Teesdale Way Section 5 (Romaldkirk to Barnard Castle)
Section 5 of the Teesdale Way links the village of Romaldkirk to the market town of Barnard Castle. This section of the trail offers mixed terrain with some steep, rugged and potentially muddy gradients. While the river is rarely far way from the trail, they are often separated vertically. The points at which they meet however, are usually worth the wait. There is an alternative trail, also way-marked as the Teesdale Way, on the opposite side of the river. This forms a popular circuit walk between Barnard Castle and Eggleston Bridge with a crossing point half-way at Cotherstone. THERE IS A GPS ROUTE FILE AVAILABLE FOR THIS SECTION AS A FREE DOWNLOAD FROM THE SHOP.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 9.7 km (6 miles) | Height Gain 135 m/442 ft | Maximum Elevation 224 m/736 ft (Romaldkirk) | Profile Undulating | Going Fairly good, though very muddy and rocky in places (particularly through woods between Low Garth and Woden Croft). Generally sheltered over farmland and woodlands | Supplies Romaldkirk; Cotherstone [0.5k]; Barnard Castle
Romaldkirk to Cotherstone
You leave Romaldkirk following signs for the Teesdale Way along a narrow finger of woodland (Sennings Lane). Beyond the gate at the end of the lane are open fields and the abandoned farm at Low Garth. Next up is more woodland, alongside the river but out of sight of it. Straddling an unnamed burn you’ll pass a pair of boundary markers, part of the ‘Marking the Parish Boundaries‘ project. The trail through the wood is rugged, no more so than when descending to the river at the ‘Fairy Cupboards’. Here, where the trail meets the bank, the river has eroded the limestone banks in a way charmingly suggestive of the name. You’ll have to clamber right down alongside the river to see them though.
Leaving the woods behind, the trail takes a break from the river to pass through the farm at Woden Croft. The house was once a private academy of the type satirised by Charles Dickens in his novel ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ part of which is based on locations in Teesdale including Dotheboys Hall. You then descend gently back to the river past Percy Myre Rock high up in the woods on the other side. This exposed crag on the alternative trail offers panoramic views up the dale. It’s said that long ago, the lord of the manor fell to his death after mistakenly chasing a stag over the cliff.
Over Wilden Beck you cross a field which illustrates perfectly the medieval technique of ‘rigg-and-furrow’ ploughing. In the woods at the other side you’ll find Cotherstone Footbridge spanning the River Tees. You can switch between the two Teesdale Way trails here, though most of the interesting stuff is on the south side. Further along you come to another footbridge, this time over the River Balder which joins the Tees here. The Balder separates the parishes of Hunderthwaite and Cotherstone so the bridge comes complete with boundary markers.
Cotherstone to Barnard Castle
Cotherstone, which is probably best known for Cotherstone Cheese, lies along the track to the right. However, takes the steps directly up the steep mound ahead. At the top stood Cotherstone Castle of which the few, heavily overgrown remains are now on private land. It’s a commanding position which offers a great view over the river. Others must have thought so too, judging from a couple of memorials just off the trail.
After an easy, flat stretch along the wooded escarpment you enter Mill Hill Wood. Here, you’ll find a former sandstone quarry in which the impressive crags offer a handy cave for those in need of shelter. Woodland gives way to more fields past Cooper House as you continue along the escarpment before descending towards Mayhew’s Meadow. Next, there’s a brief, dark ascent through the first coniferous plantation on the trail before more fields approaching Towler Hill.
Into the woods again, you cross the track-bed of the former South Durham & Lancashire Union Railway close to the western end of the demolished Tees Railway Viaduct. A steep descent through more coniferous woodland leads to an access road that links with the busy B6277. Almost immediately you turn left to cross the Tees via Deepdale Footbridge (also an aqueduct). The view of Barnard Castle, from which the town takes its name, makes for a popular photograph.
The ‘official’ route stays alongside the river, squeezing between the castle and river before descending to County Bridge. Alternatively, if you bear right uphill from Deepdale Bridge, you’ll be able to make your way into the top of the town. Meanwhile, the official route continues along Bridgegate and crosses The Bank onto Gray Lane which leads to the finish on The Demesne fields.