Three Forts Foray

Starting from Hethpool, this route takes in three of the hillforts in the College Valley, each of which have their own distinguishing features.

The steep climb up to Great Hetha, one of the largest hillforts in the College Valley, is well worth it. Take your time on the top and enjoy the wonderful panoramic view of the valley and the high hills of the Cheviots.

Walk overview

Walk difficulty
Moderate
Walk distance
5.5 miles / 8.8km
Walk duration
3.5 hours
Location
The Cheviots
Recommended OS Map
O.S. Explorer OL16 The Cheviot Hills
Accessible
No
Dog friendly
No

Step by step route

From the car park turn left

From the car park turn left and walk along the College Valley road.

Leave the valley road opposite the white the house

Leave the valley road opposite the white the house, and follow the track up to the right which is signed ‘Trowupburn & Border Ridge’.

Once past the shed

Once past the shed, as the track bears round to the left, take the grassy path up to the right. Continue up this path.

On reaching the top of the hill turn right

On reaching the top of the hill turn right and continue along the path to Sinkside Hill hillfort

When you have finished exploring the hillfort

When you have finished exploring the hillfort retrace your steps back to point 4.

The drystone ramparts of this hillfort are more complete than most. Here you can see one of the best-preserved examples of Iron Age masonry. The hillfort was later adapted as a stock enclosure by local shepherds who built a rectangular house and a series of pens in the southwest part.

The site has been left ungrazed since the conifers were planted and the grassy tussocks that have been developed have obscured most of the hillfort’s internal features.

On re-joining the main track turn right

On re-joining the main track turn right, go through the gate and continue straight on.

At the junction bear right

At the junction bear right and head downhill to the sheep pens. In summer the route can be difficult to follow through patches of bracken.

At the bottom of the hill, cross the burn

At the bottom of the hill, cross the burn and cut through the sheep pens via the two field gates. Once through the pens follow the tarmac road up hill, keeping Trowupburn house on your right.

As the road bears round to the left

As the road bears round to the left, turn right, cross the stile (signed ‘Great Hetha’) and continue up the well-worn path to the summit of Great Hetha.

When you have finished exploring the site...

When you have finished exploring the site leave through the gap in the ramparts on the west side of the hillfort. Follow the path downhill to the ladder stile.

Great Hetha is one of the most impressive hillforts in the College Valley. Many of the stones from the ramparts still lie where they fell, so it is easy to imagine the size of these massive walls. From Great Hetha there is a wonderful panoramic view of the valley and the high hills of the Cheviots.

Cross the ladder stile

Cross the ladder stile and turn right along the path to Little Hetha.

Little Hetha occupies the summit of a spur with very steep slopes on three sides. It has two ramparts of earth and stone, except on the north side where a further rampart was added. Stone-robbing and reoccupation in medieval and later times has disturbed the interior, though the footprints of the Iron Age roundhouses can still be seen.

Return to the ladder stile

Return to the ladder stile, cross back over and continue straight ahead along the track.

Keeping the plantation on your left

Keeping the plantation on your left continue downhill, on re-joining the valley road turn left and retrace your route back to the car park.

Walk route

Getting there

From the South:

Leave the A1 for the A697 north of Morpeth, signed for Coldstream. Stay on the road until a couple of miles north of Wooler; at Akeld buildings there is a left turn signposted to Kirknewton and Yetholm. Turn left and follow the road for three miles. Go through Kirknewton and over the little bridge, just after the bridge there are some cottages on the left. At the end of the cottages turn left, signposted to Hethpool.