By Blog Squad member - Jamie Chance Travels

small white dog looking up at owner on lead

With a chill in the air, I made my way with my wife and dog to the Durham Dales early on a Sunday to explore some of the best waterfalls in the country. The drive out towards High Force Waterfall was beautiful enough, winding through an unspoilt landscape as well as the charming village of Middleton-in-Teesdale (well worth a stop in itself!).

The waterfalls in question are situated within Upper Teesdale part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The geology in this region is considered so important and unique that it is also classed as a UNESCO Global Geopark.

High Force Waterfall

High Force Waterfall

We arrived at our first stop of the day quite early, before the visitors picked up, so it was lovely and peaceful to walk through the woodland down to the crown jewel of the Durham Dales. The walk itself was practically perfect with the dappled light filtering through the towering trees and their first shedding of leaves; a sure sign that Autumn was almost here. High Force Waterfall is one of England’s largest waterfalls, and almost certainly one of the most impressive with the River Tees falling 21 metres spectacularly over the Whin Sill (a particular type of rock formed over 295 million years ago only found in the North-East of England).

inside High Force Hotel, Sunday lunch and external shot of High Force Hotel

High Force Hotel

After the walk to and from the waterfall, the only way to recuperate was by heading straight across the road to the High Force Hotel for Sunday Lunch. The first thing that struck me when walking in was just how friendly the owners were. Immediately we felt at home and, for those that have dogs, they’re welcomed just as much as us humans.

We were taken through to the newly decorated dining room where we were the first to be served one of the best Sunday lunches I have ever had. We went for roast beef and roast chicken which were accompanied by classic vegetables though the cauliflower cheese was unlike anything I’ve had before. I will forever be disappointed by anyone else’s take on cauliflower cheese. Unfortunately, we were so full and just couldn't fit in a dessert no matter how tempted we were. Definitely next time.

view of Bowlees Visitor Centre

Bowlees Visitor Centre

With a belly full of Sunday dinner, next on the agenda was Bowlees Visitor Centre housed in an old chapel just a few miles east of High Force Waterfall. Bowlees Visitor Centre is the gateway to the North Pennines AONB as well as the UNESCO Global Geopark, and houses an information centre where you can get fully up to speed with what the partnership are doing here.

There’s plenty to do here before you even start the walks across to Low Force Waterfall and Gibson’s Cave. There are nature trails, places to spot wildlife as well as a mud kitchen for the children. The centre’s also dog friendly and the cafe has the most incredible cakes on offer. We took home three different cakes as well as one of their famous scones that come highly recommended.

low force waterfall and winch bridge

Low Force Waterfall

Whilst at Bowlees Visitor Centre, you have to take the time to walk to Low Force Waterfall as well as Gibson’s Cave.

The walk to Low Force Waterfall will take you across sheep fields beautifully bordered by dry stone walls before you descend through a wooded area to the River Tees. Whilst not as dramatic as High Force, this waterfall consists of a series of low cascades. To gain access to the other side of Low Force, you can cross Wynch Bridge, a suspension bridge built in 1830.

Gibson's Cave and Summerhill Force Waterfall

Gibson’s Cave & Summerhill Force

After returning to the Bowlees Visitor Centre, you cannot miss the beautiful and secluded Gibson’s Cave and Summerhill Force. The walk is approximately half a mile through woodland filled to the brim with ferns. Local legend has it that a 16th century outlaw, William Gibson, hid from the authorities behind the cave like recess behind the waterfall.  

collection of different mushrooms on a wooden plank

To pull all of this together, you can walk the High Force and Bowlees Geotrail; a 4 to 5 mile circular walk setting off from either the High Force Hotel or Bowlees Visitor Centre.  This is the perfect introduction to the beauty of the Durham Dales.

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