It’s been ages since I’ve been out for a walk. So it was really good to get out and away from the concrete and tarmac and head for the hills.

Northumberland’s hills often come in for some stick from outsiders. On the whole they don’t have the height or the drama that the Lake District or Scotland can offer. But that’s not the point. What they can offer is space. Loads of it.

Wide open spaces – Simonside Hills, Northumberland.

Simonside Hills are part of Northumberland National Park, overlooking the market town of Rothbury. They’re about 45 minutes drive north from Newcastle, making them perfect for a quick escape from the city, without driving too far.

We set off from the Forestry Commission car park and chose the ‘red’ way-marked route. This climbs gradually up through the forest to the moor followed by a steep but mercifully brief ascent up the side of Simonside Crags. From there, the path traverses the moors, passing other rocky outcrops before descending back through the forest on a loop back to the car park.

Looking west from the summit cairn on Simonside Crags.

Despite being a short and fairly undemanding walk, it’s really rewarding. What you get from this walk is a sense of how big Northumberland is. Only 45 minutes from a big(ish) city, there’s silence and space.

You’re also reminded of how old this landscape is. The outcrops of rock that dot the tops of the hills were once an ancient seabed – worn and cut into strange shapes first by water then by wind and rain.

Looking west from the summit plateau.
Wave-cut rocks. Cheviot in the distance.

After a brew in the shelter of some of these rocks we descended off the peat and heather through saplings then more mature forest and back to the car.

We had only been walking for about 2 hours, but to be out in the fresh air and surrounded by open space made all the difference.

Photos © Simon Lowe Photography

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