With two days holiday left to take from work, we both fancied a short, budget friendly break. We decided to visit D’s parents at their home near Alnwick and go off to the Northumberland National Park for a couple of days walking with a stay somewhere cheap on the night. I Tweeted to NorthumberlandNational Park and they recommended Monthooley Bunkhouse in College Valleyof the Cheviot Hills. It’s just an hour’s drive from Alnwick and set in stunning landscape on the edge of the National Park.
Over the last year we have done several walking weekends with a few friends who also enjoy getting outdoor and hiking. So I sent a message to the group and my best friend Liz and friend Joe said they would like to join us.
I bought the OS map for the area from eBay as they are usually slightly cheaper than on the high street and emailed Monthooley Bunkhouse to book our places for just £13 pppn and to ask for the owner’s recommendation for a two day walk to and from the bunkhouse. Pauline, the owner replied with detailed descriptions for three walks and took the time to talk us through our chosen route over the phone while looking at our map.
We arrived at our start point in Hethpool just after 9.00am and began the first climb to the top of Yeavering Bell, a twin peaked hill which is the site of an Iron Age hillfort. Some of the stone wall can still be seen and the shape of where it once stood is quite prominent. From the top there are stunning views across the National Park, out to sea and over the Boarders of Scotland.
We then headed south over Newton Tors where we spotted a heard of around 15 wild Cheviot goatsclimbing up to a rocky highpoint. Unfortunately they appeared as dots in the distance on the photos so have included this much better photo by someone instead.
The landscape seemed bleak and wild even in the light of the sun and good weather. The eerie square patches in the heather, created by controlled fire for grouse management, reminded us of crop circles.
The clouds formed patterns like the tread of a tyre and covered the whole sky.
We then descended down the hillside back into College Valley, passing a part-felled wood and disturbing a short-eared owl from the heather that appeared pink in the setting sun.
The bunkhouse came into view over the other side of the river which we crossed via a new footbridge. Eight miles after we started, we had reached our place of rest for the night.
Ed, Pauline’s wife, greeted us on arrival and directed us to our room and the common area of the bunkhouse. We were offered the choice of the family room or the large upstairs room which housed 9 beds. The family room was an immediate winner as it had its own en-suite complete with shower and bunkbeds adorned with soft toys, blankets and even hot water bottles (much to my annoyance as I had carried my hot water bottle in my rucksack the whole way in fear of a cold night’s sleep). The room had more than we required but was perfect for a family; a microwave, a kettle, books and children’s toys.
With our rucksacks off our backs we headed to the common room where we were greeted by another family group and a lone lady about our own age. The log burner was roaring so we made ourselves at home on the comfy sofas and made conversation with our new buddies.
Pauline arrived shortly after and told us our 3 course meal would be ready at 7.30pm. We were welcomed and seated in the entrance room of her house and gazed at the walls covered in photos and maps of the surrounding area. Homemade thick vegetable soup and homemade seeded roll was brought out for starter as well as a small goats cheese tart that was also homemade. With our bellies already quite filled we were presented with a huge dish of lasagne and left to serve our own sized portions accompanied with fresh salad and roasted vegetables. This was followed by the biggest slice of homemade cheesecake one has ever seen with lashings of raspberry coulis. There was even an After Eight mint, not that we could fit it in. I simply couldn’t eat one more bite so put my portion in a Tupperware and stashed it in my rucksack to take home. For just £10.50 we were fed like kings. After a game of scrabble we filled the hot water bottles and settled down in the bunkbeds for an early night.
The next morning we rose early for a three course breakfast cooked by Pauline; a fruit salad made with grapes, kiwi and mango with yoghurt, then croissants followed by a full cooked breakfast. It cost just £4.50.
We had also ordered a packed lunch to take on or return walk which included cheese and pickle sandwiches, an apple, chocolate, oatcakes, a homemade muffin and a packet of crisps, all for just £4.25.
We then set off on our second day’s walk over the hills on the opposite side of the valley, and joined the Pennine way which follows the boarder between England and Scotland. We joked about how we would know we had reached the boarder (we did know when it would be as we were following the map) and imitated bagpipes and pretended to spot haggis running across the hills. We didn’t see any haggis or hear and bag pipes but we spotted Highland cattle as soon as we crossed the bordering dry stone wall!
We walked on the Scottish side of the bordering wall for several miles and had absolutely stunning views across Scotland on one side and England on the other. The air was almost still and the sun shone for the whole day.
Eventually the end point was in sight and we reminisced about the amazing views, weather, host and accommodation we had experienced.
The 2 day trip cost around £32.25 each not including petrol but including all meals. Now that’s a budget friendly holiday! The Cheviot Hills are stunning and Monthooly Bunkhouse was a great and cheap place to stay. We will be back!