13 of the Best Countryside Walks Across the North East
The countryside has so much to offer and our busy lives often mean we forget how amazing our wildlife is
County Durham’s largest forest boasts opportunities for wildlife watching and stargazing as well as mountain biking and walking trails. There are over four different trails and paths through over 2,000 hectares of forest. Children can enjoy orienteering and the whole family can get involved in the world’s largest treasure hunt with Geocaching using GPS technology to find hidden objects. Venture further in and you might bump into the Gruffalo! Whatever you choose to do, you’ll see a variety of birds, insects and plantlife on your way.
Hamsterley DL13 3NL
SYCAMORE GAP WALK
This circular walk from the visitor centre to the Roman Milecastle 39 and then along the World Heritage Roman wall footpath to the iconic Sycamore Gap allows you to see a vast range of the countryside. The trail takes around three hours, but it’s worth it as there’s so much to see and lots to learn about the heritage of the area and its plantlife. The Sycamore Gap Tree is by Hadrian's Wall and is famous for appearing in the 1991 Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, TV crime drama Vera and the music video for Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, so it makes a great photo opportunity.
Hexham NE47 6NN
LOW BARNS NATURE RESERVE
Low Barns is a haven for wildlife but it hasn’t always been that way. Originally farmland, the site was redeveloped by Durham Wildlife Trust to create the nature reserve we know and love. The mostly-flat surface and large, accessible bird hides make it an ideal place for wildlife now as they are free to roam the area. Its three lakes and interconnecting streams and ponds host dragonflies, frogs and newts and the most patient nature-lovers may see otters, foxes, roe deer and stoat.
Bishop Auckland DL14 0AG
ROSEBERRY TOPPING WOODLAND WILDLIFE WALK
Most walkers go to Roseberry Topping and head straight up the hill, but there’s plenty to see on trails around it. Woodland wildflowers sit in the shade of the trees along a walk which will take you to even better wildlife spots. The kissing gate leads you to Newton Wood and heads to Cliff Ridge Wood before you retrace your steps. On the way you’ll be likely to see a variety of bird species. In summer, butterflies emerge and on quieter days you might even spot roe dear nearby.
Newton-under-Roseberry TS9 6QR
HARESHAW LINN WALK
Take this walk towards the waterfall and spot rare wildlife on the way. It’s home to more than 300 different types of mosses, liverworts and lichen, as well as red squirrel, great-spotted woodpecker, wood warbler, spotted flycatcher, badger and Daubenton’s bat. The footpath takes around two hours and your dogs can join in too — providing they are kept on a lead.
Bellingham NE48 2DA
Take a walk around Wallington’s historic house, rolling parkland, woodlands and gardens where you’re bound to meet roe deer, badgers, buzzards, kingfishers, red squirrel, white-clawed crayfish and otters. There are plenty of walks around the estate, from a gentle one-mile stroll to a more adventurous six-mile hike, and in summer the Walled Garden is in full bloom.
Cambo NE61 4AR
BOLAM LAKE COUNTRY PARK
This park offers a walk by the water and there’s plenty of woodland and grassland to explore with picnic areas for a spot of lunch. Take a stroll along the variety of woodland, and lake-view walks that are spread throughout the park with a fully accessible path around the lake, and look out for the likely appearance of roe deer, red squirrels, and nuthatches, as well as the lake’s resident swans and other waterfowl. A bird hide has also been constructed which overlooks the lake to allow for a better view of the amazing wildlife here.
Newcastle NE20 0HE
ASHES QUARRY GEOTRAIL
Over 60 years, nature has been reclaiming the Ashes Quarry Geotrail since Limestone was dug out of the surrounding Weardale fells. The two-mile circular route follows the same paths that the quarrymen who dug the stone would have used. A climb at the start of the route brings fantastic views over Stanhope along with an interesting look into Weardale’s past. Expect to see a vast range of plantlife on your walk and refuel at the café on your return.
Stanhope DL13 2FJ
The waters that flow through the Coquet Valley and ready supply of barley from local farmers were often frequented by outlaws, such as Black Rory, who distilled duty-free whisky in the stills. Now, the routes that remain are followed by walkers and cyclists. Take in the spectacular views of what remains of these stills as well as the rolling hills of the countryside in the northern Cheviots as you walk the track.
ALLEN BANKS AND STAWARD GORGE
The largest area of ancient woodland in Northumberland, this 250-hectare site is great for exploring as Allen Banks is home to a range of flora, fauna and fungi. It is also loved for its carpet of bluebells and wild garlic, which cover the woodland in early summer, and during warm weather the wild garlic has an unmistakably powerful aroma. A large amount of bird species are spotted here too and red squirrels are always keen to show their face. The Morralee Tarn walk is great for spotting wildlife all year round.
Hexham NE47 7BP
BEAMISH WOODS CIRCULAR WALK
Beginning at Eden Place picnic area car park, head out on a journey through Beamish Woods towards Pockerley Flint Mill. On the route, you’ll pass a range of different trees and wild flowers, and will likely spot plenty of birds and insects. The walk is around three miles long through parts of County Durham you may never have seen before. Have a rest on the interesting wood and stone seats shaped like pine cones and after all that walking, why not treat yourself to a picnic?
Stanley DH9 0RE
0300 026 5342
SIMONSIDE FAMILY WALK
As the name suggests, this trail is a great option for the whole family. Walk through the picturesque Harwood Forest and take in the fresh country air. Located close to the Simonside Hills, the walk is fairly easy to follow and usually takes around an hour and a half to complete, allowing for time to stop and take in the fantastic views. Dogs are welcome but should be kept on leads, especially around livestock.
BAKETHIN NATURE RESERVE
With its range of habitats, Bakethin is a haven for wildlife over 140 hectares of land. Paths lead to the waterside and the historic viaduct with views across the woodland and visitors are often greeted by pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye, goosander, mallard and teal. The shallow water margins are also home to the common frog, palmate newt, trout, minnow, eels and stone loach. Viewing the wildlife has become even easier since the viewing hide, Bakethin Hide, designed and built by students from Newcastle University in 2017, was installed. It allows you to view the reserve’s wildlife from a unique waterside viewpoint as you take a break from your walk.
Kielder Reservoir, Butteryhaugh Bridge
0191 284 6884