The cave, more a massive lump of overhanging sandstone than a true cave holds a special place in our Christian religious history. It is reputed to be the place, where the monks, perhaps fleeing Viking raids in AD875 rested on the first night of the Flight from Lindisfarne with the body of St. Cuthbert. The journey from Lindisfarne took them initially to Melrose and ultimately to Durham Cathedral, the final resting place of St. Cuthbert. The National Trust now owns the land where the Cave is located.
The sandstone in and around the cave is littered with 'graffiti', not spray paint, but visitors over the centuries have carved and chiselled their names and initials into its walls. It is said the romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge came this way and the initials WHW 1849 leap out and fire the imagination, however, Wordsworth died in 1850 and I'm certain he didn't have a middle name, but you just never know. The oldest date I can find is 1753; you can have some fun looking for more. A giant block of stone resembling a slumbering dragon guards the entrance to the Cave, perhaps another legend to weave a story around.
There are two great walks, a longer one from the village of Belford and a shorter one from Holborn Grange, where a small National Trust car park gets you to within half a mile of the Cave. If you choose to go to Holborn Grange, then after visiting the cave, head up the hill behind it, pop over a stile and head for the rocky crag just beyond a drystone wall. You'll be rewarded with some cracking views of the Northumberland Coast. On a clear day, of which we have many, you can see three castles, Lindisfarne, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh as well as the Farne Islands. Look the other way and you are looking towards the Cheviot Hills; views which may have changed little since St. Cuthbert passed this way, both in life and in death.
The longer circular walk from Belford, takes you through farmland, woodland and across heather moor. It includes St. Cuthbert's Cave of course, all of the great views mentioned above and the walk wouldn't be complete without popping into and around the remarkable geological feature that is Cockenheugh (hoof). About a half mile before St. Cuthbert's Cave Wood, a narrow gap in the trees on your right takes you into Cockenheugh, Northumberland's Monument Valley. Here huge blocks of sandstone eroded and carved over millennia are a delight for young and old. If you look carefully, you might see ET's head and eyes peering out from the rock face. Caves, mysterious holes and huge arches are fun to discover. Look carefully and ripples in the sandstone layers tell the story of massive upheavals somewhere in geological time, testament to the age of this remarkable place, exposed for all who venture in.
The villages of Belford and Lowick are nearby centres; both have good facilities, shops to buy supplies in and places for post walk refreshments. So, do venture out to St. Cuthbert's Cave, it's a great place, but the landscape you are walking through has so much more to offer than just the Cave, stand, stare and reflect, you'll be pleased you walked this way.