St Oswald’s Way
Hiking across Northumberland National Park and Northumberland Coast AONB
St Oswald’s Way is a 97 mile (156km) long-distance hiking trail between Holy Island (Lindisfarne) on the Northumberland coast and Heavenfield near Hadrian’s Wall, linking sites associated with the life of the 7th century Anglo Saxon saint St Oswald. The route takes in a wealth of historical sites and the beautiful landscapes of both Northumberland National Park and the Northumberland Coast AONB – including a section of Harian’s Wall, the stunning landscape of the Simonside Hills, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, Bamburgh and Holy Island. St Oswald’s Way is probably my favourite long-distance footpath in the UK (although that might be because I haven’t walked the Cape Wrath Trail yet, ha ha).
Officially, St Oswald’s Way runs from east to west across Northumberland (ie starting from Holy Island and finishing at Heavensfield) – however I’ve always preferred hiking it in the opposite direction, simply because I love the idea of finishing by the sea (particularly a spot like Holy Island, with its tidal crossing). This also has the advantage of being able to continue walking up the Northumberland coast, through some of the finest coastal scenery anywhere in Britain, to finish at Berwick-Upon-Tweed, which has good rail links.
St Oswald’s way, Cuthbert’s Way & the Northumberland Coast Path
St Oswald’s Way overlaps with two other long-distance footpaths in Northumberland, St Cuthbert’s Way (which stretches between Melrose in the Scottish Borders and Holy Island, and includes a wonderful crossing of the Cheviots) and the Northumberland Coast Path (which runs from Cresswell to Berwick-Upon-Tweed).
St Oswald’s Way Guidebook
Published by Cicerone 2013, 2nd edition 2016, reprinted 2019
Guidebook to walking St Oswald’s Way through Northumberland, along with St Cuthbert’s Way through the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, and the Northumberland Coast Path. Includes OS mapping. Available here.
The rising tide….
Access to Holy Island, whether on foot across the sands (which is definitely the way to go) or along the asphalted causeway, is tidal. This means you must plan your crossing to coincide with safe crossing times – these can be found here, and you can confirm them on a notice board at the road entrance to the causeway. Aim to complete your crossing by the midpoint of the safe crossing period – it takes between 1hr and 2hrs to walk across the sand at low tide (depending on how fast you walk on wet sand!).
Photography from St Oswalds Way and the Northeumberland Coast Path
Clockwise from top left: The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle near Craster; Goswick Sands just north of Holy Island on the Northumberland Coast Path; Lindisfarne Castle; Simonside Hills in Northumberland National Park. Photos © Rudolf Abraham.