The Way of Life is one wondrous route: healing waters, one of England ’s oldest churches and a palatial castle where Prince Bishops once resided, plus places where St Cuthbert made miracles occur.
The Way of Life commences in the most rejuvenative manner possible at one of Durham’s loveliest villages, the spa village of Gainford: a vital early Christian settlement raised around St Mary’s Church and Well, alongside waters thought to have had healing properties since pagan times.
Holy places lie scattered all along this trail. There is the captivating but understated Escomb Saxon Church, perhaps England’s oldest still-complete Saxon church. There is the ancient residence of the Prince Bishops of Durham, Auckland Castle, only recently restored to its full glory. Then there are the tales of two different miracles attributed to St Cuthbert to unravel as you forge north towards Durham Cathedral.
This is alongside some jaw-dropping monuments to the people that once made their living hereabouts: one of the biggest Roman fortifications in Northern Britain, Binchester Roman Fort, and the locomotive legacy of the world’s first passenger carrying, steam operated, public railway, built by George Stephenson, at Etherley Incline. Nor does the path stay stuck in the past: just tarry in revitalised Bishop Auckland to see how history has been honed into some fascinating new attractions.
As it twists through gentle farmland, woodland, parkland and riverside, and via some sensational country cafés, pubs, hotels and spas, The Way of Life is a walk that soothes more than it tires. If its final climb, Mountjoy, is anything to go by, it will leave hikers feeling very happy indeed.
For full route descriptions download the documents below.