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From Melrose to Holy Island through the Scottish borders
[update; Dec 2017] Melrose / St.Cuthbert's Leg is now relaunched for the coming year - Holy Week 2018. The week and route are described below:.
Melrose Leg starts in Melrose on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, (the evening of 24 March in 2018), following the St Cuthbert's Way for most of the way, covering slightly under 70 miles through the Scottish borders. We walk mainly off road carrying the cross for about 12 miles a day. However, beware! On at least two days we have total ascents over the day in excess of 2,000 ft!
This is a walking experience of friendship, challenge, song, prayer, and some meditation, giving a break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. In 2018 we will have a particular focus on praying for Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith.
Day 1 of walking starts at Melrose where Cuthbert entered his novitiate in 651AD. We climb over the Eildon Hills and then walk along the River Tweed stopping the night of Maxton. On Day 2 we follow Dere Street, over the Tweed, and on to Jedburgh Abbey. On Day 3 our route goes via Morebattle to Kirk Yetholm. On day 4 we go over the edge of the Cheviots to Wooler. From Wooler we make our way via quiet roads and footpaths to Lowick on Maundy Thursday, with a time of reflection in the evening centred on a seder (Passover) meal.
On Good Friday, we arise early to walk to Beal Sands, to meet up with pilgrims walking the other routes, to follow the poles across the sand and sometimes squishy mud that mark the old Pilgrim route to Lindisfarne Abbey,. As the tide comes in many of the Easter visitors depart, restoring tranquillity to the Island.
A fuller description of the route follows:
Melrose is where St Cuthbert entered his novitiate in 651AD. We go through the town past the Abbey, down a little path between two houses on to the slopes of the Eildon hills and then the uphill starts. Thank goodness it's only nine miles. Take heart it's all downhill for the second half of the first day, before reaching Maxton and our first night’s stop.
Once we leave Maxton we follow Dere Street for much of today, a muddy track rather than the well-built Roman Road of 2,000 years ago. Harestanes Roman Fort is just off our route, while detour around Monteviot House, cross a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Tweed, and wend our way down to Jedburgh, passing the Abbey, to our overnight stop.
From Jedburgh our route takes us to Morebattle via the ruins of Cessford Castle, once the stronghold of Reiver family the Kers. After leaving Morebattle we have some really wild country to traverse. A stiff climb takes us up Wideopen Hill which is not only the highest point in our walk but it is also the midway point of our pilgrimage. Is it all downhill from here? (No!) We arrive at Kirk Yetholm, the end of the Pennine Way, where we stay in the Youth Hostel.
The next day is our longest walk, over the northern parts of the Cheviots, with a significant climb and then down into Hethpool for lunch; then up again and down again until we reach Wooler, to stay in the Youth Hostel. In total we climb 2,200ft, but there may be the opportunity for some to walk one or other half of the day rather than the full day.
On Maundy Thursday, we continue along the St Cuthberts Way, probably vis St Cuthberts Cave; the location where the monks of Lindisfarne stopped overnight when taking St Cuthbert’s coffin to Durham Cathedral on a journey that lasted 7 years! Our final stopping place before arrival at Holy Island is Lowick Village Hall.
See the related St.Cuthbert's Way website http://www.stcuthbertsway.fsnet.co.uk [not affiliated to Northern Cross] for more information on the route.