High Force, Low Force and The River Tees
Park adjacent to Bowlees Vistor Centre (DL11 6ED)
7.5 mile circular walk
The start is the car park (Grid ref. NY907282) adjacent to the Bowlees Visitor Centre about 3 miles northwest along the B6277 from Middleton-in-Teesdale.
After parking exit the car park using the footbridge. Continue past the visitor centre (well worth a visit if open) and continue down the lane to main road. Go straight across and follow the signed footpath to Wynch Bridge. Entering woodland on the banks of the Tees, it is worthwhile making a short diversion to the riverbank to the right of Wynch Bridge to get your first look at Low Force. After rain the falls, although lacking height, can be very dramatic as the Tees flows south.
Return to the bridge and, taking note of the sign above your head, cross this historic structure. Information boards provide a detailed and very interesting history and some anecdotes about its past. Reaching the far bank of the river, turn right to join the Pennine Way National Trail on its way north to the Scottish border at Kirk Yetholm.
Almost immediately you pass Low Force on your right. Staying on the riverside path continue upstream. The first piece of public art is soon reached as you cross a beautiful stile with two sheep carved from limestone. Continuing alongside the river, the walking is pleasant and quite soon you are able to hear High Force waterfall. Before reaching the falls the path climbs a little with the river confined to a rocky gorge. Look out for a vantage point on your right from where you get an almost perfect view of High Force. This is the largest waterfall in England which you are able to enjoy free of charge.
As an alternative you can park at the High Force Hotel and pay a toll to use the path on the opposite bank. After enjoying the spectacle continue upstream following the Pennine Way. You pass a large working quarry on the far bank after which the path crosses two footbridges close together (Grid ref. NY867280) and begins to climb a small grassy hill.
At the time of writing (2006), there was a small barn for sheep to shelter in on the top of this hill. Shortly after this, turn left off the Pennine Way and go through a gate in the wall. Continue on this path a short way to reach a green way (Grid ref. NY860280). Turn left and follow this broad track across open country with a wall to your left. Crossing a stream, the track climbs gently with the wall to your left but after a short way the track continues ahead with the wall veering left.
Reaching the brow of the hill the way ahead is clear with good views to your left across the River Tees and the ground you have just walked. Joining a track (Grid ref. NY880275) continue ahead towards Holwick Scar. Stay on the track as descends past the first crags and cross the superb stile with its two sheep carvings on the right of track. Commissioned by the local landowner, the sheep and grouse are intended to show the delicate balance of fauna on the moorland. Once over the stile continue along the track towards Holwick village.
Go through the gate by the first cottage and walk ahead on the tarmac lane. At the junction turn left down the lane and follow this until it bears left towards Holwick Lodge. At the bend in the road (Grid ref. NY903274) take the signed footpath across fields to Wynch Bridge. Cross the bridge, perhaps reacquaint yourself with Low Force, and follow the outward route back to the car park.
OS Explorer OL31/19, OS Landranger 91