Castle Eden Dene Full Circular Walk

The full tour of Castle Eden Dene taking in all the best parts with varied and interesting scenery:- Old buildings, open country, ancient woodland, the North East coastline, a magnesium limestone dene with its craggy outcrops, a meandering river and steep-sided gorge. There is a multitude of flora and fauna; if you are quiet you may see squirrels and/or deer. Starts and finished near the Castle Eden Inn which is well known for its good beer and good food.

Technical sheet
No. 1971901
A Castle Eden walk posted on 14/04/19 by Alwayswiththehills. Update : 20/11/20
Calculated time Calculated time: 4h30[?]
Distance Distance : 14.2km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 160m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 152m
Highest point Highest point : 137m
Lowest point Lowest point : 3m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Castle Eden
Starting point Starting point : N 54.73141° / W 1.34378°
Download : -
Sea Coal North East coastline looking south to Hartlepool North East coastline looking north past Horden to Seaham The Dene Mouth, where sky meets land


From the A19 or A181; drive into Castle Eden and follow the road curving right past the war memorial and down until you see the Castle Eden Inn on your left. Park on the roadside near the inn or in the village hall car park which is opposite the inn. (the village hall is the second smaller building, the taller building is the Masonic Lodge, please do not park at the Masonic Lodge.)

(D) From the road walk past the Inn car park following the road into the small housing estate. Just as you have come around the rear of the car park you will see a path on your left which is bounded on one side by a wall and on the other by a fence. Take the path and arrive on the disused railway line which is now a bridleway and part of the cycle network.

(1) Turn right and head towards Hesleden and Crimdon. You will soon come to a place on the track where a smaller path crosses it a right angle.

(2) Turn left and follow the path across two fields following the field boundary; it can be muddy here after a rain. You will leave the fields at the road B1281

(3) Cross the road and turn right then turn left into the part of Castle Eden known as The Village. There is a row of terraced housing on your right and a white barn conversion on the left. The road leads down passing some detached properties, past Saint James Church on the right and then through the gates to the castle drive. As you cross the small bridge you will see a path leading into the Castle Eden Dene on the right (photo), ignore this and continue along the road with The Castle appearing on your right and the grounds of the golf club on your left. At the bottom of the drive, you will see a kissing gate on your left leading into the dene.

(4) Go through the kissing gate and take the broad right-hand track down the hill. This will lead you down, around to the right and to a junction (photo), turn right back uphill and ignore paths/tracks on your left heading downhill. Soon you will see a path on your left which goes gently upwards (photo). (If you want to miss out the views of the Castle you can get to point (5) from the path after the small bridge and gates point )

(Please note that it has been reported that there a couple of fallen trees between points 4 and 6 which make following the route harder than when first described. In 2020 these have been removed but this woodland is constantly changing so be prepared for fallen trees particularly after a severe storm)

(5) Follow the path, at a junction I tend to take the right-hand track as shown on the map but the smaller left-hand path can also be taken as it re-joins the main path further along. The main track has woodland on the left and open fields on the right, it then contours around the top of a small stream feeding into the dene. Keep following the track until you come to a notice board on the left, shortly after this you will come to a place where the path splits into three. (Photo)

(6) The left-hand path goes downhill and into the dene, take the right-hand path which is faint and which heads into woodland, crossing some fallen trees before it is bordered on the right by a small stream called Priest's Gill. ( The center path also goes into the wood and curves around to join the right-hand path) The path then crosses Preist's Gill and wends it way downwards and into the bottom of Castle Eden Dene. (Please note that in autumn, winter and early spring the right hand path is fine. In summer it becomes very overgrown and in these circumstances it is better to take the left hand path down and then turn right at the junction with the main path in the dene bottom)

(7) Turn right on the good path in the dene bottom and head eastwards, crossing a small footbridge and turning right again on the other side of Castle Eden Burn. The path is good and quickly leads to a junction. Ignore the good track which leads uphill on the left towards the main road, instead, take the path along the dene bottom with the burn on your right. This leads to a tunnel under the road.

(8) There is a raised path and just enough light to walk the tunnel without needing a torch. Ignore the graffiti and enjoy making some echoes as you walk through. When you exit the tunnel take a path on your left which heads upwards to join a good track coming down from the main road. (If you want to avoid the tunnel you can take the previously mentioned track up to the road, cross it, turn right and then take the track on the right back down again. However, the tunnel is much more interesting)

(9) Follow the track downhill and towards the railway viaduct. Pass beneath this and take the path on the left which leads to the mouth of Castle Eden Dene and the Durham Coastal Path. Another path on the left comes down from Limekiln Gill and at the junction, it is possible to get onto the shoreline. There is a one-meter drop caused by the erosion of the sea but usually, fishermen have cut a ramp or some steps to make it easier to get down. It is possible to see the layers in the shore at this eroded section and the bands of black sand from the time when waste from the coal mines was dumped. The whole North East coastline has undergone a massive clean-up and is now a marvelous natural habitat to both flora and fauna.

After spending time at the coast, turn around and retrace your footsteps back under the viaduct, through the tunnel and along the dene bottom to the small footbridge over the burn.

(10) Instead of crossing the burn go straight ahead and follow the path with the burn on your left. This is a good path and leads to another bridge and then past some boulders; the first on the left (actually two boulders touching and known as the 'Kissing frog Stones') and the second on the right (The Devil's Lap Stone), and then a third larger boulder on the right supported by two concrete pillars. After this, the dene becomes steeper with loose outcrops of magnesian limestone on either side. There are various paths on the right leading uphill and into Peterlee, ignore these until you arrive at a point where the track turns left towards a bridge and a good stoned track on the right heads uphill.

(11) Ignore the good tracks and go straight ahead on a footpath, there is a signpost warning that this path might be impossible. It will only be impossible if there is a lot of water in the burn, usually after heavy or prolonged rain. (I have added an alternative at the end if this is the case and the path is impossible). Go along the path and into a very quiet part of the dene, at a bend, you will come across the remains of a footbridge which once spanned the burn. It collapsed a number of years ago; usually, it is possible to cross on dry rock as the water runs beneath the limestone but after heavy or prolonged rain there may be enough water to make you turn back. Presuming that you have been able to cross the path climbs and there is one steep section just after the bridge where you will need to take care. After this, the path contours along the steep-sided gorge and beneath a few outcrops before crossing the stream at another bridge.

(12) Ignore the faint path on the left into the Gunner's Pool and instead go over the bridge and up to a steep path passing beneath the boughs of an ancient Yew tree before coming out on the top path. This is a good path and leads onward but take care as the drop on the left is very steep, the trees and vegetation hide the danger but in winter and spring when the leaves have died back it is possible to see the remains of the steep cliffs above the Gunner's pool and the pale rock scars left by a significant rock fall. The path is joined by another from the right before turning left towards a red suspension bridge.

(13) Cross the bridge but stop midway to take in the view on either side. Looking east, you will see a steep rocky arete jutting out over the Gunner's Pool. Looking west, you will a very narrow and steep-sided gorge, it is always damp in this gorge and the steep rocky sides are lined with ferns. The burn finds its way in underground passages but after heavy rain, it can be quite impressive to see the torrent raging through the narrow cleft beneath the bridge. After the bridge turn right and follows the path it soon leads downhill (often muddy) passing the roots of an old tree via some steps and to a bridge over the burn. (If it is dry the adventurous among you could follow the burn on the right which leads with some boulder hopping and pebbly beaches into the steep narrow gorge, then turn around and head back the way you came to the bridge)

(14) Cross the bridge and turn left to cross another bridge then head uphill. Where it forks, take the right hand path. The woodland is different here, the trees are less mixed and there are more pine trees. In autumn these give a wonderful display as their needles turn orange and drop to the floor. The path climbs steadily uphill and then contours, dropping to cross a stream before contouring with the golf club grounds on the left. It will lead you to a gate and junction with the old road from Castle Eden which pre-dates the A19 .

(15) Turn left and follow the old road, now a footpath, back towards Castle Eden. It exists at a gate and goes past the bus turning circle and then along the path with the Golf Clubhouse on the left. Continue past a terrace of stone houses on the left, which started their life as a textile factory, and then right past the war memorial, across the road junction and down to the Castle Eden Inn and your car.

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 116m - Castle Eden Inn
1 : km 0.15 - alt. 115m
2 : km 0.75 - alt. 107m
3 : km 1.14 - alt. 111m
4 : km 1.84 - alt. 103m
5 : km 2.17 - alt. 98m
6 : km 3.6 - alt. 79m - Path splits into three
7 : km 4.53 - alt. 37m
8 : km 5.22 - alt. 34m - Entrance of the tunnel
9 : km 7.24 - alt. 24m
10 : km 7.94 - alt. 36m
11 : km 10.08 - alt. 63m
12 : km 10.96 - alt. 96m - Bridge
13 : km 11.32 - alt. 104m - Gunner's Pool Bridge - Gunner's Pool Bridge
14 : km 11.59 - alt. 96m
15 : km 12.36 - alt. 119m - Old road
D/A : km 14.2 - alt. 116m - Castle Eden Inn

Useful Information

It can be muddy in the dene so boots are recommended.

If you get to point 13 and it is not possible to cross the burn turn back towards the good stoned path at point 12. head up on your left and then take the left hand track at the junction. This will lead you along the top of the dene until a small path on the left takes you to the suspension bridge. It is possible to continue the walk from this point.
Use the map to check this out before you start the walk so are familiar with it as an alternative.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

The disused railway line was once part of the rail network which linked collieries but the demise of the mines at Wingate and Hesleden lead to its eventual closure. These old 'lines' now form good bridleways and are part of the cycle network.

Take a detour into St James Church and search out the medieval grave. As you go through the gates into the castle grounds the parkland on your right, in front of the castle was the site of a medieval village, an Anglo Saxon claw beaker, now in the British Museum was also discovered in this area.

The Durham coastline has undergone significant cleaning to rid its shores of the spoil and waste from coal mining. It is now a very special place with a growing ecology. See the Heritage Coast:-

Castle Eden Dene is owned and managed by Natural England. It is a site of special scientific interest and home to unique flora and fauna. The magnesian limestone was formed in the middle to late Permian era when this part of the country was once near the equator and was a tropical lagoon/shallow sea known as the Zechstein Sea. Please treat this special place with care. Here is a link to Natural England for the dene.

There is also a downloadable pdf if you Google "Castle Eden Dene - Natural England publications"

As you will read the dene has legends and there are many names relating to the devil and a tale of how he tried to trick the builders of Durham, Cathedral into using the soft magnesian limestone rock for the foundations. He dropped one of the rocks which became the Devil's Lap Stone. Look out for his nail scratches on it as you pass.

According to :- "Gunner’s Pool is allegedly where a man called Gunner who was assisting the devil in collecting stone was stoned to death by the ‘evil one’ after defying the devil’s command not to turn around and look evil in the eye.

Given that the name Gunner (Gunnar) is a Norse one it is tempting to somehow link this legend to the evil doings of the Vikings Scule and Olaf Ball, whose territories were divided by Castle Eden Dene from 918AD. Both were both known to have abused the sanctity of St Cuthbert much to long-lasting horror and memory of the people of County Durham."

This is a varied an interesting walk with much to see and enjoy. Those who enjoy quiet will be rewarded with glimpses of shy wildlife.

Good food and refreshments at the Castle Eden Inn. I can recommend their 'Lite Bites' menu served until 6:00pm.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.19/5
Number of opinions : 7
Description quality : 4.14/5
Routemap quality : 4/5
Walk interest : 4.43/5

on Thu 10 Mar 2022 10:58:48 CET

Global average : 4 / 5

Date of walk : 02/03/22
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Good

Good walk through Castle Eden Dene. As you'd expect, it was mostly through woodland, crossing streams multiple times. This really is a pretty Dene & you could spend hours in here. On the day, it was very muddy, which made some of the paths very precarious, but nevertheless this was a good walk with good instructions to follow!

on Thu 10 Jun 2021 21:03:56 CEST

Thanks for this feedback, it will help other walkers choosing to do it.

on Thu 10 Jun 2021 18:19:12 CEST

Global average : 3.33 / 5

Date of walk : 10/06/21
Description quality : Average
Routemap quality : Average
Walk interest : Good

Hi just done this walk and some parts of the walk are very dangerous. The area is very overgrown and unkept.
Description 6 we had to take the left hand path and completely got lost and ended up near the tunnel as we didn’t come across the right junction.
Description 11 is so dangerous as lots of land slide and difficult paths I would completely miss this out.
Description 12 is also not good as too narrow and land slide

We did find the walk really tough as so much climbing and ended up retracing our steps on 3 occasions hence we did 17 km
We will do that area again but will choose a more relaxing part of Castle Eden
I do think lockdown has had a lot to do with the lack of upkeep of walking paths as lots of signs have disappeared and overgrown vegetation covering way marks which is a pity.
However thank you for putting this walk together it was very comprehensive but I thought this feedback would help other walkers.
Thank you

on Mon 22 Mar 2021 18:40:39 CET

Global average : 4 / 5

Date of walk : 20/03/21
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Good

This was a great walk, it took us a lot longer than we expected and came to a lot of tricky areas that took us a while to manoeuvre due to mud and lack of information. The guide was well written but there was a few places we got confused and some parts are definitely for more experienced hikers.

All in all it was a good day, some amazing views, and good for team building but we definitely felt it the next day, and the day after that.

on Sun 28 Feb 2021 17:38:37 CET

Thanks for the feedback. I was walking in The Dene last weekend, down to the coast and back, and indeed the paths are muddy in places at this time of the year. Natural England had placed some laminated signs/maps at the entrances to warn walkers that there have been some land-slips this winter and that some paths were closed, they may have blown away or have been taken away by now. Hopefully now that we are in spring the steps and paths will be brought back into good repair.
All your points are valid and useful to others wanting to walk the route, I'm so please you were able to walk it in full.

on Sun 28 Feb 2021 15:03:25 CET

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 27/02/21
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Great walk and well described in route description.
Lots to see as you walk. It’s an interesting walk with a tunnel, railway viaduct to pass under and lots of bridges, plenty of excellent safe footpaths although a little muddy in places at this time of year. It’s really worth the effort.
My favourite point was 12/13 crossing the red suspension bridge and seeing views either side into the narrow gorge. You actually get to see how deep the gorge is at this point.
There are a few negatives about the walk -
there are several sections of the route in a poor state of repair.
The route from point 6 heads through woodland. It crosses over a small wooden bridge over a stream which has broken sections. It then leads to steps downhill and a number of these steps are rotten and dislodged.
At point 11 it mentions the path might be impossible. The signs say impassable which it will be if the burn is in full flow. We were able to cross on rocks and it was easy. You then follow the path uphill eventually coming to a section where there are wooden steps. Unfortunately there has been a land slip and most of the steps and path have disappeared into the gorge. It is a bit tricky here but you are able to continue taking great care clearing the gap onto the remaining steps. This section will completely disappear at some point and you won’t be able to continue. I’m surprised that this section has not been closed for safety reasons. In the route information is an alternative route if this section is impassable.
I’m so pleased we were actually able to follow the whole route as it follows good paths that are off the main well defined footpaths.
You definitely need good sturdy waterproof footwear at this time of year as there are some really muddy wet sections. Even in the summer I can imagine some areas may never dry out. Good footwear needed at all times.
The route needs a bit of restoration in places but passable with great care in places and certainly well worth the effort. Looks as though all the fallen trees talked about in earlier posts have been cleared away. There were certainly none blocking our route today.
Take time to explore the coast as the views along the shoreline are great.
A massive thumbs up 👍 for this route.

on Mon 21 Sep 2020 18:25:42 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 21/09/20
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Starting from Castle Eden Inn on both occasions in the last month on what was a very comfortable and enjoyable walk. The scenery ticked all boxes on a satisfying slightly more than leisurely walk. One gets a feeling of being a pioneer when walking out of the forested dene onto the seascape of the North Sea. The final reward is an excellent, well priced Sunday Lunch before jumping into the car for the journey home.

on Tue 14 Jan 2020 22:40:25 CET

The fallen tree is to the west of the Castle alongside the Golf Course

on Tue 14 Jan 2020 21:00:03 CET

Thanks for the reply and info. The threads are found at the bottom of each route so it is good that people walking the routes add comments like these. I will, update the text the warn others that there some fallen trees. Might even pop down and get an exact fix if I get a few hours at the weekend. I live in Castle Eden so it will be a quick visit for me.
If you walk some of my other routes on the NY Moors, or Dales ley me know you get on.

on Tue 14 Jan 2020 00:13:57 CET

I had not read the 1st post so apologies but between 4 & 6 plus no fault to you but a couple of blocked routes due to fallen trees
I have not been around for nearly 30 years so it was good to have a ' guide route' to follow and intend to try a few more of your walk routes as I live in Hartlepool and walk the Moors, Dales as well as locally nigh on every week

on Mon 13 Jan 2020 22:21:57 CET

Thanks for your feedback on the Castle Eden walk. Which parts of the route were difficult to follow? If you give me some indication I will edit the description to make it clearer for others.


on Mon 13 Jan 2020 09:45:48 CET

Global average : 3.67 / 5

Date of walk : 13/01/20
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Average
Walk interest : Good

The walk turned out to be difficult to follow at certain points but nevertheless a good route with plenty to see

on Sat 27 Jul 2019 23:04:40 CEST

Pleased that you liked this walk and thanks for your comments.

Good point to make about the path at point 4 and also your comments about the split at point 6, I can imagine that the vegetation would be high in summer, so great choice going left and into down into the dene.

If you are NE based check out the art installation just past Middleton in Teesdale it's only there until 4th August.


on Sat 27 Jul 2019 12:53:40 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 25/07/19
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Very good

Excellent walk & extremely enjoyable with lots of varying landscapes. I have added a few comments below, which might help with the directions for anyone taking this route in future.
At point no.4 on the walk, after going through the kissing gate, we headed down the hill following the route. As we headed down, the path described to the right is actually a sharp turn going back up hill & is not the obvious path to take.
At point no. 6, there are 3 paths to choose from & the faint path to the right is suggested as the route on this walk. However, we followed this for a few minutes before turning back. As we were walking in July, the undergrowth was at head height. Similarly the undergrowth on the middle path was the same. The left hand path was the main path & takes you down to the bottom of the Dene, where you can turn right (east) & cross the small hump back footbridge before following the path along to pick up the trail again at point 7.
Point 10 - you will follow the path for quite some time before seeing the 'Kissing Frog Stones'. However, it is a long winding path at the bottom of the Dene, with the Burn on your left. Just before the last boulder with concrete pillars, you will pass over a stone walled footbridge.

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A short and relatively easy walk which explores the lesser known Durham Denes that lie to the south of Castle Eden Dene.

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This section of the England Coast Path continues down the rural areas of County Durham ending at Crimdon passing through Castle Eden Dene and Crimdon Dene finishing at a popular holiday park. There are nature reserves and rock formations to explore along with long sandy beaches and sand dunes. This section has some steep inclines and steps and is therefore not accessible.

distance 7.73km Vertical gain +44m Vertical drop -44m Durée 2h20 Easy Easy
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