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More about Otterburn village 

Arriving in the quiet village of Otterburn today, it’s hard to imagine this peaceful idyll was once the centre of fierce fighting and home to a legendary battle between the English and the Scots.

Sitting in the heart of Redesdale, Otterburn is the ideal location to explore the area and delve into thousands of years of history.

Otterburn takes its name from the confluence of the Otter Burn, which simply means otter stream – a stream frequented by otters. 

For a small village, there are a lot of amenities, including the Border Reiver Village Shop and Café, Otterburn Mill Shop and Café, and the William de Percy Inn and Creperie (formerly the Percy Arms). Otterburn is also now a very popular location for weddings thanks to the boutique hotel and wedding venue, Le Petit Château.

Taking pride of place in Otterburn village is Otterburn Castle, which includes stone from the original Otterburn Tower. Whilst it’s not known when Otterburn Tower was first built, it did exist during the Battle of Otterburn (1388) as the Scots attempted to take over the tower, but failed because, according to chronicler Sir John Froissart, it was “tolerably strong and situated amongst the marshes”. The Grade II listed castle you see today was rebuilt in the 19th century by Thomas James of Beaufront near Hexham and is now a hotel, restaurant and bar. 

Otterburn Mill, which would become world-famous in the 19th century for its tweeds and blankets, today sells a wide range of country, outdoor and leisure clothing. It also has a popular cafe – Rena’s Country Kitchen – which sells a selection of cakes, cream cakes, light bites and lunches. Look out for the famous Otterburn Pram Rug which was gifted to Queen Elizabeth II on her birth.

Other sites of interest include St. John the Evangelist Church, which was designed by John Dobson, a prolific architect born in South Shields in 1787, and houses the head of The Percy Cross. The church can be found in the centre of Otterburn village, a short walk from Otterburn Castle.

The Percy Cross, which was erected to commemorate the Battle of Otterburn in 1388, can be found in a wooded copse of trees just north of the A696, 1km west of Otterburn village. Its location originally marked the exact location where the 2nd Earl of Douglas was slain during the battle of 1388 but it has been moved over the years.

Thanks to Otterburn’s popularity as a location to explore Redesdale, there are lots of accommodation options available, from shepherds’ huts and hotels, to cosy B&Bs and self catering cottages.

More about the geology of Redesdale

The rocks which form the stepped sides of the Rede Valley, north of Byrness, date back from the Silurian period (400 million years ago) when they were formed from thick ocean sediments. There are andesite (a type of volcanic rock) outcrops at the head of a valley and a whinstone dyke. However, the majority of the area is made up of layers of sedimentary limestone, sandstone, shale and coal that were deposited during the Carboniferous period. 

There is very little surface limestone within the valley, but one important site is the area of sloping, well-jointed pavement of Carboniferous limestone which forms part of the Mill and Whiskershiel Burn Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where the underlying geology has created calcareous mire flush and fen vegetation communities. 

Cottonshope Head Quarry SSSI is the only good exposure of Lower Carboniferous lava flows in North East England and is important because it provides critical evidence on the role of volcanic activity in the development of the Northumberland Basin during the Carboniferous period.

The coal seams in this part of Northumberland are also relatively modest but there was sufficient coal to support a small drift mine in Elsdon that was active until the 1970s. The iron-rich rocks around Ridsdale are also renowned for their rich fossil fauna and are protected as an SSSI (Redsdale ironstone quarries).

During the quaternary period (around 2.6 million years ago), the underlying rocks of Redesdale – as in the rest of Northumberland – were heavily influenced by the effects of glaciation, with the bedrock being covered with glacial till. This till is generally thin and sandy on the upland plateaux, but thicker and heavier on lower ground and in the dales. This has created a landscape of large scale rolling plateaux with expanses of sweeping moorland. The relatively high rainfall in these upland areas, combined with low temperatures, is sufficient to promote extensive peat and blanket bog accumulation. The Redesdale catchment contains around 7,034 hectares of peatland, with a significant area found on the Whitelee National Nature Reserve (over 1,262 hectares), on the Otterburn Training Area, and on the eastern edge of the valley around Troughend Common.

The River Rede is a morphologically varied water course crossing predominantly lower Carboniferous sandstone and limestone overlain by extensive deposits of glacial and fluvio-glacial material. The river has eroded a watercourse and valley bottom of sections of step pool, pool rapid, pool riffle and plane bed interspersed with bedrock influenced by step-pool reaches. With average annual rainfall of around 950mm, the River Rede’s water course often changes as banks are eroded and sediment is deposited elsewhere. The River Rede has, however, been heavily modified in some sections through bed lowering, straightening and dredging. This has impacted on the natural river processes and has affected the ecology of the river.

The story of Padon Hill

Sitting at the top of Padon Hill, about four miles west of Otterburn, is a large stone cairn, or currick, known as Padon Hill Monument (nicknamed the Pepperpot). It was erected to mark the golden wedding anniversary of Sir Charles and Lady Morrison-Bell of nearby Otterburn Hall.

Many historians have argued it was also a monument in recognition of the prominent Presbyterian preacher, Alexander Peden. It’s claimed that the stones to build the monument  were taken from an old church built by Peden, who preached in the remote area of Redesdale to avoid the authorities.

Find out more about other places to visit in Redesdale through the landing pages for the interpretation panels along the valley.
For information about self guided walks in the area see our walks page with downloadable pdfs of 18 walk routes.