Weardale Way Section 1 (Killhope to Cowshill)
Section 1 of the Weardale Way starts at Killhope Lead Mining Centre at Killhope, not far from the border between County Durham and neighbouring Cumbria, and finishes on Burtreeford Bridge in Cowshill. The section includes the highest point on the entire Weardale Way. The route is worth doing at any time of the year providing you’re appropriately kitted out. Check the forecast so that you don’t miss out on the views. Be aware that forestry is a significant industry in this part of the dale. Cleared forests change the character of the landscape somewhat, extending the views but distorting how the landscape might look compared to the map.
IMPORTANT When the Lead Mining Centre closes, the gate over the ford is locked. If you have a vehicle and think you’re going to be too late back there are a couple of alternative parking options close by. The dedicated (recommended) option is ~ 800 m E along the road. You can park closer, in non-dedicated areas but be aware that vehicles move quickly on this road and passing space is limited. I’d definitely choose the dedicated option unless its full but if you do otherwise, park sensibly, don’t block access and above all, take care.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 6.7 km/4.2 miles) | Elevation Gain 136 m/446 ft | Maximum Elevation 558 m/1832 ft (Cowhorse Hill) | Going Generally firm with some potentially wet/boggy sections on upland pasture, moorland, coniferous forest and farmland | Exposure Very exposed (particularly the first half) | Supplies & Hospitality Lead Mining Centre (Ca*); Cowshill (Ho) | Start Lead Mining Centre, Killhope NY 824432 | Finish Burtreeford Bridge, Cowshill NY 853405 | Grade Moderate | GPS File
From the Lead Mining Centre the routes starts through the main gate out of the car park, following the track upwards around the edge of the forest, past Kidd’s Dam, and over the shoulder of Cowhorse Hill (the highest point on the entire Weardale Way). Shortly after the summit it leaves the track for a rough trail helpfully signposted ‘Cowshill’ before passing across the top, and down the flank of Cowhorse Hush, a large scar in the landscape and the first obvious relic of the area’s lead mining industry.
At the bottom, by a narrow reservoir, the route continues on a track past the confluence of the Wellhope Burn with the Killhope Burn which it follows all the way to Wearhead in Section 2. It passes several dwellings before descending steeply to Heathery Bridge (opposite Heathery Cleugh Bridge on the main road through the dale at Lanehead) on the Killhope Burn itself. Instead of crossing it turns back for a short, steep, potentially boggy ascent to a gate between the house passed earlier and its duck-pond, then downhill again to reach the track through the hamlet at Low Allers.
Turning through a gate at Low Allers, the trail crosses a field, on what is virtually the first piece of level terrain so far, towards Copt Hill Quarry. At the end of the quarry, by the footbridge at Bridge End Cottage, there are a couple of options: either cross the bridge to pass by the cottage if you want to visit Cowshill or take a shorter, rougher and potentially muddier option, straight ahead through the fields to Burtreeford Bridge itself but either way, there’s not a lot in it.