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Upper Coquetdale - A view from our expert author


Cheviot valley, Northumberland, UK by Dave Head, ShutterstockThe River Coquet forms the northern boundary of the Cheviot range's southern moors © Dave Head, Shutterstock

The higher reaches are classically Cheviot-like: heavy moors, sparkling burns, flower-filled hay meadows and the occasional stand of conifer trees.

Seasoned travellers to Northumberland National Park go dreamy-eyed when you mention Coquetdale. It’s a much-sung valley that oozes lush scenery and has parts that feel wonderfully remote. I’m really talking about Upper Coquetdale – roughly the extent of the River Coquet from its jingly beginnings in the southwestern corner of the Cheviots at Chew Green, past Barrowburn, Alwinton, Harbottle, Holystone and on to Rothbury, 30 miles from its source.

The higher reaches are classically Cheviot-like: heavy moors, sparkling burns, flower-filled hay meadows and the occasional stand of conifer trees; but further south around Holystone the landscape becomes wooded (now with ancient broad-leaved trees) before entering the open flood plains at Hepple.

A paved road extends for 12 lonely miles from Alwinton to the Roman camp, Chew Green, on the Scottish border, making for a memorable cycling or road trip. For much of the way it follows the River Coquet through the valley passing stone farmsteads like Barrowburn.

A scattering of parking areas mark the start point of some popular hikes into the hills, including to Windy Gyle and a number of trails from Alwinton. You don’t have to walk far before you feel the swelling moors enclosing you; every time you turn back, the hills seem to have shuffled in that bit closer. The River Coquet forms the northern boundary of the Otterburn military training area, which covers the southern moors in the Cheviot range. Countryside and hills north of the river are yours to explore at any time; south of the river, there are restrictions. Red flags indicate the ranges are closed to the public. In reality, most visitors explore the hills to the north anyway because the signed walking trails are on that side.

If you want to experience the desolate moors to the south, check access restrictions first.

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