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  • Julie Muller

CRAGSIDE : A Summer Stroll to discover BUILDING CRAGSIDE

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

There are two walks which start at Dunkirk Car Park . These are the Rocky Ramble (waymarked brown)and the Building Cragside walk (waymarked yellow . )

Dog sits inside the stone ruined walls of a building. There  are lots of ferns and shrubs growing  in and around the ruin.
She sits inside the ruins of the Shepherd's Hut.

On one sunny afternoon in mid-August, we set off to explore the Building Cragside Walk which I think is one of the most exciting walks on the Cragside estate.

After a short trot along the carriage drive, we found the yellow way marker and we climbed up a long flight of stone steps past vertical rocky crags on one side, and tall sky-scraping pine trees on the other.

Some of the trees seemed to have sprouted out of the rocks themselves and were anchored by huge armlike roots that twisted and wound their way through the boulders like gigantic anacondas.

We walked through tunnels of rock and stone arches festooned in rhododendron and coral berries.

And then the walk got even more exciting, and we had to scramble up and over precipitous stone steps that were a bit of a challenge for all of us – except for Bruno of course. Julie found it quite difficult to hold on to our leads.

We climbed higher and higher between steep stone cliffs - with the ever-present rhododendrons perching astride enormous lumps of rock.

Eventually the path levelled out and on one side of us there was a large area of flat ground which was littered with fallen trees all of them smothered in bright purple heather.

We left this sunny glade behind us, and we continued along the path – now covered in a thick carpet of leaf litter and pine needles which felt soft and warm to our paws. It had a deliciously earthy smell. We were surrounded by hedges of vegetation.

And then around a corner we came across the roofless remains of a small rectangular building which used to be a shepherd’s hut. Naturally I just had to go inside, and I tugged Julie in with me.

We left the shepherds hut behind us and continued exploring the walk which soon joined up with the Gun walk.

We climbed up a boulder strewn path past a bench with amazing views. We trotted over sinewy roots that crisscrossed the path and eventually we descended into Cragend car park.

This is where the building materials for the construction of Cragside house were quarried – hence – the name of the walk.

We sniffed our way around the base of the rock faces whilst Julie looked for marks that showed where the sandstone has been blasted out of the rock. It must have been so noisy when the quarrying was taking place – such a contrast to the peace and quiet of today.

There were three cars in the car park and several humans ferreting about in their boots for their picnic paraphernalia - Julie led us past quickly so that Bruno didn’t get too interested.

We left the chatter and clatter behind us and continued to explore.

Soon we found ourselves back at the open area where the tree smothering heather and young rhododendrons were vying for space.

We thought that the most exciting part of the walk was over, but the best was yet to come, and we soon found ourselves scrabbling along paths that twisted and. wound their way through thickets of vegetation which curled over our heads like a woody tunnel. It was as if we were walking in an enchanted forest – it was amazing.

Finally, the end was in sight, and we clambered wearily down a tumble of stone steps back on to the Carriage Drive .

We were absolutely exhausted, but what a walk!

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