This village, made up of farm buildings and cottages, lies at the entrance to the College Valley in Glendale, on the very northern edge of the National Park boundary. Kirknewton is the only conservation area in Northumberland National Park. It was created in 1996 to protect and enhance the special architectural and historical interest of the area.
The Village Hall in Kirknewton is also a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site perfect for viewing the dark skies over the Northumberland National Park.
History of Kirknewton
A bronze-socketed axe was found on the summit of Easter Tor in 1904, which suggests it was once a holy place. The village was designated part of the barony of Wark-on-Tweed, set up by King Henry I in the 12th century to reward key supporters. The parish church of St Gregory’s was often damaged by hostile armies and raiders. It was so bad in 1436 that the priest was licensed to say mass outside the church for ‘so long as the hostility of the Scots then existing should continue’. It is very close to the archaeological remains in College Valley and Yeavering Bell and Gefrin.
The College Valley is one of the gems of Northumberland National Park. Owned by the College Valley Estate, this peaceful, unspoilt place is free to roam on foot or by bicycle.
Enjoy the rocky gorge of Hethpool Linn. In autumn, sea trout and salmon can be seen leaping up this burn on their way to spawning grounds upstream.
Native woodlands provide shelter for roe deer, hares and wild goats. At any time of year, the dramatic change in light gives a different view.
What’s on offer
A paradise for walkers and wildlife watchers. There’s a private road beyond Hethpool but you can buy permits from John Sale and Partners in Wooler. Mounthooly Youth Hostel and visitor accommodation.
The history of College Valley
People have lived here for at least 7,000 years. The earliest settlers were late Stone Age farmers. You can see the remains of one great stone circle just next to the National Park’s car park at Hethpool.
The early part of the Bronze Age was warmer than today, so crops could be grown quite high up. Some cultivation terraces and many burial cairns date back to this time.
From the Iron Age – about 2,800 years ago – people built timber roundhouses within a large timber fence. The remains of a very complex and well-preserved Romano-British settlement lie opposite Hethpool House.
Being so close to Scotland, the valley suffered during hostilities between English and Scottish armies from the 14th to 16th centuries. Raids by the Border Reivers took their toll.
This house and the buildings known as Hethpool Cottages were built by the famous Tyneside industrialist, Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland. The dilapidated house was restored in the 1910s and 1920s to have a Scottish feel.
These amazing ruins were built some 2,300 years ago, during the Iron Age. Some hillforts were seasonal settlements, used when grazing cattle in the summer, others may have been used for ceremonies.
- Great Hetha: Many of the stones from the ramparts still lie where they fell, so it is easy to imagine the size of these massive walls. There is a wonderful panoramic view of the College Valley and the high hills of the Cheviots.
- Little Hetha: Here you can still see the footprints of Iron Age roundhouses.
- Ring Chesters: With double earthen ramparts, it is one of the most stunning hillforts in the National Park. The elaborated entrance to the North West suggested the builders were literally ‘bigging it up’ to impress the neighbours.
- North Blackhaggs: Inside the stone-built ramparts, you can see platforms for the timber-built roundhouses, plus the remains of two later stone-built roundhouses from Roman times.
- Sinkside: The dry stone ramparts of this site are more complete than most. Here you can see one of the best preserved examples of Iron Age masonry.
- Mid Hill: Within the enclosure are the circular impressions left by the original Iron Age timber-built roundhouses. During Roman times, the enclosure was divided in half, with a stone-built roundhouse in each, and the hillfort walls were rebuilt.
Did you know?
The trees at the north end of the valley, behind Hethpool House, are known as the Collingwood Oaks.
They were planted by the wife of Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood, who took command of the fleet after Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Sadly Lord Collingwood died in 1810, en route home to England, and never saw the trees.
Car: Follow the A1 and A697 to B6351 in Northumberland, then take that road to Kirknewton.