One of my favourite routes that is nearly 100% off road on a variety of types of track and all in a stunning landscape.
1. Start off at National park car park in Alwinton,. From here go a short distance back on the road to Harbottle then turn left to Clennell just before the bridge over the Alwin. Go up the Alwin haugh past Clennell to your right following the track as the hills get bigger and higher. After a few miles and a few bridges you get to Kidland Forest. Up a little hill, ignoring the track to Kidlandlee to your left, and down through the forest. You shortly come to a clearing in the forest. Take the track to your left over a ford.
2. This track goes further into one of the steep valleys of Kidland. Keep on the main track up to Whiteburnshank. Take care of the fords as they can get a bit slippery and deep especially when the river is in spate. Though since they have done up Whiteburnshank as a bunk house I think they have been made better as they seemed less challenging than they were used to be. The track up to Clennell Street past Whiteburnshank is really steep, well done if you can get to the top without stopping. Ignore the first track on your right you come to at the top but keep going on to Clennell street, turn right and down the hill for about a mile. There is a track here to your left, if you want you can use this as a shortcut down to Fairhaugh if your knackered but you would miss the best bit of the ride then. The main route continues straight on and turns into a rutted grassy tack which soon meets a wicket opening out on to the hills.
3. Clennel Street traverses the edge of Yarnspath Law here dropping steeply to the Usway. They have improved the track here firming up the clarty bits which means that you can go pretty fast. At the bottom cross over the bridge, through the wicket to your right and loop round to your left. After going through another wicket turn right turn right and cross over the road to Uswayford (Use-e-ford), joining the Clennel Street track to the border ridge. Most of it is ridable, but there are some loose and clarty sections. When you have reached the gate you are nearly at the top and Scotland, fantastic view, with Scotland looking a lot less forbidding than Northumberland. Over into Scotland is Cocklawfoot (Cock'lfoot), an excellent track that deserves a look.
4. Now turn left up to Windy Gyle the first bit is a footpath so walking may be in order across the stone slabs. Halfway up it turns into a bridleway, (where were those horses going and why didn't they go all the way to Clennell Street?) It also gets boggy and steep. This bit is much better in a dry summer or more frequently a cold frozen winter, more grip and less erosion but they have paved most of the worst bits. The top of Windy Gyle was a meeting point for border officials at the time of the reivers and the cairn at the top is named after a Lord Russell who was murdered at one such meeting. No ghosts though and this strangely enough is the most likely place to meet anyone on the whole route.
5. Now for a big downhill. South through the muddy wicket, which they were paving when I was there last week, and back into Northumberland following the track as it curves to the left and then steeply down. Hold on, go as fast as you dare but mind you don't fettle yourself by clipping one of the ruts. When the track eases off a bit follow the farm track to the right directly down the rig to Trows. It turns into a smooth grassy track that only slows down when it is wet (Mind the cows and calves though). Eventually it turns into a stony farm track, with a few gates so beware. After 2.5 miles you get to the bottom and a ford and the small farm at Trows.
6. Turn left up the red gravel track to your left and eventually you will reach the point where you climbed up to the border ridge from the Usway. Turn right off the road and south through the gate (Not the wicket on your left which you came through before). You will see a track going up the Fairhaugh ridge, don't go on this one but take the excellent little single track to the left that scoots round the ridge joining up with it again as it enters the forest. Up a slight hill, ignoring the track to your left go straight down the steep rutted track to Fairhaugh. Either cross the burn using the bridge on the left or the ford to your right.
7. Go round the farm and then take the singletrack bridleway to your right following the burn, whooshing through the forest on a great little, sometimes precarious, trail all the way down the haugh to BattleSheil. Follow the bridleway round the back of the farm and drop on to the track to Shillmoor. The farm was run by my great grandad and my granny used to tell me she used to get here on a pony and trap. On reaching the Coquet at Shillmoor turn left in front of the cattle sheds and over a dry ford. Leave the farm track on the bridleway is a ace little single track that follows the wall to your right.
8. This goes straight on and after about a mile goes over the Snout on a steep grassy track called Path Peth. I managed to climb to the top on the last attempt only to come off in the really clarty and stinky bog at the top so you have been warned! It is all down hill from here down a good track to the Alwinton road. Turn left on to the road and on reaching Alwinton have a well deserved pint at the Rose and Thistle.
Up to the border Ridge