abbey walks

St Aelred's Way

abbey monk  This 267km / 166 mile linear walk starts at Rievaulx Abbey, England and finishes at its daughter house, Melrose Abbey in Scotland. This walk from Rievaulx Abbey is a dedication to the life of its best known abbot St. Aelred. It is therefore fitting, that this new pilgrim route should be called the St. Aelred's Way


The journey from Rievaulx Abbey uses the modern day footpath network north to Scotland keeping as close as possible to the Roman Road of Dere Street. Monks, as they traveled, would have stayed at houses belonging to their order that were located in towns they visited along their route. Today this modern route to Melrose Abbey ensures that accommodation is available along the way without incurring too much distance. The exceptions to this are stages 8 & 10 which take the walker across large areas of open countryside with little or no provision until the end of each stage.


The St. Aelred's Way is an amalgamation of easy to navigate footpath networks, some of which follow parts of recognized long distance paths, for example the Cleveland Way and the Pennine Way. It also uses a mixture of bridleways, green lanes, riverside paths, disused railway lines, quiet country lanes and some roads which are unavoidable in order to reach the accommodation for the night.


The countryside along the route is spectacular, and each day gives a different perspective of the area being walked through, especially as there is a rich tapestry of history along the way that cannot be ignored.


From the start, the route passes through the North York Moors National Park and Farndale which is resplendent in spring time with thousands of daffodils which were planted by monks probably from Rievaulx and nearby Rosedale Abbey. Continue past Baysdale Abbey, now a holiday home, to reach the industrial areas of Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. Leave them behind to reach the Roman and medieval town of Sedgefield before reaching Durham Cathedral which is known as one of the finest buildings in Europe and is a World Heritage site. It is worth spending an extra day in Durham


Stage 6 reminds the walker of England's industrial steel heritage as it reaches Consett, a now quiet commuter town. The route becomes more undulating as it heads towards Hexham ( the birthplace of St Aelred ) and its medieval abbey. The journey to Bellingham, in the Northumberland National Park, is remote and in parts is isolated as it crosses the World Heritage site of Hadrians Wall, leaving what was once Roman Britain behind to enter Scotland. The modern day Scotland - England border is one more day away, no passports are required to cross it. Today there is no need to worry about Border Rievers who were raiders along the Anglo-Scottish border from the late 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century, but the serenity and vastness of the area gives an indication of how dangerous it would have been to either live or cross this area during those times.


There are two days of further remote and isolated walking to the ruined Augustinan Abbey of Jedburgh. The route then joins long distance path the Pennine Way through the Cheviot Hills and past Chew Green, a complex arrangement of Roman military camps close to the Roman road of Dere street. Leave the Pennine Way and the National Park and follow Dere Street to Jedburgh and most of the way to Newtown St Boswells. The final short section allows for plenty of time to visit Melrose Abbey, the first Cistercian Abbey in Scotland.


Click on a stage name to get details and see map information.


Stage Name                     Distance (km)    Distance (miles)    Time (hours)

Stage 1: Rievaulx Abbey to Church Houses



6.5 - 7

Stage 2: Church Houses to Newton under Roseberry                         



9.5 - 10

Stage 3: Newton under Roseberry to Middlesbrough



4 - 4.5
Stage 4: Middlesbrough to Sedgefield 18.8 11.6 4 - 4.5
Stage 5: Sedgefield to Durham Cathedral 21.4 13.2 5.5 - 6
Stage 6: Durham Cathedral to Consett 23.1 14.4 5.5 - 6
Stage 7: Consett to Hexham Abbey 26.6 16.5 7.5 - 8
Stage 8: Hexham Abbey to Bellingham 30.3 19.1 8.5 - 9
Stage 9: Bellingham to Byrness 23.7 14.7 6.5 - 7
Stage 10: Byrness to Jedburgh Abbey 32.3 20 8.5 - 9
Stage 11: Jedburgh Abbey to Newtown St Boswells 21 13 5.5 - 6
Stage 12: Newtown St Boswells to Melrose Abbey 4.6 2.8 1 - 1.5


Route Overview:



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Walking can be a dangerous sport.  Walkers should always be suitably equipped, including carrying and knowing how to use a map and compass.