Rothbury Rambles

When I took up walking again, Rothbury lay just outside my walking catchment area. However, as some of my early country walks were from Rothbury, I knew that it was an area I would like to explore more. When I started to plan the logistics of my trip to Rothbury, it was a relief to also discover that there is a regular direct bus from Newcastle.


Rothbury is a bustling town within commuting distance of Newcastle with plenty of good shops, cafes, galleries and pubs. It is a more prosperous place than many villages further north in the county, probably because it is in easy commuting distance from Newcastle. Parking can be a bit haphazard (although there are visitor car parks outside the centre) so it may be worth considering the regular public transport from Newcastle.

All the walks start from the High Street in Rothbury town centre. Videos are available on YouTube. Check the sidebar for my other site links

Rothbury to Whitton Hillhead circular (5 miles / 8 km) Leisurely
Rothbury Carriageway circular (5 miles / 8 km) Leisurely
Rothbury Valley circular (10 miles / 16 km) Strenuous
Rothbury and Cartington Castle circular (6.3  miles / 10 km) Moderate

Rothbury to Whitton Hillhead Circular. Leisurely. 5 miles / 8 km.

This short 5 mile circular walk was planned for the afternoon of the day I arrived. I headed south west from the town centre following the St. Oswald’s way past Sharp’s folly.

Near Sharps Folly
Near Sharp’s Folly

Here the route continues upwards to Whitton Hillhead where there are some great views of Rothbury across the Coquet Valley with the Simonside hills on the horizon.

Across Coquet Valley
Across the Coquet Valley

I then turned north towards Newtown, a former mill village and continued eastwards across the golf course to cross over the Coquet river and follow the riverbank walk back into Rothbury.


This was just enough to stretch my legs and sample the fine weather.

Whitton Hillhead Route
Rothbury to Whitton Hillhead route. Ordnance Survey ©

Rothbury Carriageway Circular. Leisurely. 5 miles / 8 km.  

This is a moderate 5 mile walk which follows the route of Lord Armstrong’s specially constructed carriage drive from his estate at Rothbury. It has fine views of the surrounding countryside in all directions.

Hillside View
View from Hillside Road

Rising up out of Rothbury across the fields I soon came to the edge of the Cragside estate where there are some beautiful avenues of old beech trees.

Cragside Estate
Beech grove on Cragside Estate

I then passed down through the estate onto the main road for a short while before turning through the woods and down a winding track toward Debden Burn. After crossing Debden Burn, I turned right to join a broad track which rises up alongside the woods, to Lord Armstrong’s Carriageway Drive which is mostly level and easy walking.

Primrose Cottage
View from near the start of the carriageway

I was lucky to have good weather for the whole weekend and it was very pleasant on this walk, affording time to stop and enjoy the views on all sides of the carriageway. After a short way I sat down to enjoy a leisurely lunch with a view.

On continuing, I walked the final few miles around the carriageway which sits on a heather plateau, to a little turn off towards a stone cairn which has great views over Rothbury.

View of Rothbury from cairn

From here I descended through the bracken back into Rothbury town centre.

Carriageway Walk
Rothbury Carriageway Circular route. Ordnance Survey ©

Rothbury Valley Circular. Moderate. 10 miles / 16 km.  

This is a 10 mile strenuous route. I headed out of Rothbury on a fine morning following lovely old country lanes east towards the village of Thropton. Here I crossed a small bridge over the Wreigh Burn and from there crossed the floor of the valley towards Tosson limekiln and Great Tosson.

Thropton Lane
Lane from Rothbury to Thropton

Here I headed into the Simonside forest to the base of the crag where I sat on the bench to have lunch and admire the lovely view.

View from Simonside
View from the base of Simonside crags

Simonside is a very popular area so there were many walkers and mountain bikers around. After lunch I headed up to Simonside crag where there is a short scramble up to the two mile undulating ridge path.

Simonside Crags scramble
Simonside Ridge
Up to Simonside ridge

The path links the cairns at Old stell crag, Dove crag, and the Beacon before descending to Lordenshaw. I then joined the St. Oswalds way via Lordenshaw iron age hillfort, where you can see earth mounds and cup and ring carvings, before returning across the fields into Rothbury.

Rothbury Valley
Around Rothbury Valley. Ordnance Survey ©

Rothbury and Cartington Castle circular. 6.3 miles / 10.1 km. Moderate

This walk is a 6.3 mile moderate circular route to the ruined castle. From Rothbury main street the route heads uphill and clockwise around Lord Armstrong’s carriageway. The castle remains can be seen to the north west of the carriageway as you head around. From here you take a detour through Chapel Hill Wood up to the ruined 12th century Cartington Castle via South Cartington. At South Cartington village there is a sign on the gate pointing up hill to the castle.

South Cartington
Sign for the castle at South Cartington

Cartington Castle itself is a ruined, partially restored medieval English castle in the village of Cartington, 2 miles north-west of Rothbury looking down on the River Coquet. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. Its first recorded owner was Ralph Fitzmain during the 12th century. In the late 14th century a pele tower was added. It is believed that this was extended in 1442 by John Cartington to include a great hall and a tower-defended courtyard. Cartington was also granted a licence to crenellate the building.

Cartington Castle
Cartington Castle, Northumberland

Despite some demolition over time, the castle continued to be lived in until the 1860s when it was abandoned. In 1887 Lord Armstrong partially restored it to prevent it’s complete disintegration.

From the castle the route returns along part of the Sandstone Way, through pretty Primrose Woods and across the heather moorland tracks into the town centre.

Primrose Woods
Primrose Woods

The route involves a steepish ascent up to the castle from South Cartington and some gnarly bits of path on the outskirts of the town which would be more suitable for older children.

Rothbury and Cartington Castle Circular, Northumberland. Ordnance Survey ©

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