If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love a good hillfort trail, and nowhere are they more abundant than in Northumberland’s chronically underrated National Park. We’ve only recently discovered Northumberland’s wilder border country after spending years exploring the coast and more popular area around Hadrian’s Wall: we fully intend to make up for lost time, with plenty of future expeditions planned! We made a start last weekend with a wonderful stay in a glamping pod on the Ford & Etal Estate. On our day of arrival we had a few hours before we could check in so we decided to do the relatively short trail around Humbleton Hillfort to pass the time.
Northumberland is chock-full of hillforts, many of which have way marked trails to guide you around an easy(ish) route with the best views. We have previously hiked both Yeavering Bell and the Breamish Valley Hillforts and loved both of these, so it was a no brainer deciding to call at Humbleton to climb the eponymous hillfort. As well as being the site of an Iron Age settlement, Humbleton Hillfort was the site of a medieval battle between England and Scotland. After a series of successful raids, a Scottish army was returning home when they were cut off by Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, the Duke of Northumberland’s son. The Scottish army was decimated, with hundreds of deaths, while the English army was said to suffer just five casualties. It was a strange feeling trying to imagine what those events hundreds of years ago must have been like as we walked up the path to the top of the hill.
Like many of my favourite routes, we found this walk in our Pocket Mountains guide to Northumberland. The walk is a circular of about 4km, and if you don’t have the Pocket Mountains guide, you can see a similar route on the National Park website (although this is a longer route which starts from Wooler rather than Humbleton).
We started the walk from the small hamlet of Humbleton, where there is very limited free parking on a grassy verge near the start of the walk. Heading away from the village, you soon pick up the way marked hillfort trail, which is clearly signed and easy to follow. The gradient on this walk is never horrendously steep but it is certainly enough to get your heart pumping as you near the summit!
The proximity of the this walk to the town of Wooler, and the well sign posted nature of the walk, made me think it might be slightly busier than other walks we’ve done. This wasn’t the case at all, and for most of the walk our only companions were the very fluffy Cheviot sheep who you’ll find most of the way around! We did see one or two other walkers but the overall feeling was one of total peace and quiet.
The views were, as we’ve come to expect from Northumberland, fantastic. Autumn was out in full force with a carpet of orange bracken covering the hillsides, with the distant Cheviots silhouetted in shades of grey and purple. I love Northumberland at all times of year but it’s the place where I’ve had the best crisp autumnal days, with blue skies and clear views for miles.
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep throughout this walk which limits the possibility of letting your dog off the lead, although there’s a short lane at the end where you might be able to let your dog off. However, there is very little road walking and only one stile that you need to help your dog over, with the rest of the stiles all having gates or dog tunnels to help you avoid hefting a muddy dog over a fence! This walk is the perfect length to tire your dog out without having to be out on an all day trek – but if you’re heading out in summer make sure to take water along for your dog, as drinking spots are limited and you are pretty exposed to the sun out on the hillside (not a problem we had in late October!).
Where we stayed
We stayed in a luxury glamping pod at the Cheviot Brewery on the Ford & Etal estate. The pods are newly installed for 2021 and include a living area with a sofa and table/chair, a small kitchen area with a hob, sink and fridge, and two double bunkbeds. In addition to all this, you get a swanky ensuite bathroom with a toilet and shower! The pods face into the woods and are very peaceful – if it had been warmer and drier during our visit I think we would’ve made use of the fire pit and chairs outside to watch the stars for sure! The pods are ideally located for exploration with plenty of walks straight from your doorstep. Additionally, the Cheviot Tap on the site serves pizzas and drinks every Friday and Saturday night – we got a takeaway pizza to take back to our pod and it was delicious! Sam also informs me that the beer was very good (I stuck to cider). And did I mention the friendly alpacas you can feed?
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The dogs were welcome at the Pod, and at the bar, and the huge choice of footpaths on our doorstep meant that we could’ve taken them for miles of walkies without even needing to get into the car! The pod was a little crowded with the two of us and two dogs (including Coal, who’s tail wags incessantly), but I think for two people and one small or medium sized dog you would fit quite comfortably. It feels a little harsh to only give 4/5 for dog friendliness, but there weren’t any of the extra little touches for dog owners that we’ve found in other places that I’ve rated as a 5/5 dog friendly. Don’t let that put you off visiting with your dog at all though as we had a fabulous weekend with ours!
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