Windyhaugh to Cocklawfoot


The final descent from The Street to the River Coquet



With hindsight there was a certain rationale to my 14 mile circular walk; two farmsteads, two ancient drove roads, two countries and two border crossings. However, in essence, it was simply a superb circumnavigation of one of the area`s most iconic hills.


There were still pockets of late winter snow on the high tops as I left Windyhaugh in my slipstream and headed over the skylark-dappled grasslands north of Barrow Law towards the ancient drove road of Clennell Street. As I clambered over the border fence at Hexpethgate Windy Gyle, away to my left, looked uncharacteristically benign. To my right, the slender line of the post and wire international boundary lumbered uphill towards the triangulation pillar-adorned King`s Seat.


At last my boots were on Scottish soil where a mouth-watering array of cleuch-indented hills and ridges vied for my attention. I followed the twisting downhill track across the steep slopes of Outer Cock Law and, after 2 miles of almost non-stop descent, I arrived at the remote farm of Cocklawfoot with energy still to burn. The white-walled farmhouse, standing in an idyllic valley close to where the Cheviot and Kingsseat Burns collide, posed for the must-have photographs like a Hollywood starlet.


Turning to the south I skipped past the sleepy farm of Kelsocleugh and on through the remnants of a small, recently harvested plantation. I was starting one of the finest grass-carpeted ridge walks to be found in the Cheviot Hills and, with wall-to-wall views to constantly distract me, the climb over Kelsocleuch Rig turned out to be easier than anticipated. I was soon crossing the equally delightful Windy Rig on a sweeping course around the head of the Gyle Burn and then onto my second rendezvous with the border fence close to the spot where, in 1944, four RAF airmen died when their Hadley Page Hampden aircraft crashed into the hillside.


I really had no intention of visiting the actual summit of Windy Gyle but how could I resist the magnetic force of one of the finest watering holes along the whole length of the Pennine Way. It was much too close to ignore and required hardly a gram of extra effort to reach the colossal hill-topping Bronze Age burial cairn. The triangulation pillar made the perfect backrest as I savoured my sandwiches and the wraparound panorama.


I then stepped back into England, cautiously negotiated the aptly-named Foulstep Sike and headed on towards `The Street`, another of the Cheviot cross-border drove roads. Once known as the Clattering Path, this predominantly green track is by far the most popular route to Windy Gyle and, as I walked the long rollercoaster miles back to Upper Coquetdale, detouring briefly to claim the minor top of Swineside Law, I fully expected to meet the odd fellow walker. In the event, I continued my journey alone with only the wind and the call of the curlew for company.