The Northern Saints Trails are a network of pilgrimage routes celebrating a group of powerful human beings known as the Northern Saints, who lived during Northumbria’s golden age in the seventh and eighth centuries. The most popular and well known of the saints include St Cuthbert, St Aidan, St Hilda, St Wilfrid, St Oswald and The Venerable Bede. Of those, St Cuthbert was the superstar to the extent that the area of Haliwerfolk between the Tyne and the Tees became known as the ‘The Liberty of St Cuthbert’. This meant it was not under direct rule of the king but instead actually belonged to, and was under the protection of, St Cuthbert. Even though he was dead! So St Cuthbert’s resting place at Durham Cathedral is a keystone of all these routes.
The Way of Light – Heavenfield to Durham (4-5 days, 45 miles, 72 kms, Yellow line on map)
This route links with St Oswald’s Way, starting with a descent from Heavenfield to Hexham Abbey, founded by St Wilfrid. Then the route follows the attractive valley of Devil Water, Slaley Forest, then across light and open moorland, and a railway path to Lanchester, after which the route ascends to the ‘Signing Field’ near Esh before eventually reaching Durham.
The Way of Life – Gainford to Durham (3 days, 27 miles, 43 kms, Orange line on map)
The route is connected to St Cuthbert’s last journey in his coffin from Ripon to Durham, during which Cuthbert spoke to the monks carrying him whilst dead in the coffin! It begins at St Mary’s Well by the Tees in Gainford before crossing sparsely populated farmland to West Auckland, then the Etherley Incline rail path before meeting the complete Saxon church at Escomb. Bishop Auckland’s museums and its Spanish and Mining art galleries follow, before you come to a wonderful ‘Mount Joy’ view of Durham Cathedral.
The Way of Love – Hartlepool to Durham (3 days, 28 miles, 45 kms, Red line on map)
Most of the churches on the route have female dedications – Hild, Mary Magdalene, Helen, Mary. Starting at St Hilda’s Church Hartlepool, the route follows the coast before turning inland to Hart, crossing Nesbitt Dene limestone gorge, then the medieval village of Garmondsway links with the course of King Canute’s 1027 barefoot pilgrimage before reaching Durham.
The Way of Learning – Jarrow to Durham (3-4 days, 38 miles, 61kms, Green line on map)
This route gives thanks for the learning made possible by the scholar Venerable Bede, without whom we would know almost nothing about the Northern Saints, and many other saints too. Starting at Jarrow Hall and St Paul’s Church, the route uses the existing Bede’s Way to St Peter’s Monkwearmouth. After continuing along the bank of the River Wear, you reach the Penshaw Monument before Chester-le-Street, where Cuthbert’s body lay in state for a while, before going on to St Godric’s Finchale Abbey and then Durham.
The Angel’s Way – Seaton Sluice to Chester-le-Street (3 days, 30 miles, 48 kms, White line on map)
The start connects the England Coast Path and the new Way of the Sea at Seaton Sluice and goes via the Chapel of Our Lady at Seaton Delavel, before St Mary’s Chapel and Well in Jesmond Dene near Newcastle City Centre, where you visit both cathedrals. Then you pass The Angel of the North before descending to the Team valley and use a railway path to reach Chester-le-Street.
The Way of the Sea – Warkworth to Jarrow (6 days, 62 miles, 100 kms, Blue line on map)
This route uses the existing England Coast Path, apart from the three miles from the ferry terminal at South Shields to Jarrow. It links with St Oswald’s Way at Warkworth and with The Way of Learning at Jarrow, and visits Tynemouth Priory, significant for 2000 years and loved for its sweeping coastal views.
Inspired by the stories of the A-Team of Northern Saints
Lots of route options within a relatively compact geographical area
County Durham and Northumberland’s open landscapes
Durham being a keystone of these routes
Holy Places that are mentioned in Britain’s Pilgrim Places book: Hartlepool; Escomb; Durham; Newton Hall / Finchale Priory; Chester-le-Street; Monkwearmouth; Jarrow; Tynemouth; Newcastle.