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Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood

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Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood
Author: Claire, Published: 18 Jun 2014 Walk Rating:star1 Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide star1 Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide star1 Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide star1 Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide star1 Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide
Northumberland, Chatton
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide boot Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide boot Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide boot Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide
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0002_sunny_intervals Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide Today's weather
13 °C, Partly cloudy, Wind: 23 mph W
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0002_sunny_intervals Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide 0002_sunny_intervals Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide 0002_sunny_intervals Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide 0004_black_low_cloud Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide 0004_black_low_cloud Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide

A 4 mile circular (and fairly strenuous) walk near the village of Chillingham in Northumberland. The stunning route climbs high up to the summit of Ros Hill where you’ll have spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding moors. There are views across the adjacent cattle park, home to the only wild cattle in Britain, and on a clear day a total of seven castles can be seen from the summit. The walk continues across the remote Hepburn Moor and then on through Hepburn Wood with chance to enjoy plenty of wildlife.

The walk has several fairly steep, rocky climbs and descents. The paths are a mixture of tarmac lanes/woodland tracks and narrow paths through the moor and woodland. These latter narrow paths squeeze between thick heather and bracken and can be very overgrown, uneven and slippery so good boots and long trousers are a must. The forest paths have not been well-maintained in recent years, posing a greater challenge, although the initial stretch to Ros Castle is worth a visit in itself. There are no stiles or kissing gates along the way, just a couple of simple gates. For the first half of the walk you will be sharing the paths with sheep so take care with dogs. None of the paths within the wood/moor are waymarked as it is open access land, so make sure you are well prepared with back-up maps and a fully-charged phone if you are following the route via the App. Approximate time 2 hours.

The walk starts and finishes from the Hepburn Wood Forestry Commission free car park, close to Hepburn Farm near Chillingham, Northumberland. Approximate post code NE66 4EG. This post code will take you to the farm, follow the road about another half mile up the hill and you will find the forest car park on the right just before a cattle grid.

Walk Sections

Start to Ros Castle
Start to Ros Castle

Start point: 55.5169 lat, -1.888 long
End point: 55.5216 lat, -1.8731 long

Leave the car park back to the main road and turn right, heading uphill. Cross the cattle grid (or use the gate alongside if you would prefer) and follow the road, climbing, with open moor (with grazing sheep) to the right and a tall stone wall on the left. Continue for some distance and the road will bend right.

Soon after the stone wall swings away from the road, you will see a National Trust sign on the left for Ros Castle. Stay on the road for a little distance further and then turn left onto the path into the moor signed with a waymark for the open access land. Follow the obvious path winding ahead through the heather and then climbing fairly steeply, swinging first right and then left, to reach the summit of the hill ahead (directly alongside the stone wall). At the summit, Ros Castle (so-named because of an iron-age hill fort that occupied the site), you will find a trig point.

Ros Castle to Road Crossing
Ros Castle to Road Crossing

Start point: 55.5216 lat, -1.8731 long
End point: 55.5181 lat, -1.874 long

Take some time to appreciate the panoramic views from this vantage point. Just alongside the trig point you will find an unusual walk-in toposcope built into the wall which has four plaques describing the views in every direction. On clear days it is possible to see out to the Farne Islands and to see seven castles including Banburgh, Chillingham, Dunstanburgh and the castle on Holy Island.

Behind the wall is the Chillingham Park estate which today is home to the Chillingham Wild Cattle. The herd was first penned in the 1200s and for more than 700 years these remarkable wild cattle have been grazing in Chillingham Park. With only around 100 beasts, they are one of the rarest animals on the planet and have remained genetically isolated for hundreds of years. The cattle are completely untamed and remain untouched by humans since the medieval ages, so their behaviour is entirely natural. The cattle do not have a rutting season meaning the bulls assert their dominance all year round and you may be able to hear them bellowing or see them fighting and stamping the ground.

Once you have finished enjoying the views, return down to the road via the same path you climbed (taking care as the path is fairly rocky and can be slippery in part). When you reach the road, cross over and take the track opposite into the moor (with an old sign for the Forestry Commission Reivers Trail).

Road Crossing to Forest Gate
Road Crossing to Forest Gate

Start point: 55.5181 lat, -1.874 long
End point: 55.5108 lat, -1.88 long

After just a few yards you will come to a fork in the track. Keep right and follow the track through the heather as it steadily swings left. At the next fork, keep left and across to the left you will see the rocky outcrops known as Hepburn Crags. This open access land is some of the most remote and rarely visited land in Northumberland. The heather covered hills are formed from sandstone and evidence (including the remains of several iron-age hill forts) suggests human activity for thousands of years.

Continue just until you see a subtle track through the heather forking off to the right. Take this and, just before you reach the tree line ahead, you will come to a T-junction with a narrow grass path. Turn left along this narrow path and follow it for some distance with the fenced woodland a few yards across to the right and the open moor to the left. Eventually the path will lead you to a small wooden gate ahead into the forest.

Forest Gate to Forest Track
Forest Gate to Forest Track

Start point: 55.5108 lat, -1.88 long
End point: 55.5051 lat, -1.8809 long

Pass through the gate and follow the obvious path winding ahead, taking care of the boulders and rocks under foot. The path leads you downhill then levels off through a section of bracken and then begins to climb once again. Stay on this narrow ridge-side path which hugs the steep hillside. You will pass a number of impressive rock formations on the left and take time to enjoy the beautiful views across the valley to the right.

Eventually the path leads you into a section of pine forest where it begins to descend again. Some way along, the path swings right and descends more steeply through a belt of grass/bracken with mixed woodland to the left. Continue straight ahead down this narrow path and you will emerge out to a T-junction with a wide stone forest vehicle track.

Forest Track to End
Forest Track to End

Start point: 55.5051 lat, -1.8809 long
End point: 55.517 lat, -1.8875 long

Turn right along the forest track. Enjoy this much easier level stretch of walking along the wider track, taking time to enjoy the woodland surroundings. The track is the old carriage drive which was built when Hepburn was a private estate belonging to the neighbouring Chillingham Park. In early summer the woodland floor is a haze of purple thanks to the healthy population of foxgloves.

Eventually the track will lead you to a staggered T-junction. Directly opposite you will see Crist and Capstone, a bronze-age grave used as far back as 2000BC which was discovered in the 1990s. A large collection of Mesolithic flints and arrowheads have also been found in the woodland and form part of the display at Chillingham Castle.

Keep right at this T-junction, continuing along the main stone track. The track will lead you back to the car park where the walk began.

Remember...the best way of following our walking guides is to use the iFootpath App (iOS and Android) where you will have all the information in the palm of your hand and see your exact location on the live map as you travel. You can also add comments, photos, ratings and track your own routes.

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network Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood Walking Guide Original GPX source file

Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2014 by iFootpath and the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.

5 comments for "Ros Castle and Hepburn Wood"

Lovely walk, three distinct phases, the view from Ros Castle was fantastic, the walking through the heather, bracken and forest was tricky and a bit damp to our legs. We had to climb over or under fallen trees, but with help from the gps we kept with the path. The walk along the final track was easy in comparison and a nice way to finish. Good instructions.

By pennwoodcock on 21 Sep 2018

The forest path was completely overgrown last Friday (3rd Aug 2018). It was dangerous and not passable. The live gps is a good feature, but no help here as no path was identifiable. Not a fault of the app, of course. I think the forestry commission possibly have not had the funding to maintain all forest tracks this year, and the situation is worse than normal due to the weather we’ve had recently. The walk up to ros hill was fine however, and really excellent. It is still worth the journey for this part alone in my opinion.

ADMIN RESPONSE: Thank you so much for the update - we have added an additional note within the introductory access notes to let future walkers know.

By richlaw88 on 06 Aug 2018

The initial section was great with the views but after this the path must be even more overgrown than Richard says. We lost it and it was a very hot day with swarming flies. We had to battle our way back and it was quite unpleasant. A real shame as the instructions seemed very clear and detailed.

ADMIN RESPONSE: Remember to use the iFootpath App's live GPS map to guide you if you lose you way or a path - this will show your live location and guide you to rejoin the route.

By Debralaxton on 14 Jul 2018

Completed this walk on 17/09/17 I'd suggest not going across the heather or descending thru the wood. It's totally overgrown and there are a number of fallen trees within the wood. Very nearly impassable. Shame as otherwise it would have been a cracking walk. The walk up to the top of Ros Hill is totally worth it though.

By sesmok on 19 Sep 2017

I would suggest picking a good day to do this walk as the views from Ros Castle are fab.

By Richard on 07 Oct 2014

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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