Travellers’ tales: cycling the Sandstone Way in four days

Three women are cycling on mountain bikes along an off-road track through hills in Northumberland. They are wearing MTB clothing, cycling sunglasses and helmets.
Jane John and friends riding the hills above Ingram, Northumberland
In summer 2023, Cycling UK member Jane John and three companions cycled 120 miles off road from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Hexham along Northumberland’s long-distance mountain biking route

No heatwave? Tick. Sandstone Way travel logistics sorted? Tick. Avon Skin So Soft packed? Tick.

The four of us were ready for another off-road MTB adventure, although not a little unnerved by a previous Travellers’ tales report of 170 or more gates to open…

We planned to split the 120-mile journey into four days of riding: Berwick to Wooler; Wooler to Rothbury; Rothbury to Bellingham; and Bellingham to Hexham, staying in pubs and B&Bs en route. The route was easily plotted using the Sandstone Way GPX file and the paper map.

Our luggage was transferred by a kind husband in a campervan. He was also our backup if anything major went wrong.

Looking back at our mostly sunny photographs, I’ve almost forgotten the few short, sharp showers, especially as one came just before the café at Ingram. It was easily put right by a large slice of border tart and a flat white.

Four women with loaded mountain bikes are standing outside a pub. They are wearing MTB clothing and cycle helmets. They are smiling at the camera.
Hexham, journey’s end

Our spirits weren’t even dampened by the lack of sleep due to the noisy Kiwi sheep shearers in Rothbury, the evidence of their celebrations hosed away the next morning…

Mostly we just rode along bridleways up and down hills with no one else in sight, over farmland, in forests and woods, and between sparse villages. With technical descents challenging us, accompanied by plenty of whooping, perhaps it’s not surprising that we don’t tend to see much wildlife.

There was more squawking as we found ‘something nasty in the woodshed’ when we put our bikes away in the Old Mortuary at Fountain Cottage B&B. All part of the welcome, apparently.

It’s a fantastic route – well signed, stunning landscapes, isolated and incredibly quiet (apart from us). We didn’t meet any other cyclists, just a few local walkers, on the whole route.

As for the total gate tally of 123, we did only count the ones we had to open. Maybe someone knew we were coming?

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