Weardale Way Section 1 (Killhope to Cowshill)

Section 1 of the Weardale Way starts at Killhope Lead Mining Centre not far from the County Durham-Cumbria border and finishes on Burtreeford Bridge in Cowshill, County Durham. This section of the trail includes the highest point on the entire Weardale Way. The ascent, which comes right at the beginning, is fairly long but quite gentle, on a good track. 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. On warmer days Copt Hill Quarry is a lovely place for a picnic. Be aware that forestry is a significant industry in this part of the dale. Felled forests change the character of the landscape somewhat, making views a great deal more expansive and navigation less certain.


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) | Profile Undulating>hilly>flat – descending | Terrain Upland pasture, moorland, coniferous forest and farmland | Going Generally firm with some potentially wet/boggy sections | Exposure Very exposed (particularly the first half) | Hospitality & Refreshment Cowshill (hotel/pub)


From the car park at Killhope Lead Mining Centre, leave via the main gate, on the track around the edge of the forest, gradually ascending, past Kidd’s Dam, and over the shoulder of Cowhorse Hill, the highest point on the entire trail. Shortly after the summit where, hopefully, you’ll be rewarded with a fine view, far down the dale, there’s a switch onto a narrow trail helpfully signposted ‘Cowshill’, which passes across the top of a large, man-made scar called Cowhorse Hush, one of the many relics of the lead mining industry in the area.

Crossing a potentially wet section via duckboards and a couple of closely positioned stiles, the trail then descends steeply downhill, alongside a fence, towards a narrow reservoir and another stile, before reaching a well-surfaced track. The route sticks to the track as far as the bridge over the Wellhope Burn, close to the confluence with the Killhope Burn (both of which are fed by various sources on the slopes of the watershed not far away).

It then uses another good track, crossing intakes of rough moorland pasture, past several dwellings as it makes for Heathery Bridge on the Killhope Burn below the roadside hamlet of Lanehead. Turning off the track just before the bridge, there’s a short, steep and potentially boggy section away from the burn, passing between a house and a duck-pond, then it’s downhill again, onto the track known as Allers Lane, before reaching the few stone buildings that constitute Low Allers.

Continuing directly ahead, through the gate on the corner in Low Allers, the trail crosses a field, virtually the first piece of level terrain on the journey so far, before linking up once more with the Killhope Burn as it passes Copt Hill Quarry. Approaching Bridge End Cottage at the end of the quarry, there are a couple of options: either cross the bridge to pass close to the cottage if you want to visit Cowshill, or take the shorter, rougher and sometimes wetter option, straight ahead through the fields, direct to Burtreeford Bridge; whichever you choose there’s not a lot in it.

If the Lead Mining Centre is closed or you think you’re going to be too late back to your vehicle, there are a few alternative car parking areas close by. The dedicated (recommended) option is furthest away from the section start, approximately 800 m E along the road. You can park closer, in non-dedicated spaces 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.

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