The Sandstone Way – our guide to this 120 mile route between Berwick upon Tweed and Hexham


We've written about a number of cycle routes across the UK, and what we've realised is that so many of the best routes you can tackle in the UK are in the North of England. We love routes like the Hadrian's Cycleway and the C2C, but the Sandstone Way might be our favourite of the lot. It is simple and straightforward, but takes you through and past some of the most underrated areas in this part of the country, with Hexham being the perfect place to end your trip.

We wanted to produce a guide about this route for anyone looking to tackle it in 2022/23, with a breakdown of what to see along the route and things to know before setting off. Let's get into the guide:

Where is the Sandstone Way?

The Sandstone Way typically starts in Berwick upon Tweed and ends in Hexham, taking you along the Sandstone Ridge. This technically makes it a mountain biking route as the terrain does involve a variety of challenges including sandstone features, crags and outcrops.
The route is bi-directional and waymarked accordingly, but it's definitely advised to plan the route carefully before you set off as it can be a little confusing at points. Cycling from North to South is probably the best way to tackle the route because it favours the hills but it is against the wind, so you can tackle it in whichever way works best for you.
FireShot Capture 1830 - Berwick-upon-Tweed to Hexham - Google Maps -

What sections are there?

We should start by saying that there is definitely not a "right" way of doing this cycle route, and you might find it ends up being slightly less than 120 miles, but typically it is split into the 4 following sections in this order:


Berwick upon Tweed to Wooler (36.5 miles)
Wooler to Rothbury (37.5 miles)
Rothbury to Bellingham (27 miles)
Bellingham to Hexham (23 miles)


If you're intent on getting your head down and not stopping too frequently, you might be able to complete this route in 2 days. However, we think you should allow for 3 or even 4 days, particularly if you plan to stop at the points of interest we have outlined below.

What is there to see and do as you cycle along The Sandstone Way?

As you can imagine there is quite a lot to see along this route, and unless you've set aside a good amount of time you won't have time to stop at every interesting point along the route. However, we've picked a few points along the way which we think are really worth seeing if you have the time, let's break it down section by section:

Berwick upon Tweed to Wooler

As you set off from Berwick upon Tweed, your first 5 miles or so along the seafront towards Cheswick will take you past a number of beautiful points of scenery. Spittal Beach is the first stop, a stunning beach with a very fun promenade full of amusements. A little further along you'll find Cocklawburn Beach, which might not have the fun of Spittal Beach but certainly matches it in terms of beauty and areas to explore (rock pools can be found everywhere). Cheswick Sands is the last beach along this stretch and although it might seem a bit much to visit 3 beaches before you've even done 5 miles, we think Cheswick Sands is the prettiest of the lot and is well worth a stop. From here you'll head towards Fenwick, and then down to Chillingham where you can visit Chillingham Castle, which is apparently the most haunted castle in Britain. It's a beautiful building and has some amazing history attached to it, plus you can actually stay here overnight if you're feeling brave enough.

Wooler to Rothbury

As you move away from the coat and more inland, there might be no more beaches to visit but there is still plenty to see and do along the way if you're wanting to make some stops. The Linhope Spout Waterfall is found about halfway between the towns and is a few miles off the route, but is both beautiful and impressive, plus if you're fancying a dip you can actually go into the main pool here (be safe though). A stop closer to the route is McCartney’s Cave in Thrunton Wood, a very odd little cave said to have been occupied by a local monk who lived there. Edlingham Castle to the East of the route is free and ruinous, but is really stunning to visit. Just before you reach Rothbury you'll pass Cragside, a stunning mansion which is managed by the National Trust and was the home of the brilliant inventor Lord Armstrong. It's amazing to explore the house but the gardens are also wonderful and a treat to walk around.

Rothbury to Bellingham

As you leave Rothbury and set off towards Bellingham, one of the first stops you'll encounter along the route is Lordenshaw Hill Fort, an interesting
Just before you reach Raylees, you'll pass right by Elsdon Tower, which is a rather eerie Grade I listed medieval tower house. You can't access the tower, but taking a moment to admire it as you pass it is highly recommended.
A little further along the route is Winter's Gibbet, which is a gibbet. If you don't know what a gibbet is (don't worry, we didn't either) - it's a gallows, and Winter's Gibbet is a recreation of the gallows that William Winter was hanged from for killing a woman. It's an impressive and creepy thing to visit.
The last stop of note before you reach Bellingham is Hareshaw Linn Waterfall - it's a short walk from the car park over 6 bridges (which is a very pleasant walk), and on rainy days this is a very impressive and powerful waterfall.

Bellingham to Hexham

The last stretch of the Sandstone Way shouldn't take much more than an hour and a half to complete, and because there isn't too much to see along this section it's quite a good chance to get your head down and get some miles under your belt. Plus, Hexham is a lovely place to visit and we'd recommend staying there overnight! However, in the second part of this section there are a few points of interest, particularly as you head towards Hadrian's Wall, where you can visit some of the turrets along the way like the Black Carts Turret. Once you reach Hexham, Hexham Abbey is a must-visit location - it's a stunning building and wonderful to explore.

What should you be aware of before heading along the Sandstone Way?

As with all of the cycle routes we write about, probably the most important thing to be aware of before heading on the Sandstone Way route is that you need to plan your accommodation and always have a backup plan! Always let plenty of people know where you're going, and ideally tackle the route as part of a group. If you can, cycle the route in spring or summer when the weather is less harsh. We also mentioned that this is a mountain biking route, and there is definitely a number of sections along the Sandstone Way which will require a bit of skill to navigate.
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to tackle this epic route. As we mentioned, we've also got guides about other cycle routes like the Hadrian's Cycleway, the Borders Abbey Way and the Exe Estuary Trail. We've also got a guide about cycling routes in Scotland.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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