Hepburn is a Forestry Commission wood, north of Alnwick and west of Belford
An easy to moderate 2 mile walk through a forest, with some prehistoric remains on route. No real facilities. The first part of the walk should be suitable for disabled access.
Postcode for Satnav - NE66 4EG. This is the post code for Hepburn Farm cottages. The car park is just past here.
From Alnwick, take the B6346 road that starts opposite the gates of Alnwick castle and follow this road for about 6 miles to Edlingham village. After about another 5 miles, the road bends to the left, with a right hand turn signposted Hepburn and Hepburn Woods. Take this turn, follow the road for abour a mile, and you will see the car park on your right.
From Belford and the North, go into Belford village then take the B6349 signposted Wooler. Follow this road for about a mile and you will see a left hand turn singposed with the symbols for Chillingham castle (Casltle, flower, white bulls head). Turn this way and after about 4 miles you come the a 'T' junction. Turn right and follow this road into Chatton village. In the village, take a left hand turn signposted Alnwick, Chillingham, and follow this road past Chillingham castle and you will see the turn off for Hepburn on your left.
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Head up into the woods from the car park, and follow the road through the woods. After about 500 yards you will see the ancient stone cist by a junction in the path. The pathway carries on for almost a mile and then bends to the right and goes downhill. Keep following the pathway down and around the woods and it eventually it goes back uphill again and rejoins the top path by the stone cist. Turn left here and you come back to the car park.
There are alternative walks in the woods. As you leave the car park you go through a gateway. Just past the gateway on the left there is a very steep path that you can scramble up, then reach a hill fort at the top. There is then a pathway that runs along the top of the hill. You can also walk past the hill fort and over to Ros Castle, another large hill fort and settlement with views over the Till valley.
The cist that you see on the walk is from the Bronze Age and was discovered in the 1990s. It is basically 4 flat stone slabs arranged in a box, with capstone, or lid, on the ground nearby. Cists were used to hold the bodies of the dead, or maybe just their bones, and ornaments to take with them to the next life.
The ruin in the fields opposite the car park is marked on the map as a 'bastle' and is usually called Hepburn Bastle. It might be as old as the 1300s, but first appears in the records in 1509, and is a typical fortified homestead from the troubled border days. A Bastle is a sort of fortified farmhouse and this ruin is on a grander scale, more like a 'fortified medieval tower house'.
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