Northumberland’s greatest strength lies in its unspoilt solitude and staggering views, and the Sandstone Way is keen to demonstrate this visually stunning, rarely technical nature early on. The easy ride along the coastline is at its finest on the glide out of Berwick along the cliffs. With red sandstone beneath you, there are huge views out over Holy Island and, further still, to Bamburgh Castle.
As the route cuts inland out of sight of the sea, huge green spaces take up the slack, with big climbs and big descents. Catch a glimpse of St Cuthbert’s Cave, just outside of Wooler, before the Sandstone Way roves into deep forest.
One of the longest runs on the route streaks through Harwood Forest to Elsdon: a high-speed race along wooded trails on a slightly-descending gradient. If history is of greater interest, the route crosses one of the UK’s largest ancient monuments: Hadrian’s Wall, with plenty of surviving sections to take a look at before you push on toward the route’s finale.
The views from Warden Hill down over the glittering South Tyne mark that final stretch, and it’s one of the most exuberant rides on the route: all swooping grass tracks with the rooftops ahead drawing you in.
It’s frequently said that riders underestimate the Sandstone Way. On paper, it’s not technical, so what challenges can it pose? But this sinuous route’s big climbs and huge, open spaces are sure to test you, and make that final run into Hexham so much more hard-won.
Sandstone Way begins with a long, flat ride all the way along the Northumberland coastline. The first real slopes set in as the route heads inland toward St Cuthbert’s Cave. A long descent streaks down from Old Lyham, with even steeper downhill runs into Wooler and out of Roseden.
A hard climb up Wether Hill marks the most challenging ascent on the route, but it leads to a good descent on the far side. The Sandstone Way reaches its highest point just beyond Simonside via a staggered series of ascents. There’s another long climb after East Woodburn, with an enjoyable descent through Rawfoot to Bellingham. Walwick Fell and Warden Hill mark the last two major climbs before the Sandstone Way’s finale into Hexham, with plenty of little ridges to make sure the ride’s completion is hard-won.
THE TERRAIN REMOTE TRAILS
- Broad dirt tracks
- Technical singletrack
- Unsurfaced lanes and bridleways
- Byways and low-traffic country roads
The Sandstone Way boasts broad dirt trails through the remote open spaces of Northumberland. Short stints on low-traffic country lanes knit together long, off-road rides on unsurfaced bridleways and unclassified roads.
The route explores Breamish Valley on forest trails and crosses open moorland. It’s here that you’ll find the best singletrack on the Sandstone Way.
In dry conditions, a strong rider could complete the Sandstone Way on a cyclocross, gravel or adventure bike, but a dedicated mountain bike is recommended.
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