Bowes - God's Bridge - Race Yate - The Briscoes - Bowes

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Bowes - Gilmondby - God's Bridge - Race Yate - Blackton and Hury Reservoirs - Goldsborough

An exhilarating circular hike, taking in the natural beauty of three distinctly different upland Durham Dales located on the fringes of the rugged North Pennines in the remote south-west corner of the county.

Starting from the ancient village of Bowes that has for centuries been a staging-post for travellers making the hazardous journey across Stainmore Pass, the defining border between the North and Central Pennines, the route crosses the River Greta and heads west through the relatively flat farmsteads of Gretadale.

At God's Bridge the walk joins the famous Pennine Way. This is the only natural bridge on the Pennine Way and most of the time the River Greta here flows unseen underground through fissures in the bedrock and only appears above ground when the river is in flood. The normal flow of the river reappears a couple of hundred yards downstream.

From God's Bridge the walk heads north up to and under the busy A66 trunk road, then climbs steadily up Bowes Moor, leaving behind the traffic noise to descend gently into the solitude of remote and rugged Deepdale. From the footbridge across Deepdale Beck there follows a long, at times strenuous drag up the moor to the highest point of the walk at Race Yate on the summit ridge of Cotherstone Moor. From the top of the moor the vista of the pastorally beautiful Baldersdale and its three reservoirs comes into view.

The walk then descends into Baldersdale to cross the River Balder over Blackton Bridge, the halfway point of the 270-mile-long Pennine Way. Shortly after, the route arrives at Low Birk Hat Farm, formerly owned by reluctant celebrity Hannah Hauxwell, who lived here for over fifty years without the luxuries of electricity or running water and who farmed the land using only traditional methods. The walk now leaves the main Pennine Way and heads east, passing the full length of Blackton Reservoir before crossing the earth dam and heading south on the alternative Pennine Way known as the Bowes Loop, to start the return leg.

The route returns to the rugged Cotherstone Moor to pass close to the flat-topped granite outcrop landmark of Goldsborough. The walk then skirts the perimeter wall of MoD land to arrive once again in Deepdale, to cross a footbridge over Deepdale Beck at an ancient farmhouse called Levy Pool, probably the last surviving building in the Durham Dales with a heather thatch.

The final section of the route back to Bowes is on a stony track and quiet surfaced road with a little field-work. The walk re-enters Bowes Village from the west and almost immediately passes the former Yorkshire Boys Academy, the building Charles Dickens immortalised as the infamous Dotheboys Hall in the novel 'Nicholas Nickleby'. Further on is the 17th Century coaching inn The Ancient Unicorn, Bowes' only pub, where Dickens stayed while researching his novel. Also in the village are the extensive remains of a Norman castle built on the site of a Roman station (Lavatrae) that guarded the eastern end of the Stainmore Pass.

England - North England - Durham - North Pennines


Birds, Butterflies, Castle, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Lake/Loch, Moor, River, Wildlife

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19.3 Miles
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