Tarset Bastle Trail

Kielder, Hadrians Wall & Hexham
May 30, 2020

Tarset Bastle Trail…

Is what I’ve eventually decided to call this route based on the visitor information board. Reivers Trail and Black Middens as it’s referred to in the guidebook is a bit of a mouthful!

Reivers Trail and Black Middens are in reference to the area’s violent and criminal past, with stone homes built as defensive fortified positions to protect from burglars and bandits.

Start / End

Black Middens


Hilltop Ruins

Reiver Ruins

Iron Age Settlement

Route Details

6.5km (2 hours)
Map OS Explorer OL42
Parking Limited free parking on road

On a gloriously sunny day,

and with a renewed commitment to hitting our 20 walks for 2020 target despite the pandemic setback – we decided to tackle our second walk within the same week (having visited 📄 Swallowship Pool a few days prior).

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Some route analysis

Whilst not photographed – the road into this route was fun for me, yet terrifying for Rachael. A single track uneven road with cattle grids, peaks, valleys and cliffs – not for faint-hearted drivers.

Upon arrival, we took a moment to let Rachael’s heart rate climb down from the white knuckle ride and change into our walking shoes.

We then took a gander at the visitor information board next to the car, comparing it with the route in the guidebook – they matched, success!

The guidebook recommended checking out the Black Middens before heading out as it’s just up a small hill from the car park.

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Black Middens approach

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Ta dah!

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Mama sheep had no time for me

The Midden’s description of thick stone walls is a bit of an understatement. The mind boggles at how much sweat must have gone into their creation without the aid of modern-day construction equipment.

After poking both our heads in (and posing in Rachael’s case) it was time to start making a dent in the 6.5km route.

Setting out down the road it wasn’t long before we made our first error…

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Headed to the Bastles

When the guidebook advised to turn right into what appeared to be overgrown marshland, and not a clearly marked route, I convinced Rachael that the actual route must be further up ahead…

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A very new looking sign

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Phone camera’s don’t do nature justice

After another 10 minutes of walking, it was clear that we had missed the correct turning but decided to press on to simply walk that portion of the route in reverse.

In hindsight, the failure in route judgement resulted in arguably better views headed up the hill as opposed to walking down it on the return path.

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Barty’s Bastle

Heading up and over the Shila hill – past a large area of deforestation – the route dips back down to a stream that connects to the Tarset Burn river.

Among the uncertain ground are two Bastle ruins which used to be the home of Barty Milburn – a notorious local who killed two Scots whilst reclaiming his stolen sheep.

Once past the Bastle ruins and uncertain grounds that surround them, we headed along the river and through the nearby woodland.

It was at this point we passed a dog walker who clearly knew the correct way to walk the route, before ascending shingle steps towards the top of Shila hill.

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Looping back

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Iron Age settlement! 

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Beginning to get a little lost

After exiting back onto the main road via ‘that’ turn I didn’t want to take earlier, we continued onto the second half of the route.

Remembering the visitor information board mentioned an Iron Age Settlement (that was not part of the route in the guidebook), we decided to add a small excursion to our Tarset Bastle trail route.

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An unassuming bench

As we ascended into the woodland, we looked for an appropriate spot to take a mid-route selfie and were thrilled to spot a wooden bench overlooking the stream in the ravine below. 

tarset bastle trail Selfie

Bench selfie!

Having been thoroughly distracted by the bench – Rachael and I continued on ahead. We had completely missed the left turn we were meant to take before the bench which is actually visible in the photo above.

After realising our error and cutting back through the unmarked and potentially dangerous woodland, we rediscovered the correct path to the 📌Iron Age settlement.

The opening to the Iron Age Settlement was marked by a truly stunning tree, with a Game of Thrones Wearwood tree vibe.

Using the nearby information board – the boundaries and structure of what otherwise looks like an uninteresting open patch of ground within the forest came to light.

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The stunning tree upon the Iron Age settlement

After having already taken two wrong turns, we decided we were pushing our luck when considering whether to extend the walk to Sidwood. Instead we opted to simply retrace our steps back to the bridge leading to the final field.

The bridge was a little unstable, but we still found time to play a quick game of Pooh sticks which Rachael won (she cheated!). We then headed around the field respecting the marked public footpath back to the car to complete the Tarset Bastle trail.

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Headed back 

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Perfect pooh sticks opportunity

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Where’s the car?!

Once back at the car we headed out to Bellingham with a view to completing the Hareshaw Linn route. Sadly, upon arrival it was clear that the fine weather had attracted hundreds out of their homes and tackling this route whilst conforming to social distancing was impossible.

We ate our packed lunch in the car and headed home. Hareshaw Linn is now on the ‘to tackle post-pandemic’ list and will be leaning towards more rural and hopefully less crowded routes for the next few months.  



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