metres north of Byrness Hill, the next three from and near Windy Crag about one mile later.
I hope these photos give you the idea of the glory of this place. The sunrise was slowly uncovering the vastness of it; the sepia colours was exactly what I saw at that time. The only civilisation here was now in my rucksack; beyond that, I was a backdrop to nature.
Ravens Crags and then Ravens Knowe were just half a mile later.
Next was Ogre Hill (516m). I am still wondering why I didn’t stop for a few minutes to write a poem at some point on that day.
Soon after, the route turns east (to the right) at Coquet Head and now begins to run for a lot of the day essentially along the Scottish-English border (Kirk Yetholm is in Scotland). Chew Green with its remains of a Roman Fort. The images below are from just east of Chew Green.
The fort’s remains are extremely difficult to photograph from the ground as it’s all overgrown by grass with just contours of old buildings – it’s a different matter with aerial photography! I didn’t take photos here for this reason.
I stopped at Chew Green for a short break before carrying on on Dere Street (an old Roman Road) north. The next photo opportunity came near Brownhart Law.
The walk along Dere Street continues for another mile until it veers off to north-west and the Way continues north, following a tiny path from the exact place pictured below.
Soon the path turns to the east for a very short while leading the way to one of the only two mountain refuge huts for 20 miles on the way. In the last photo in the series below, you can see the hut from the distance. The three photos previous to that were taken from just outside the hut. Nice place to sit down for a while!
Now, the trail continues north east towards Beefstand Hill (562m), about 2 miles away from the hut. The scenery now changes, seemingly rapidly, to dark, almost ominous moorland. The ground here is boggy – it was even on a dry and sunny day like when I was there – so be prepared with good hiking boots!
Continuing in the same direction, now I was approaching Mozie Law (552m). The landscape around me was changing and growing even more spectacular.
At Mozie Law, the path turns to the east, soon passing a road called The Street (which is where I believe my Irish friends from the inn were to begin their walk). You cannot see the road in the photos below (I am not in the business of being interested in man-made things on this website), but they were taken close to it.
The well-known landmark, Windy Gyle (619m) was just 1 mile to the east now and the short ascent to it was simply fascinating. “Walking in beauty” is exactly what you must think being here.
Simply amazing. More than several times, the magic of what was surrounding me was quite literally stopping me in my tracks.
Past Windy Gyle, the trail offers a gentle descent turning just slightly to north-east and there is now a stony paved path now through the moorland.
Towards Kings Seat, the path turns north again to then swing back shortly after to the east. Near Cairn Hill, which is at 777m but which I did not climb (it’s not on Pennine Way), the route takes a sharp turn to north-west, but before it does there is what felt like an insanely steep climb of 600ft over 1 mile. The images below are from this stretch, just past Crookedsike Head.
This was now around midday (17 miles behind me) and very hot. I had to keep the balance between staying hydrated and conserving my water – still 9 miles to go! – as there is absolutely nowhere here – for essentially 24 miles – where you will find any water source.
Once the trail takes the sharp turn, the walker is at Auchope Cairn and new, greener views emerge as there now comes much needed descent, although I actually I found it strenuously steep on my knees and had to go slow!, towards the second mountain refuge hut, approximately 1.5 miles away.
Now, here is a question: would not you seek refuge in a place like this? – this is the view to the north from the hut.
It was at the hut here that I met again the Irish group – they seemed fuller of energy than me, but then they’d just walked 5 miles and I 20 miles! I would see them in the distance for most of the remainder of the way.
The Schil (605m) is 2 miles north of here. The heat was intense – literally no cloud anywhere and it’s not like you get any tree cover anywhere there! – but a man’s got to press on! There is a steep final ascent to the hill (19% gradient in places) but eventually I made it! (The second image below is from The Schil itself – a view to the east).
North of The Schil, there are actually two ways to complete the Pennine Way – two alternative routes to Kirk Yetholm – one swings to the west first and then to the north towards Yetholm; the other goes first to the north and then to the west to Yetholm. Mine was the latter. Past Black Hag, I branched off to the north. Here are a few photos from this area (the first is a view to the south to The Schill):
Now I was heading further north towards, amazingly, the last hill on the Pennine Way! – White Law (430m). It was a very grassy, very yellowish, gentle route until the actual hike up to White Law. The views would not stop until the actual destination, it seemed!
The last two photos are from White Law. Now, it’s essentially all the way to Kirk Yetholm – the trail turns first west to Whitelaw Nick:
For a short while it’s to the north until the path, soon turning into a greener grassy one, swings to the west down past Green Humbleton (286m) on one’s right to soon join a road leading to Kirk Yetholm.
I took a good long look to the south – towards the hills I just passed – not really wanting to leave them. This had just been an experience of a lifetime. I cannot possibly imagine I will ever forget that day.
The path (which is also on St Cuthbert’s Way) soon crosses Halter Burn (the first source of water for 25 miles) and connects to the road to the west to Kirk Yetholm, now an eerie half a mile away.
Amazingly, just at Halter Burn, my Irish friends re-emerged and walked that final 0.5 mile to Kirk Yetholm’s High Street together.
Pennine Way finishes at Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm. I asked the Irish guys to take a photo of me there. I was exhausted and happy beyond belief. What an achievement! 268 miles via pastures, fells, mountains, woodland and bog!
Now I feel I simply need to do it again. One of those days.
All images from this trip can be seen in the video below: