A superb backdrop for any
itinerary, the history and heritage of Weardale
has been shaped not only by nature but also by the
hand of man. Clothed once more in its rural cloak,
Weardale was once at the centre of the world's
lead mining industry and prior to that was the
hunting ground of the all-powerful Prince Bishops
In the past, iron ore, limestone and coal were all
hewn from the earth but richest of all were
Weardale's massive deposits of lead.
revolution of the gigantic wheel at Killhope
Lead mining Centre is a fitting tribute to the
mining boom years of the 19th century.
As well as viewing the wheel, you can don hard
hats and walk down Park Level Mine - now the
most extensive show mine in the North-east.
Follow the Lead Mining Trail around the many
other sites associated with this all-important
Or you can trace the
rail routes, some of the highest in England,
constructed to haul the vast quantities of
limestone quarried in Weardale and taken to
the industrial centres of the Tyne and Tees.
Here we also boast the
birthplace of railways. On September 27th, 1825,
twelve wagons of coal from Etherley Colliery at
Witton Park were hitched to George Stephenson's
Locomotion No.1: the first train journey on the
Stockton & Darlington Railway had begun.
The upland scenery is quite breathtaking, rising
to over 2000 feet. Hardy sheep graze these remote
moorlands which are pierced by the headwaters of
the River Wear. As the river bisects the Dale, the
scenery softens and one travels through attractive
stone-built hamlets and market towns - each an
excellent touring base.
Between these communities you'll discover superb
picnic spots, both on the river's banks and at
Tunstall and Burnhope reservoirs. Excellent
facilities exist for fishing, riding, watersports
and even wintertime snow skiing but walking
remains pre-eminent among Weardale's many
walkers the 73-mile Weardale Way follows the
course of the river from Monkwearmouth to
Wearhead, but pick any charming Weardale
village and you'll find the start of at least
one circular leisure walk, each no more than
two hours duration.
Or call at the Tourist Information Centre in
Stanhope and choose one of the slightly more
demanding Weardale Walks which are also
circular but are of an 8-10 mile distance.
Cycling too is
popular in the Dale, the quiet near-deserted
roads providing ideal cycling conditions and
linking with the C2C long distance cycle
A series of circular routes is available from
the Tourist Information Centres, take time to
relax and enjoy this most delightful of the
Referred to as the 'Gateway to Weardale', Crook
sits astride the main route from Durham and the
East coast and the picturesque upper reaches of
the River Wear. The town is steeped in history and
offers the visitor the opportunity to shop in a
relaxed atmosphere with an excellent variety of
shops concentrated in a compact area.
Crook also offers opportunities for relaxation. As
well as the leisure facilities at Glenholme, the
town can boast an excellent golf course. Situated
above the town, it is an exhilarating and
demanding course but reputed to offer the
best-kept greens in County Durham. With dramatic
views over the surrounding countryside, the course
is a must for any golfing enthusiast.
The town has ample places to eat, drink and be
merry whatever your taste in pubs or cafes may be.
Again all within easy reach of the main car parks
or bus stops you will soon find somewhere to suit
your palette or your purse.
In a commanding position above the Rivers Wear and
Gaunless, Bishop Auckland's importance as a river
crossing was recognised by the Romans, whose line
of supply along Dere Street lies directly below
today's main thoroughfare.
Settled by early traders, the little village
flourished and grew around the country seat of
later residents - the powerful Prince Bishops of
Durham. With patronage such as this, the town
prospered to become a bustling market town whose
twice weekly market still thrives today in the
Remaining the focus of interest and activity in
the town, in the Market Place you're greeted by
the romantic, chateau-style facade of Bishop
Auckland Town Hall. Completed in 1862, and
recently renovated, it is the town's cultural
Just off the Market Place, through an imposing
gateway, Auckland Castle rests impressively in 800
acres of landscaped parkland. The result of lavish
spending by the Prince Bishops, today's Gothic
splendour dates from extensive remodelling in
1760, when it became the Bishop's main residence.
Inside, state rooms are richly furnished, their
plaster ceilings decorated with exquisite tracery.
Among its treasures are the priceless paintings by
the Spanish artist Zurberan, depicting Jacob and
his twelve sons. The lovely chapel of St. Peter is
undoubtedly the Castle's finest feature. Based on
the former Norman banqueting hall, the interior
boasts Frosterley marble, Cosin woodwork and a
rare Father Smith organ. Beautiful stained glass
windows depict the story of the growth of
Christianity in the region.
Stroll through the walled Bishop's Park to inspect
the unusual deer house and to admire the superb
panoramic views. The restful Park gives no hint
today of the drama it witnessed in 1346, when
16,000 English soldiers were billeted there prior
to the bloody battle of Neville's Cross.
A short drive from the centre of Bishop Auckland
will take you to two superb examples of even
earlier ages. To the north-east can be found
finely preserved Roman remains at Binchester and,
to the west, the gem of the Saxon church at
Escomb. Explore these and the other villages
around Bishop Auckland and discover the rich
history of this part of the world.
Often described as the "capital of Weardale", this
bustling town has much to offer the visitor. In
the grounds of St Thomas' Church, overlooking the
Market Place, can be seen a fossil tree thought to
be 250 million years old and originally discovered
near Edmund Byers, just north of Weardale.
A few yards away stands the Durham Dales Centre
with its award-winning Information Centre (Tel:
+44 (0) 1388 - 527650), craft shops and country
tearoom. If it is a hot day, you can cool off in
the town's open air swimming pool.