Weardale Way Section 3 (Westgate to Rookhope)
Section 3 of the Weardale Way starts at the Candle House on the junction of Front Street with Scutterhill Bank in Westgate and finishes at the Rookhope Inn, Rookhope. This section is probably the most exposed of the entire Weardale Way. The profile is very much ‘up and over’, climbing steeply for much of the first half and descending more gently for most of the second. The middle part of the route is rough, potentially boggy and challenging to navigate if visibility is poor. Be aware that the Rookhope Inn has experienced changing fortunes over the years and as of March 2023 has been closed for over a year. This is indeed a shame and it means that unless you’re heading to the nearby bunkhouse there are currently no hospitality outlets in the village.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 7.5 km/4.7 miles) | Elevation Gain 181 m/592 ft | Maximum Elevation 445 m/1461 ft (Weather Hill) | Going Generally firm with potentially wet or boggy sections on trail (indistinct in places), road and track through upland pasture, moorland, farmland | Exposure Very exposed for much of the route | Supplies & Hospitality Westgate (CS; GS; PH); Rookhope (BH; PH*) | Start The Candle House, Westgate NY 907380 | Finish Rookhope Inn, Rookhope NY 938428 | Grade Challenge | GPS File
After leaving the Candle House uphill on Scutterhill Bank, the trail passes close to the now buried foundations of the complex of buildings (often referred to as a ‘castle’) that comprised the ‘West Gate’ of the medieval Bishops’ of Durham hunting park which extended down the dale as far as Wolsingham. Approaching the edge of the village, after St. Andrew’s Church, the route crosses a potentially muddy farmyard to a narrow alley leading into a cul-de-sac (St. Andrew’s Place). It leaves by another, symmetrically opposite, to cross several fields via high wall-stiles before reaching an access road and a steep ascent to Warden Hill Farm.
Through the farm, the track continues upwards, past a well preserved pair of domestic lime kilns before cresting the brow of the hill. At the gate beyond, the trail, which is now very exposed, turns towards a copse of conifers behind which is a ladder stile over the wall leading onto rough pasture and the approach to Weather Hill (the highest point on the section) The trail on this section is difficult to follow, as well as being rough and potentially boggy. In poor visibility you either follow a compass bearing, a sat-nav device or the wall and the wire boundary fence (but it’s rough going) until you reach a simple stile.
Over the shoulder of the hill (slightly left of the summit) there’s more rough, boggy ground on a long descent to an embankment that was once the track bed of the Rookhope & Middlehope Railway linking Rookhope and Westgate. This will take you into Rookhope, past High Bishopley and Smailsburn Farm, to a small industrial estate on the Rookhope Burn, opposite the village itself. Below the trail, at river level, is an insignificant concrete block with a rusty pipe bolted to the top. This is the collar of a very deep shaft from an important 1960s geological survey and is known as the Rookhope Borehole. The trail continues through the estate and over the bridge into the village where the Rookhope Inn should be immediately obvious.