Where to Visit in Teesdale for a Great Weekend Adventure
Large parts of the upper reaches of the River Tees run through the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, at its uppermost, the valley climate is described as sub-Arctic
We love The Rose & Crown, an 18th century coaching inn in Romaldkirk with its cosy, dog-friendly bar and a menu filled with local produce. There are bedrooms here too. In Upper Teesdale, The High Force Hotel acts as the perfect base from which to explore the famous waterfall of the same name and the dramatic landscape which surrounds it. The cosy bedrooms and wood panelled restaurant where you’ll find home-cooked dishes make the perfect base from which to really explore this remarkable area. Over the moors, Brunswick House on the village green in Middleton-in-Teesdale dates back to 1760 and is now a popular B&B, and more characterful accommodation can be found at Augill Castle near Brough. The castle is now an elegant hotel with 13 quirky bedrooms and a great restaurant, just a mile from Brough Castle and with two of our most popular national parks on the doorstep. In the heart of the market town of Barnard Castle, the Three Horseshoes Hotel is a great stopping off point, whilst the brand new Park Head Hotel is the latest addition to The Auckland Project with 38 ensuite rooms and a restaurant serving all your favourite classics using locally-sourced produce from the Walled Garden at nearby Auckland Castle. Word of warning – you’ll need a few nights here to be able to take in all of the Auckland Project’s many attractions.
Arguably Teesdale’s most prominent geological landmarks; High Force and Low Force waterfalls crash over the whinsill to thunderous applause, and the cascade of Cauldron Snout must not be missed on your trip to Teesdale. Walk by the water to discover the real character of the turbulent River Tees, and Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve is also home to the largest juniper wood in England. The surrounding wild meadowland is a botanist’s dream, dotted with rare flowers and plants.
Start and end your waterfall tour at Bowlees where there are four small waterfalls and a riverside footpath leading to Summerhill Force and Gibson’s Cave; Gibson was a 16th century outlaw who lived behind the waterfall staying hidden from the law. The old limestone quarry here contains many limestone-loving wildflowers, including seven species of orchids, knapweed and wild thyme which attract many butterflies and other insects, which are prey for dancing dragonflies.
Nearby, the medieval Raby Castle near Staindrop is a must-visit. Built in the 14th century, it is one of the most impressive castles in England and was once home to the powerful Neville family. The castle is famous for its works of art including pieces by Giordano, Van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and its 200-acre Deer Park, especially during spring when the fawns are born. There’s plenty to see on your visit and guides are available to give tours and share stories of Raby’s fascinating history. There’s lots for all the family, including a Raby Castle Quest and the Plotters Forest, a playscape built around the trees with forest trails, suspended walkways and towers and tunnels in the tree tops. Refuel at the Yurt Café before heading high into the trees for some stargazing on the special deck.
If antiques and independent shops are more your thing, Barnard Castle is the place go. Many of its antique shops are located on ‘The Bank’, which heads downhill from the Market Cross. See what furniture, books, jewellery and accessories catch your eye in Robson’s on The Bank, The Mission Hall Antiques Centre and MT Antiques. There’s also lots of independent shops selling gifts, vintage clothing and accessories and sweets. Also on The Bank is the newly renovated yet historic Blagraves, an interiors and gift shop, but also a restaurant, café and cool cocktail bar. The town is home to the iconic Bowes Museum with its nationally renowned art collection and an ongoing programme of exhibitions based on history and illustration, and where every day at 2pm the Silver Swan, an automaton once admired by Mark Twain, majestically dips its head to seize a fish from the pool below. Barnard Castle is also the starting point for a section of the Teesdale Way known locally as Paradise. Beginning at the ruins of Egglestone Abbey it takes you past Rokeby Park to where the River Greta meets the mighty Tees, a place famously depicted by JMW Turner.
Between Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale is a popular walking (or cycling) trail which takes you along the old railway line that serviced the stone-quarrying industry. Built by the Tees Valley Railway Co in 1868, the walk takes you through stunning scenery and over two major engineering features, the Lunedale and Baldersdale Viaducts.
If you’re looking to explore the remoter part of the dale, you can experience a little the life of farmer Hannah Hauxwell at Balderhead. She lived a frugal existence in the Upper Dales until the ‘70s, and captured the nation’s hearts in a series of documentaries. Visit Hannah’s Meadow to see the wildflowers in what was once part of the traditional meadowland.
The Auckland Project is a unique collection of heritage attractions, galleries and parkland in Bishop Auckland which tells the remarkable story of the area, from the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham to a surprising connection with the Golden Age of Spanish art. Auckland Castle is one of the best-preserved Bishop’s palaces in Europe but nowadays it’s home to one of the finest sets of Zurbaran paintings in the world, which you’ll find in the Spanish Gallery here. There’s a Mining Art Gallery too, giving an intimate and awe-inspiring insight into the lives and souls of coal miners and their communities in the region, and an historic deer park and restored walled garden surrounding the castle all begging to be explored. If you are lucky (or organised enough) to be visiting when Kynren is on then make it your mission to travel through time with this spectacular outdoor show with 1,000 cast members on a seven-acre stage, which takes you through the history of England at dazzling speed.