Harbottle Castle and The Drake Stone can be found in the magical Northumberland National Park. Sited on the edge of the MoD firing ranges, in an area bursting with prehistoric remains, the Drake Stone is a 30 foot tall sandstone erratic perched conspicuously on a ridge above Coquetdale. Only an 8.5-mile drive North West of Rothbury, The stone has a legend of supernatural healing powers and having been a meeting place of the druids in prehistoric times. Its prominent profile makes it easily visible as you travel through the valley, and affords the stone itself an extensive view north to the Cheviot massif. I’m quite lucky to have grown up in this area, as my Grandma runs the caravan park opposite Clennel Hall and have so many amazing memories from my adventures in and around Coquetdale.
To say I grew up in this area, I believe this was only my second or third time walking up to The Drake Stone. My son, being he’s only 6, is massively into his hiking so we took the opportunity when visiting my Grandma for Sunday lunch to swing via The Drake Stone and Harbottle Castle for a small walk.
There is free parking at both Harbottle Castle and at the Forestry Commission Car Park, be aware there are no toilets at either sites but if The Star Inn is open at Harbottle there are toilets there or alternatively pop into The Rose & Thistle to see Gareth, the landlord, he does a cracking Sunday lunch and it has the best beer garden with the most amazing views.
We parked our car at the Forestry Commission car park; which is situated right at the start of the path towards The Drake Stone. I do advice on wearing hiking boots as the path is rather muddy and boggy in places, it was when we visited and it hadn’t rained for a few days. Be sure to wrap up with layers too as you are right in the open and all of the elements hit you face on. Anyone with long hair, a word of advice, tie your hair up. I didn’t and neither did I bring a bobble with me and my hair was all over the place! I looked like Worzel Gummidge by the time we reached The Drake Stone.
The path is easy to navigate but once you head out of the forest and pass the cairns into the heather, the path becomes single file. My son was off though, running ahead with not a care in the world. He loves being out in nature. The views are absolutely breathtaking and once you get to the top not only are you faced with the sheer height and size of The Drake Stone but you’ll come face-to-face with Harbottle Lake, which is on the edge of the Ministry of Defence zone so keep an eye out for the red flags.
This is a fantastic short walk and took us just over one hour. It showcases both the historical and natural places of interest that Northumberland has to offer whilst taking in the mystical Drake Stone and Harbottle Lake. The Drake Stone was believed to have mystical powers complementing the nearby Simonside Hills - also believed to be a place of mystery and magic.
Harbottle Castle is a ruined medieval castle, situated at the west of Harbottle village and sits in the shadows of The Drake Stone. It is thought that the mound on which the keep stands was a site used by the ancient Britons and that in Saxon times there was a stronghold on the site held by Mildred, son of Ackman.The present castle was built around 1160 by the Umfraville family at the request of King Henry II on land awarded to them following the Norman Conquest, presumably as a defence against the Scots.It only takes a few minutes to walk to the top of the mound where the Harbottle Castle remains are but, again, the views are too good to miss. There are picnic benches in the ground of the castle ruins; perfect for when the warmer weather makes it appearance. If you’re stuck for something to do during the half term holidays or weekends this walk is perfect for you and the family. We only saw a handful of people during our time here and it was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of busier walks such as around The Derwent Walk or Cragside.
Please note: this walk is not accessible for pushchairs or wheelchair users.