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. There is an alternative trail, also waymarked as the Teesdale Way on the opposite side of the river forming a popular circuit walk (or figure-of-eight) between Barnard Castle and Eggleston Bridge with the crossing the river at Cotherstone.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 9.7 km/6 miles | Height Gain 135 m/442 ft | Maximum Elevation 224 m/736 ft (Romaldkirk) | 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 | Hospitality & Supplies Romaldkirk (PH; Ho; BB; Ca*); Cotherstone [0.5k] (PH; BB); Barnard Castle (All) | Start St Romald’s Church, Romaldkirk NY 995221 | Finish Desmesnes Recreation Area, Barnard Castle NZ 050160 | Grade Moderate | GPS File
You leave Romaldkirk following signs for the Teesdale Way, past Romaldkirk Hall, on wooded Sennings Lane. Beyond the gate at the end of the lane are open fields and the abandoned farm at Low Garth after which you enter more woodland, alongside the river but high above and out of sight of it. Straddling an unnamed burn you’ll encounter another pair of boundary markers, part of the ‘Marking the Parish Boundaries‘ project. The trail through the wood is rugged, particularly so when descending to the river at the Fairy Cupboards. The limestone banks at the edge of the river have been eroded in a way charmingly suggestive of the name – you’ll have to clamber down alongside the river to see them though.
Leaving the woods behind, the trail passes 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 much of which is based on locations in Teesdale including the school, Dotheboys Hall. Descending gently back to the river, you get a view Percy Myre Rock, high up in the woods on the other side. This exposed crag, on the alternative Teesdale Way, 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 where you can physically experience the gentle undulations resulting from medieval rigg & furrow ploughing. Further downstream, in the woods, Cotherstone Footbridge spans the River Tees. You can switch between the two Teesdale Way trails if you wish though most of the interest is to be found on this side. Further downstream still is another footbridge, this time over the River Balder where it joins the Tees. The Balder separates the parishes of Hunderthwaite and Cotherstone so the bridge is complete with boundary markers.
Cotherstone offers a pub if you want a break; it is perhaps best known for Cotherstone Cheese though none is now made in the village. The trail skirts the village up a steep mound on top of which stood Cotherstone Castle (the scant and heavily overgrown remains are on private land). It’s undoubtedly a commanding position which offers a superb view over the river (others must have thought so too, judging from a couple of memorials by the side of the trail).
After an easy, flat stretch along the wooded escarpment you enter Mill Hill Wood where you’ll find a former sandstone quarry with a handy cave if you’re in need of shelter. Woodland gives way to more fields past Cooper House before descending towards Mayhew’s Meadow (it seems that Mayhew was a gamekeeper on the Lartington Estate). Next, there’s a brief, dark ascent through the first of the few coniferous plantations on the trail before more fields as you approach Towler Hill farm.
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 crossing the Tees via Deepdale Aqueduct Footbridge from which there’s a popular view of Barnard Castle.
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 the footbridge, you’ll be able to make your way into the middle of the town. The ‘official’ route however, continues along Bridgegate and crosses ‘The Bank’ onto Gray Lane leading in turn, to the finish on The Demesne recreation area.