The Weardale Way

The Weardale Way is a long distance walking trail visiting many of County Durham and Sunderland’s most iconic locations including the World Heritage Site at Durham. From Killhope Lead Mining Centre in Weardale, deep in the North Pennines, the route traverses the venerable and historic County Palatine of Durham as it attempts to follow the 68-mile course of the River Wear to reach the ever-popular seaside resort of Roker in the Metropolitan Borough of Tyne & Wear. As well as Durham and Sunderland, it visits the historic market towns of Bishop Auckland, Stanhope, Wolsingham and Chester-le-Street. Like the Teesdale Way it works equally well in either direction – we’ve chosen to represent it west-to-east though many folks will prefer the increasing physical challenge and developing sense of remoteness that comes with walking in the opposite direction.

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Stats at a Glance

Distance 127 km/79 miles; Height Gain 1665 m/5461 ft; Maximum Elevation 558 m/1831 ft (Killhope, North Pennines); River Length Wearhead to Wearmouth (River Wear) 110 km/68 miles; Killhope Head to Wearhead (Killhope Burn) 9 km/5.6 miles

Summit to Sea

We’ve divided the Weardale Way into 14 sections for an average of 5.6 miles per section, making each suitable as an out-and-back day-walk. Starts and finishes are suggested with reference to obvious meeting points, parking or proximity to towns and villages although it’s easier to achieve this for some sections than others – adapt them for yourself.

Trail Updates, Route Sheets & GPS Files

To support our Weardale Way Pocket Guide we publish regular Trail Updates on the website PLUS we’ve compiled a set of updated A4 route sheets complete with map, directions and GPS route files which are available in the shop as low-cost downloads. Please note that, in general, we have to rely on feedback from walkers and authorities for information regarding issues affecting the trail so cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information we supply.

Section 1 Killhope to Cowshill (6.7 km/4.2 miles)

Section 2 Cowshill to Westgate (7.3 km/4.5 miles)

Section 3 Westgate to Rookhope (7.5 km/4.7 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 (11.3 km/7 miles)

Section 8 Witton-le-Wear to Bishop Auckland (8.4 km/5.2 miles)

Section 9 Bishop Auckland to Page Bank (9.5 km/5.9 miles)

Section 10 Page Bank to Durham (12 km/7.4 miles)

Section 11 Durham to Chester-le-Street (13 km/8 miles)

Section 12 Chester-le-Street to Mount Pleasant (9.1 km/5.6 miles)

Section 13 Mount Pleasant to Deptford (9.9 km/6.1 miles)

Section 14 Deptford to Roker (5.6 km/3.6 miles)

51 thoughts on “Weardale Way”

  1. Over the past few months I have completed all the sections between Sunderland and Wolsingham and hope to complete the full trail over the next month. Unfortunately I had to complete most sections’ apart from the ones between CLS to Witton le Wear, by walking to a designated parking spot, usually 2 hour, then turning back along the same route so I can then drive to that spot to complete the next section. So in theory I have walked most routes twice. The highlight so far has been from Cox Green to South Hylton and watching a couple of otters feeding on the bank.

    1. Cheers Brian. I’m very familiar with the situation you describe; it was the main reason for deciding on the length of the respective sections – so that they could be reasonably completed as ‘out and back’ walks. I don’t know about you but I’m keen to do any walk/run in the opposite direction; it helps to get a better feel for the trail, I think. However, I have to admit that when researching both trails – the WW and TW – I made much use of cars and drivers to cover them as efficiently as possible. On the subject of wildlife, it doesn’t get much better than watching otters – I can see why it was a highlight. Thanks for taking the time comment and feel free to let us know about your future perambulations on the trail. All the best.

  2. Richard Campbell

    Hi great website and info wish I’d found it earlier ran part of the route from Sunderland bridge to Bishop Auckland this morning . Gonna use some of the fox files to explore more sections of the route.

      1. Hi,

        I’m planning to walk the WW with my friend in the summer. We plan to walk it over a few days continuously, camping/ staying in b&b’s along the way. Just after some advice as to how many days you would advocate walking it over, whilst carrying rucksacks? I see some people have ran it in a day….we aren’t runners and certainly not that fit :). Though we are regular walkers. Any advice would be much appreciated.

        1. Hi Linzi,

          That’s good to hear, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. We’re publishing a new book but it may be out too late for you after which a revamp of the information on the website is due. There’s a lot going on at the moment. As to some advice: first, have a look at the route sheets and .gpx files (if you need them). The sections in the upper dale are the most exposed and strenuous (with the exception of S2 which is very gentle). Sections 1 & 2 can be done comfortably in a day which gives you access to camping at Westgate. Section 3 is the most challenging but only relatively (there is a potential to lose your bearings over Weather Hill – the highest point – if visibility is poor but otherwise it’s not as difficult as I could make it sound). Go fully prepared though with decent wet weather kit and let someone know your route. There’s Barrington Bunkhouse at Rookhope but as of a couple of months ago the Rookhope Inn was firmly closed (I’m not sure what’s happening with it in the long term yet) but you may need to be prepared to walk at least half of S4 to get to Eastgate at the Cross Keys or elsewhere or even push to Stanhope which could make it a longish day if you’re not a hardened long-distance walker. There’s lots of choice in Stanhope but little between S5 & S6 to Wolsingham (both involve a single, long steep ascent onto exposed ridges). Unless you drop down to Frosterley it might be another one where you need to do 2 sections in a day. Wolsingham also has a lot to offer. After that the going is much easier, where mud might be the most challenging obstacle if the weather’s against you. Generally the weather should be on your back, there’s more shelter and you’re heading into more populated areas where there are more options (you can always get in touch with me if you need any advice on the fly – unfortunately I can’t guarantee to get straight back to you though). After Bishop Auckland you’re never far from hospitality and transport options. Check out the Roof of England Bus from Stanhope in Weardale, and Weardale Travel for getting to Killhope (and let me know how you get on!). I’ll leave it at that for now but feel free to ask anything else. Send us an account of your walk, would love to hear about it.

          All the best

          Scott

          P.S. There’s been a long term closure of the footpath from the Dun Cow Inn in Witton le Wear at the start of S8 (it might be reinstated by the time of your walk). To get around it, continue downhill on the road, then R downhill at the junction and continue on the road to Witton Bridge. I’ll be putting in on the site. Also there are some major roadworks in Sunderland, which have been affecting the footpaths and Weardale Way for some time. There are lots of options for getting to Wearmouth Bridge though.

  3. Finished my walk at Killhope this morning after taking eight days over a 20 day period. Would have liked to do it as a continuous journey but other stuff got in the way so that’s a goal for next year.
    The first four days I walked upstream, being dropped off and picked up at my start and finishing points. The next four days I walked downstream by chucking my bike into the car, leaving my car at my finishing point, cycling to the start point and then walking back to the car whereupon (you guessed it) I drove to where I’d left the bike.
    I used a mixture of the three routes which have existed since the trail was established and that was a mistake as some of the older paths which are no longer included in the WW have become very overgrown. Next time it will be Scott’s route from start to finish.
    Highlights were the walk over the common to Rookhope, the path along Bollihope Burn into the hidden quarry and seeing three Little Egrets and two Kingfishers.
    Can’t wait to do it again.

    1. Excellent John, well done indeed. Hopefully you missed the worst of the bad weather. Love to hear how others get on, their methods and motivations and particularly their favourite parts of the journey. The limestone cutting in Fineburn Quarry is quite impressive isn’t it? Where did you see the Egrets and Kingfishers? Let me know. On the logistics side I’m surprised I’ve never tried the walk/bike/car solution but I think I might now – I can certainly agree that a generous ‘other’ is a massive help. Looking forward to hearing about the next undertaking. All the best. Scott

      1. The Egrets were between Sunderland Bridge and Page Bank bridge as was one of the Kingfishers. The other Kingfisher was near Escomb.
        Would have been delighted to have seen an Otter but no luck there.
        A neighbours son reports seeing a Mink near Sunderland Bridge which, I think, is a bad thing as they will kill anything they can catch and will rob the eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds.

        1. I’ve seen some nice photographs of Kingfishers near Low Burnhall/Sunderland which I’d love to have taken them myself but I’ll keep my eyes open around Escomb from now on. I ‘think’ I saw an otter once, between Page Bank and Sunderland Bridge but I couldn’t be sure (I found a pike’s head nearby absolutely picked to the bone). Shame about the mink, there’s a fairly recent article of a Barnard Castle sighting here and a 2011 YouTube clip from Ushaw Moor https://youtu.be/p-5o3sdRRaw

  4. I’ve been navigating the Weardale Way using OS Explorer sheet OL31 from 2002 and a gpx file I downloaded from Walking Englishman (I think). I’ve noticed they differ from your route sheets and gpx file so has the route been updated since 2002?
    Wish I’d started with your guides and gpx file as some of my route hasn’t been that pleasant. Overall though I’m enjoying the walk and now I’m onto the more scenic part of the route in the dale above Wolsingham it gets even better. I’ve had to fit the walk around other stuff but I’m hoping to do it as one continuous journey some time next year.

    1. I’ve worked with Durham County Council on the Weardale Way since 2013 so I’m as sure as I can be that the GPX file represents the approved route BUT if there’s anything you’d like to clarify please let me know. Send me the file or the location and I’ll do what I can to get to the bottom of it. I’m pleased you’re enjoying it and look forward to hearing about the epic yomp (don’t forget to take some photographs). All the best and happy walking. Scott

  5. This is a great resource. Thanks for providing it.
    Started walking from Roker two days ago but had to divert home after losing my bank card and what with Covid-19 I was carrying no cash. Also my 2008 map predates the new bridge between Pallion and South Hylton resulting in me peering over the edge of the cliffs with the path 50m below. A skittering scramble down a sandy gully to the east of the cliffs got me back on track and looking forward to a pint at the Golden Lion – which is now a burned out shell. I did not know that. Should have done more research before setting off but this was a spur of the moment thing.
    Anyway I’ll restart today at Castle Dene and hopefully get to the Honest Lawyer at Sunderland Bridge.

    1. Hi Jonjo,

      I love hearing about the experiences of everybody else out there – it’s great to get a different perspective to my own. Feel free to notify me of corrections – the maps are easily updated. Have you downloaded the new route sheets? Hopefully they’re a bit more informative (the Northern Spire Bridge is shown and the Golden Lion is missing as it is in real life – if it gets refurbed I’ll add it again). The route sheets also contain directions BUT they’re from the opposite direction to your line of travel. From your description I realise how, without the right cues, things can easily get out shape, hence your finding yourself looking over what I imagine would have been Claxheugh Rock (you could have gone further east to have found the trail you’d have come up). I’m afraid I have to remain committed to a downstream direction of travel but I’ll bear it mind for future revisions. Feel free to let me know about your adventures – love hearing about them. All the best and happy walking. Scott

      1. The mishaps continue – I’m really not prepared for this. Restarted at Castle Dene today but by the time I’d got to Cocken Lodge the sole of my right shoe was flapping like a crocodile’s mouth. Carried on to Durham but by then I was fed up with the shoe + very hot so called in at the Colpitts for a pint. Big mistake as that robbed me of all ambition and I bailed out again.
        Too much tarmac on this section but there were a couple of highlights. Finchale Priory is always beautiful but the real surprise was the riverbank opposite the county cricket ground at Chester le Street where there were about a million finches (possible exaggeration) feeding on the seeds of giant hogweed and about a million butterflies on the Himalayan Balsam.

  6. Drove up the dale and left 3 drop bags (Wolsingham, Eastgate, Stanhope). Set off at 6am from Killhope, by the time I climbed up over the trees it was getting light. Blowing a gale (mostly on my back), navigation ok in the earlier section, heading to Rookhope tough going across the fell. Pointless part that takes you to the pub to double back and section above Rookhope has no markings and sheer luck I ended up near the stile by the road. VerY easy to take the wrong path or follow wrong arrow, also don’t trust the locals, ended up scrabbling down the side of a Quarry. Anyway, cut a long story short, the distances seem very random. By Willington (71.5km) I had 84km on the watch and 80km on my phone and 4pm. I had planned to arrive at 2pm. Called time on my FKT attempt as while near record pace thought it was unlikely, given the heat and I would be running for 3 hours in the dark, and too late to expect crew and support to wait. I’ll have another go next year. Someone to open all the gates would be helpful ?
    Note: all the mineral valley walk signs make it a bit confusing?

    1. Thanks for that report Jonathan, it made fascinating reading. When things don’t go to plan it’s usually more interesting in my opinion. Regarding the distances, I’ve walked and run all of the sections several times over the years and whilst they almost always disagree to some extent I’ve found them to be in the ball park. If you recorded your route, send me the file and I’ll see where the discrepancies arise – if I can change anything I certainly will. Loved the idea of drop-bags and as far as the issues regarding signage etc, I sympathise completely. I generally advise for sections 3 & 4 to either use map/compass/gps for the open spaces (the only sections on the entire trail with no discernible path) and run your own line. If you didn’t want to do that you could always recce the section (but you know now). I’ll pass on comments regarding the signage in that area but in general the group in Weardale have done an excellent relative to what it was. As for the gates, I’ve run the route from the top to Witton-le-Wear and was over an hour later than I’d anticipated so I resorted to the obvious – I improved my hurdling technique (only joking). Let me know if you have another crack and I’ll do what I can to help. All the best and happy walking (running) Scott

  7. Hi. Thanks Durham Cow for the free maps & information. I’ve run Weardale Way in 2 sections before and know the markers can be tricky to spot and it’s easy to lose your way. Fingers crossed I’ll be near Sunderland before it gets too dark. Hoping for 15 hours – I’ll let you know I get on.

    1. Excellent Jonathan. Good luck (though I’m sure you won’t need it). Looking forward to hearing how you get on as well as any feedback.

      Take care and happy running

      Scott

  8. Hi. I ran the Weardale Way at the weekend. I started in Sunderland and finished in Killhope. I came in at 85 miles. There were 3 footpath closures which I had to divert around; in Durham City after the Boat Club pub, in Witton-le-Wear and around Cowshill, where one of the bridges was closed. I’m not sure how long term any of these are. I made a number of navigation errors in the dark above Stanhope and again around the Rookhope area and I didn’t always see the WW marker on gate posts/stiles, which I think made me doubt myself in the dark. In hindsight, it would probably be easier to get the Upper Weardale section done first – my legs weren’t thanking me for all those stiles in the second half, lol. Great route though and looking forward to doing some of the sections I did in the dark between Harperley and Rookhope, in daylight sometime.

    1. Wow, brilliant stuff Bev – congratulations! I’d agree that you could have made it easier doing it the other way round (I’ve pointed out previously that you’ve got to love stiles in the upper dale). I’ve run Killhope to Witton-le-Wear myself and it took me much longer than I anticipated for that very reason. If you fancy writing an account I’d love to publish it. Kudos! Scott

    2. Inspired by Bev’s achievement – wow! Im planning to walk (and maybe run parts of) the Way over the next few weeks. Can you advise whether given that the Killhope Lead Centre is currently shut is there anywhere to park near the start of the walk at Killhope thanks

      1. Go for it Debbie! However, you do it, don’t forget to enjoy it. We’ve still got plenty of nice weather to come. Let me know how you get on. Regarding the parking, I’ll have an answer for you shortly. Looking forward to hearing about the journey, however you do it. All the best, Scott

      2. Hi Debbie. There is a lay-by on the right as you are heading towards Killhope from Lanehead/Cowshill. It’s not far from the entrance to Killhope.
        Enjoy the route.

    3. Well done Bev, I saw your FKT. Brave to go upstream, heading into the wilds of Co Durham in the dark and no doubt a headwind the whole way.
      I’m trying source to sea on the 13th September . praying for good weather.

      1. The very best of luck Jonathan.
        My folks live in Ireshopeburn, 6 miles from Killhope which influenced my decision to head in that direction as it would be easier for someone to come and pick me up if I needed to duck out anywhere. The opposite direction is definitely the sensible option. Enjoy it

  9. Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your Weardale Way routes. A few of us from the hospital decided to walk it, using your maps, doing two sections at a time and a bit of car sharing. We started in October last year but recent events put our monthly walks on hold for a while. Thankfully we are now planning to walk the last stretch, from Chester le Street to Wearmouth next Friday. It had been a fantastic journey and I have already found an original copy of the Teesdale Way for our next venture! So thank you for taking the time to plot the routes. We are very grateful.

    1. Love to hear this Helen, thank you for sharing. It doesn’t matter how heavy life’s issues might seem, you can always rely on the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other to restore some balance. Not wanting to undermine your investment, but I’m just about to to post a new series of the Weardale Way Route Sheets as well as the first half of the Teesdale Way (second half will follow shortly). Covid might have put the kybosh on the books for this year but I wanted to get the routes out there. Happy walking. Scott

      1. Well, we were rained off! Our plans to finish the WW have been postponed to sometime over the next couple of weeks, hopefully on a better weather day.
        I’m heading to your Teesdale Way route maps now!

        1. Not surprising, the weather wasn’t great was it? We were out on Saturday and got soaked too. Better weather has been forecast though so don’t leave it too late. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Teesdale Way too (I’ll be posting some really nice circuits based on the Teesdale Way shortly). Let me know when you crack the Weardale Way. All the best and happy walking. Scott

  10. I have been waiting for ages for this guidebook in order to walk the Weardale Way. Please let me know when it’s available. Thanks

    1. Hi Joe,

      Glad that it’s been so well anticipated. It was due to be published this year but that was before the government’s response to the coronavirus situation. The commercial outlook was bleak and may remain so but hopefully optimism will have rallied sufficiently to make it worthwhile publishing for next year. It’s the best I can do I’m afraid.

      Scott

  11. Catriona Robinson

    Hi,

    Is there any publication yet? I have promised to take my Neice in the next few weeks?
    Cheers Caty

    1. Hi Caty,

      I’m afraid that with everything that’s been going on lately, I’ve decided to leave publication until next year, but it’ll be in plenty of time for the walking season. In the meantime I’m going to try to produce single/double-sided download pages although I’m still got a bit to do before I can get around to it. This might just give me the impetus I need.

      All the best

      Scott

      1. Beverley Barton

        Hi – that would be ideal. ?. I really like the idea of just taking a few pages of printed info with me stuffed into my rucksack. Hope you manage to do it ??

  12. Hi
    I ran the Weardale way yesterday the route was more like a 130km 80miles some of the route not marked that clearly around the cows hill area.
    I finished 16hours 45mins

    1. Nice one Gwynn! Great effort, well done, and thanks for taking the time to share your info. I’ve had varying measurements section to section over the years but contributions like this are very useful. Waymarking on the trail definitely varies section to section though Weardale is generally very good throughout due to the efforts of its walking groups. If you can be specific with regard to locations I’ll pass it on. All the best! Scott

        1. Hi David,

          Sorry for such a long delay. I need to be more on the ball. However, I’ve been working hard on the book which should be available by April (I hope). All the best.

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