The Weardale Way
The Weardale Way is a 125 km (78 mile) long-distance walking trail that visits many of the most dramatic and iconic locations in County Durham and Sunderland including the World Heritage Site of castle and cathedral at Durham.
Using a diverse variety of tracks, paths and trails it follows the course of the River Wear as it flows for 72 miles from source to sea through an ever-changing landscape that before 1974 comprised the main part of the historic County Palatine of Durham. Nowadays most of the trail falls within County Durham, with the final twelve miles to the coast belonging to the City of Sunderland. Our companion guide book: ‘The Weardale Way – A Guided Tour along the River Wear through County Durham and Sunderland‘ by Joe Watson is available at the special offer price of £10.49, saving £1.50 on the RRP of £11.99 direct from this website.
The Weardale Way has been in existence for several decades now but is still perhaps one of the North-East’s best kept secrets. Some sections are more popular than others undoubtedly (particularly those that pass close to the major towns and cities en-route) but everywhere the route is thoughtfully integrated and maintained by the county councils of Durham and City of Sunderland. The Weardale Way can’t claim to be the hardest or the longest walking trail in the country but it could possibly be the most diverse, accessible and satisfying (particularly with our guide for company).
As you wander along the trail you’ll encounter a wealth of industrial, social and religious history at almost every turn; in fact nowhere else in the county will you gain a better overview of what made the land of the Prince Bishops so important in times gone by. The ground beneath your feet provides its own commentary and plainly shows (particularly in the Weardale but also on the limestone coast) by the number of mining and quarrying sites encountered how important the region’s mineral wealth was to its economy right up to the 20th century.
In the west the trail starts at the remote Killhope Lead Mining Centre at the head of Weardale high in the North Pennines (which is an officially designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty); in the east it finishes at the Bede Memorial Cross overlooking the outstanding beaches on the North Sea coast at Roker. By travelling west to east the normally prevailing weather systems are usually behind you and the route is mainly downhill (although at times it may not feel like it).
As you travel you’ll find that although the landscape changes constantly the change itself is almost imperceptible: it is wilder, more demanding and exposed on the upland fells in the west, pastoral, sheltered and at times steeply undulating in the centre and – together with routes like the C2C cycle-way – imaginatively integrated into the metropolitan areas of Sunderland and Roker.
Although the Weardale Way is a continuous trail, we divide it into 14 easy-to-manage sections as follows:
Section 1: Killhope to Cowshill (6.5 km/4.1 miles)
Section 2: Cowshill to Westgate (7.2 km/4.2 miles)
Section 3: Westgate to Rookhope (7.5 km/4.5 miles)
Section 4: Rookhope to Stanhope (10 km/6.2 miles)
Section 5: Stanhope to White Kirkley (7.4 km/4.6 miles)
Section 6: White Kirkley to Wolsingham (9.2 km/5.7 miles)
Section 7: Wolsingham to Witton le Wear (11.4 km/7.1 miles)
Section 8: Witton le Wear to Bishop Auckland (7.9 km/4.9 miles)
Section 9: Bishop Auckland to Page Bank (9.6 km/6 miles)
Section 10: Page Bank to Durham City (12 km/7.5 miles)
Section 11: Durham City to Chester le Street (12.6 km/7.9 miles)
Section 12: Chester le Street to Mount Pleasant (9 km/5.6 miles)
Section 13: Mount Pleasant to Deptford (9.7 km/6 miles)
Section 14: Deptford to Roker (5.1 km/3.2 miles)
Some sections of the Weardale Way have obvious circuits (although these are not detailed in the guide), making them suitable for day walks and most are of a distance that can comfortably be doubled to provide a longer day out. It is a trail for all seasons although some areas of Weardale can be cut off in winter and must always be treated with respect (this means carrying clothing and equipment appropriate to the conditions). The central and eastern sections however, are all perfect for winter walks.