Alston to Ninebanks

The route instructions on this page are up to date.  


Kirkhaugh Church

Isaac’s Tea Trail keeps company with the Pennine Way to the Roman Fort at Epiacum (Whitley Castle). At nearby Castle Nook, Isaac’s wife Anne was employed cooking and on domestic work supporting the farm. Experiences which were to prove useful when later the Holden’s opened their grocer’s shop and tea business in Allendale. They probably knew one another with families in the Allendale neighbourhood and Methodist convictions. They were married in December 1834 at Kirkhaugh.

A titled family and Alston is not a combination that readily comes to mind. Sir Isaac Holden Liberal M.P., cousin of the tea seller and namesake, when conferred with a baronetcy in 1893, adopted the town’s name due to his ancestral connections with Alston Moor. As far is we know, Sir Isaac never visited Alston and the hereditary peerage went unheralded locally though the title continues.

The Holden’s links with Alston adds a further dimension to the trail. Both  Isaac’s shared the humblest of origins, through their careers’ took different routes. Sir Isaac’s father having to move to Scotland in the early 1800s while Isaac’s of tea fame moved to the West Allen. Yet for all the ups and downs in family fortunes of Victorian times, it would be hard to find greater contrasts. Sir Isaac went onto became a leading entrepreneur with global connections in the Bradford textile industry and prospered to create a   dynasty among the wealthiest in the country. Yet, for the obvious differences between them in income and influence, both had similarities as life-long Methodists and philanthropists.

Isaac’s Tea Trail keeps company with the Pennine Way to the Roman Fort at Epiacum (Whitley Castle). At Castle Nook Farm, Isaac’s future wife Anne was employed as a servant with cooking and domestic work supporting the farm. Useful practical experiences, which were to prove helpful, when they opened a grocer’s shop and tea business in knowing what customers wanted. They probably knew one another coming from the Allendale area and Methodist connections.

They were married in December 1834 at Kirkhaugh Church, before it was rebuilt and acquired the pencil sharp steeple. Unkindly dubbed by Alfred Wainwright on a walk in the South Tyne, “As like an inverted umbrella.” On crossing the South Tynedale Railway the trail loops back down the South Tyne River before heading away up to the hamlet of Ayle and further on to the historic Clarghyll Hall. Then leaves the South Tyne Valley behind to cross the track over Ouston Fell with good panoramic views to the North as far The Cheviot Hills and then drops down to Mohope’s meadows and the West Allen Valley.

Distance: 8.8kms, 5.5 miles; Allow 3 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Max height: 475m; Min height: 270m; Total Climb: 161m;

Route Changes / Points to Note: In September 2018, the river South Tyne destroyed the bridge at Kirkhaugh. Until the bridge is repaired, there are a range of options, a couple of which are listed below and on the maps page:

  • walk from Alston to Randalhome Bridge, missing the Kirkhaugh section; or
  • carry on the Pennine Way to Thompson’s Well Bridge and return on the east side of the river, following the road and footpath through Barhaugh Park, meeting up with the Isaac’s Tea Trail on the east side of Kirkhaugh Bridge.

Maps: Alston to Ninebanks Map

Route Instructions

Alston Market Cross to Kirkhaugh footbridge

Distance 6.12 km or 3.80 miles

From the Market Cross walk down Alston’s cobbled street. At the junction below the old Town Hall, turn left onto the A686 Penrith road to the road bridge over the South Tyne River. Further on at the junction with the War Memorial, turn right on the A689 Brampton Road. On the right after a short distance is a footpath sign for the Pennine Way with the Isaac’s Tea Trail logo. Follow the path flanked by dry stonewalls with views back to Alston leads on and around Harbut Lodge to the left and out to a track back to the road.

Continue down the road and then cross at the next footpath sign for the Pennine Way with the Isaac logo just past Harbut Law Farm. Then follow up hill and then bear right for the gradual drop down to the Gilderdale Burn footbridge (the boundary between Cumbria and Northumberland.) Climb up and around from the burn and keep the drystone wall to the right over the well-worn path. Follow the Pennine Way signs that take you near the side of the ramparts of the Roman Fort of Epiacum. Drop down by Castle Nook Farm and cross back over the A689. Follow the Pennine Way footpath sign and Isaac logo by the telephone kiosk no longer in service.

Just beyond Dyke House Farm, Isaac’s Tea Trail bids, “Goodbye” to the Pennine Way. The trail drops away down to the solid stone bridge over the South Tynedale Railway near the halt of Kirkhaugh. Then goes carries on down by a footpath sign to cross the footbridge over the South Tyne River. Then down a track to the riverside road back towards Alston.

Kirkhaugh footbridge to Clarghyll road/track intersection

Distance 4.37 km or 2.72 miles

A visit to the Church of the Holy Paraclete at Kirkhaugh is recommended. Further down the road and just before Randalholm bridge, the trail leaves the road on the left and climbs above the Ayle Burn towards the hamlet of Ayle. From the roadside enter the field gate and head diagonally up the field towards the far corner below Kirkside Wood on the left. The path crosses meadows with ladder stiles and field gates before emerging from behind a barn onto the road at Ayle.

Keep right along the road until just pass Townfield Farm and climb over the ladder stile and look for the stile in the drystone wall ahead. Climb up and drop down and over to another stile on the left and further down in the drystone wall. This leads down to the Ayle Burn to a marker post, where hawthorns hide the approach to the footbridge.

On the other side continue upstream and then up to another stile towards Clarghyll Hall. Pass through a field gate onto the track between the house and the out buildings on the right up to the road. Then turn left at the footpath sign and continue down the road to the road junction at the  corner.  

Clarghyll to YHA Ninebanks

Distance 5.90 km or 3.67 miles

Follow Isaac’s Tea Trail footpath sign past the site of the Clarghyll Colliery to the next sign and up a rough track to cross the A686, (look out for traffic). Continue up past Clargillhead to the right.

Continue through field gates over the moorland track beyond Sandy Ford and over Ouston Fell. This section is popular with off road motor cyclists. The condition of the track deteriorates badly over the last mile of steep descent and may be easier on the bank above. At the road turn right into Mohope as far as YHA Ninebanks.