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 industry. 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 pastimes.
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 route.
A series of circular routes is available from the Tourist Information Centres, take time to relax and enjoy this most delightful of the Durham Dales.
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 charming square.
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 heart.
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.