As the UK’s second largest Area of Outstanding Beauty and its first UNESCO European and Global Geo Park, the North Pennines has an incredible diversity of landscape and wildlife, making it a walkers' paradise. With dramatic waterfalls, rare hayfields and traditional dry stone walls, open heather heathlands, peatlands, woodlands and a fascinating industrial heritage, there are many different walks in the North Pennines to suit all interests!
#1 The Teesdale Way
The Teesdale Way is a beautifully varied 98 mile walking trail from Dufton in Cumbria to the North Sea coast at South Gare, near Redcar. It passes from the uplands of Teesdale to the picture perfect countryside of County Durham, the industrial heartland of Teesside and ends with the gorgeous sandy beaches of Redcar. For the most part, the route follows the River Tees with walkers beginning their journey by following the signposts for the Pennine Way until they reach the charming village of Middleton-in-Teesdale and from then on the signs for the Teesdale Way.
Not to be missed along the way are the the waterfalls of Cauldron Snout and High Force, as well as the uncommonly named Cow Green Reservoir. If you need a break, there are plenty of lovely stops throughout the route with golden stoned villages and market towns, such as Barnard Castle.
#2 Frosterley - in search of Frosterley Marble
Located on the eastern edge of the North Pennines, Frosterley is a former centre for the quarrying of limestone and the unique fossil embedded Frosterley marble. This type of stone is not really marble, but a type of limestone packed with fossils that when polished has a brilliant shine that gives it its unique marble-like qualities. One of the best places to see Frosterley marble is in the spectacular Durham cathedral. In the 12th century Norman monks used the stone as decorative pillars to adorn the cathedral's Nine Altars Chapel.
There are 3 versions of this walk, each a bit longer from 1.3 to 7.5 miles, so you can choose the best one to fit your interests. The longer ones provide amazing views of the Weardale countryside with its ancient woodlands, limestone valleys and of course the history of the quarrying in the region.
#3 Derwent Gorge North Pennine Birdwalk
A remnant of the once abundant woodland that covered the North Pennines, the venerable oak forest in the Derwent Gorge is now a National Nature Reserve overseen by Natural England rich in rare plants. While the trail is just 1.3 miles long, it offers many opportunities for encountering the ambundant wildlife, especially the resident and migratory birds which fill the wood with their chatter and song.
Make sure to look out for yellowhammers, linnets, skylarks and whitethroats and keep your ears alert for redstarts, willow warbler, chiff chaff and more! Panoramic views over the treetops from the gorge are breathtaking and those with an interest in plants can discover the many unusual species, such as enchanter’s nightshade, which flourish in this unique woodland habitat.
#4 The Blanchland Geotrail
Formed over the past 300 million years, the unique landscape of the North Pennines has a fantastic geological record which you can explore through its many geotrails. The Blanchland Geotrail is particularly interesting as the landscape has been shaped by tropical seas and glaciers and in the more recent past by miners extracting its valuable minerals. This circular walk around Blanchland, known as one of the most attractive villages in the North Pennines, is 3.5 miles long and takes you through the fields and moorlands surrounding this former monastic settlement.
The Blanchland Geotrail guide will help you to discover how to ‘read’ the land at your feet through its geology, learn how the local minerals were created and explore the region’s fascinating mining heritage.
#5 The Pennine Way
One of the UK’s most challenging and popular National Trails, the Pennine Way is 260 miles long and runs from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders to Edale in Derbyshire with a large chunk passing through the North Pennines. The demanding nature of this trail means that while some manage to walk it in its entirety annually, for many, completing it is a major lifetime ambition. The route covers much difficult terrain from river valleys and mountain tops to large areas of mud and peat bogs! That said, completing this mammoth challenge of a trek can be an incredibly rewarding achievement and be worn as a badge of pride.
When crossing the North Pennine section of the Way, walkers will encounter the powerful sight of both Low Force and High Force waterfalls on the River Tees, as well as High Cup Nick, one of the most photographed spots on the route due to its otherworldly setting. Despite its difficulty the Pennine Way is also open to novice, but well prepared walkers!
Places to Stay in the North Pennines
There are a variety of places to stay in the North Pennines with something to suit every traveller! Here are 3 of our favourite campsites in the region.
Leekworth Caravan Site, Middleton-in-Teesdale
On the banks of the River Tees in the picture postcard Middleton-in-Teesdale, Leekworth Caravan site is perfectly located for walks and excursions into the North Pennines. The Teesdale Way runs alongside the site and the Pennine Way is not far away, with High Force waterfall just up the road. The campsite offers a newly built shower and toilet block with underfloor heating, electric hook-up handstand pitches, a shop and 1000 metres of free fishing on the River Tees (for those with a rod licence). Leekworth is the ideal place to explore what County Durham and the North Pennines have to offer!
Hagg’s Bank Campsite, Nentsberry
Situated in the middle of the North Pennines near Alston, Cumbria, Hagg’s Bank campsite is the place to relax and get away from it all in the great outdoors. There are abundance of walking trails in the area and many historic nearby villages which are often used as backdrops to period film and television productions. The campsite is next a Site of Special Scientific Interest and takes its sustainability seriously by using its own spring water, grey water for toilets and LED lighting to reduce its impact. It has been awarded Silver for Green Tourism, so if you want to limit your impact on the local environment during your trip this is the place to stay!
Dufton Caravan Park, Dufton
Located in the unspoilt Eden Valley in Cumbria, Dufton Caravan Park is at the edge of the North Pennines with Dufton lying on the Pennine Way. The village sits at the foot of the Great Dun Fell on the northern slopes of the Pennines and is in walking distance of the dramatic High Cup Nick. Walkers will not be disappointed by this location with many different trails in the area and the Lake District a short drive away. The campsite has hardstanding pitches with free electric hook-up and individual water supplies and a charming tearoom and pub just down the road where you can sample some delicious local fare.
Begin your next walking adventure in the North Pennines with through private motorhome hire and share the freedom of the great outdoors! Plan a road trip in England that takes you through these stunning Area of Natural Beauty.