Scottish Borders Region

Shillhope Law - G/SB-006

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Grid Reference NT 87309 09683
Latitude/Longitude 5522'51.3"N, 212'06.6"W
Maidenhead Square IO85VJ
Height 501 M / 1644 ft
Points 2
Bonus 3 points between 1/12 and 15/3
Activation History Summary,
Shillhope Law lies well into Upper Coquetdale, a very picturesque area of Northumberland well away from civilisation, but very popular with walkers, cyclists and others who enjoy getting out into the country away from it all.

Looking across the bridge over the Coquet at Weder Leap towards Shillhope Law

However the area is also a major military training area so the peace can often be disturbed by the sound of small arms fire, or even much heavier weaponry.  On your route to Shillhope Law, you will see at regular intervals, military warning and no entry signs on the left side of the road and the river Coquet, along with numerous red flags. These indicate the perimeter of the live firing area and while you may still find armed troops in action on the other side of the road and the river Coquet, their weapons will carry yellow attachments that signify only blank firing. You may even be stopped by troops to check whether you are part of their exercise. A characteristic of the area is sometimes the large number of spent blank ammunition cases amongst which there may occasionally be found one which failed to fire. If accompanied by children, the general advice is not to allow them to collect or play with spent ammunition cases just in case there is an unfired one amongst them.  At certain times of year, approaching Christmas, at lambing time (mid April-mid May),  and on about two weekends a month, there are non-firing days and on these days the red flags will come down and access to the MOD area, on certain roads, bridleways and footpaths is permitted.  Two publications, Public Access Guide, Otterburn Training Area and Upper Coquet Valley Access Guide, have been prepared jointly by the MOD and the National Park Authority and these can be obtained from National Park Information Centres, although they are sometimes like gold dust to obtain. In the last few years the MOD has adopted more visitor friendly approach, installing information boards at several points around the ranges and a website provides more information.

Most of the area around Shillhope Law, indeed much of upper Coquetdale became "open country" following the implementation of CRoW in May 2005. However there are quite a number of small areas that are not included in the "open country" and they ought to be fairly obvious as they tend to be enclosed fields. There are such areas both at Barrowburn and at Shillmoor, but these do not affect the suggested routes.

VHF activation with at least a half wave antenna, is practicable with good signals passing down the Coquet valley into the Northumberland and Tyneside areas.  Summit to summit is possible with other SB summits, LD, NP some SS and possibly SP.

Crown Copyright 2005
Image produced from Ordnance Survey's Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and
Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.
OS Map: Explorer OL 16 The Cheviot Hills
Note that "open country" is indicated by the light yellow shading
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Getting There,
From the south there are two options depending on your starting point:
  • Take the A697 north off the A1 just north of Morpeth, passing through the Northumberland village of Longhorsley. About 2 miles north of Longhorsley after quite a long downhill run, in the dip before a long steady rise toward the village of Longframlington, take the B6344 left for Rothbury.  Continue on the B6344 to the village of Rothbury where just as you come into Rothbury the road number changes to the B6341. Pass straight through Rothbury and the next village of Thropton and about  1.8 miles after Thropton where the B6341 turns left, a minor road, which you take, signposted for Alwinton, Harbottle, and Sharperton continues almost straight ahead. Continue on this road through Sharperton, Thropton, and into the village of Alwinton ignoring all other side roads. Arriving in Alwinton the road turns left, passes the Rose and Thistle on the left, and the National Park Car Park on the right, a convenient place for a toilet stop. From Alwinton onward this road is for some of the time a dead end at Chew Green after another 12 miles. However in recent years, provided the red flag at Chew Green is not flying (regardless of other red flags) the road up to middle golden pot and then down to the A68 via Cottonshope is open to traffic . Long before Chew Green, for Shillhope Law there are two suggested starting points, the first you will come to at Shillmoor,  just over 3 miles from Alwinton and the second just before Barrowburn from a car park on the left about 5.6 miles beyond Alwinton.
  •  From the A1 Newcastle Western Bypass take the slip road signposted for the A696 to Jedburgh and Ponteland, and proceed along this dual carriageway past Newcastle Airport, where the dual carriage way ends, through Ponteland and the village of Belsay, past Kirkwhelpington and the Knowesgate Motel,  till at the hamlet of Raylees 14 miles beyond Belsay, you take a right turn off the A696 into a minor road signposted for Elsdon. If you wish to avoid this minor road which is quite narrow, you can continue on the A696 for a further 1.9 miles, where you make a very sharp right turn into the B6341 signposted for Elsdon and Rothbury. From Elsdon follow the directions from the north west immediately below.

From the north west take the A68 south passing through Jedburgh, past the Catcleugh reservoir and through the Redesdale Forest.  Just over 2 miles after passing through Rochester, in a very short section of dual carriageway, the A68 branches off to the right and the road straight ahead, on which you continue, becomes the A696. Two miles south of this, you will come into the village of Otterburn and about a mile further on, where the A696 turns to the right, continue straight ahead onto the B6341 for Elsdon and Rothbury.  At Elsdon continue to follow the B634 which bears left up the hill at the far end of the village. Continue on the B6341 through the Grasslees Valley and watch out for a road on the left after about 5 miles from Elsdon and shortly after a National Park car Park, that you should take, signposted for Holystone.  After just over three miles on this road and after passing through Holystone you will come to a T junction where you turn left. Your are now on the road toward Harbottle and  Alwinton as detailed above from the south, so follow those directions above.

The Otterburn Ranges website suggests that the Cottonshope road will be open most of the year, although several times I have been there it has been closed. Shortly after passing the Catcleugh reservoir and Byrness, there is a signposted road on your left at Low Byrness for the military ranges. The website indicates that if there is no red flag at this point then access to the coquet valley via the Cottonshope Road up to Middle Golden Pot and then left down Dere Street to Chew Green is possible. From there you simply follow the road down the valley past Makendon, Fullhope, Blindburn, Carlcroft, Carshope and will arrive at Wedder Leap car park just after Barrowburn.  So it is worth checking whether there is a red flag flying on the post at Low Byrness. Of course a week either side of Christmas and from mid April to mid May the ranges are normally open, so the route should be open. 

From the north east take the A1 south to Alnwick and just after the road opens to a dual carriageway, take the slip road up the ramp and turn right across the bridge toward  Alnwick.  You have to follow signs toward the centre of Alnwick but keep an eye out for signs for the B6341 to Rothbury and take that road.  Just over 6 miles from the outskirts of Alnwick there is a crossroads of the B6341 with the A697. Continue straight across this which will take you into Rothbury and from here follow the first option directions as from the south above.

Suggested Approach,
For this summit there are two routes popular with walkers and some walking routes traverse Shillhope Law going up one

The trig point surrounded by a cairn on the summit of Shillhope Law

of these and down the other.

Shillmoor Approach:  approx walk in 1.65 miles 2.65km
There is space for parking at the side of the road beside the cluster of houses at Shillmoor NT 88545 07760. From there take the old road that passes between the houses and then take the left fork when it branches shortly after. Thereafter simply follow the track up to Inner Hill, across the ridge, then up to the summit of Shillhope Law.  In fact there are now several quad bike tracks heading up the last part of the hill and most will lead to the summit. The trig point here is surrounded by a hollow cairn so careful positioning can offer some shelter from the wind.

Barrowburn Approach:  approx walk in 0.85 miles 1.37km
There is a car park at NT 8663 1033, Wedder Leap, just before Barrowburn in the grounds of what was originally a school. However this parking facility is under threat as the MOD may wish to use the site for other purposes, so it may disappear. From the car park, cross the road and then the river over the bridge at NT 8667 1042. Head straight across the edge of the trees and after going through the gate turn right (south). Cross the shoulder of the hill, aiming for the obvious valley with a fence on your right. You will see a fence in front of you which is topped with barbed wire but at NT 8702 1017 there is a small wooden step (not exactly a stile) which will allow you to cross safely. Continue up the valley following the line of the fence till you meet a quad bike track and a gate through the fence where you turn right to follow the track up to the summit.

GPS Route Download,

Shillmoor Approach:
Download Garmin Mapsource GDB format
Download Memory Map format

Barrowburn Approach:
Download Garmin Mapsource GDB format
Download Memory Map format

Post Summit Retreat,
For refreshments after activation,  the Rose and Thistle in Alwinton serves food at lunchtime except on Mondays when it is closed at lunchtime apart from Bank Holidays and is very used to walkers as probably most of its daytime customers are outdoor enthusiasts.  A short distance further down the valley at Harbottle, the Star Inn is a favourite evening haunt of many of the local shepherds. Considerably further down the valley at Thropton, the Cross Keys on the left as you climb out of the village on the other/eastern side has a reputation for its varied fish menu, and the landlady has been known to conjure up fish and chips late into the afternoon for starving walkers.  Of course if your return trip takes you back through Rothbury, there is always the Newcastle Hotel that is recommended on the SB-007 Tosson Hill and SB-008 Long Crag pages.

Last updated 12th June 2009