High Cup Nick from Cow Green Reservoir

This is a fairly undemanding walk through a wild North Pennine landscape. The route visits two outstanding natural features - High Cup Nick and Cauldron Snout - using a section of the Pennine Way. There are no route finding issues even in poor visibility.

Technical sheet
No. 293075
A Forest and Frith walk posted on 04/07/16 by Walking Britain. Update : 23/03/18
Calculated time Calculated time: 6h45[?]
Distance Distance : 20.86km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 275m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 278m
Highest point Highest point : 585m
Lowest point Lowest point : 456m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Forest and Frith
Starting point Starting point : N 54.671928° / W 2.292953°
Download : -
Dramatic view from High Cup Nick (a different day) Whin Sill rock formations on the edge of High Cup Nick Approaching the edge of High Cup High Cup valley coming in to view along Maize Beck


(D)The start is the small car park above Cow Green Reservoir (grid ref. NY810309) where you immediately get a feeling of the wild country you are about to traverse. From the car park walk back up the road and take the first path on the right (grid ref. NY812307) heading roughly south east. Reaching a cross track, turn left and continue to a tarmac track. Turn right and follow this access road to the dam to join the Pennine Way. Drop down to cross the river bridge, keeping left at the junction just over the river and continue to Birkdale (grid ref. NY804278).

(1)At grid ref. NY768267 you reach a bridge over Maize Beck. The westbound Pennine Way offers a choice of route from here, with a path on both the northern and southern sides of the Beck. For the purposes of this walk cross the Beck and follow the southern route of the Pennine Way. This will lead you without any further navigational problems to High Cup Nick. When approaching from this direction High Cup Nick is seen unfolding in a dramatic fashion and it is not until you have reached the crags at the edge of the glacial valley that you can fully appreciate this natural wonder.

(2)Until this point you are unlikely to have seen many walkers but the "Nick" is a popular destination from the village of Dufton so you are unlikely to be able to enjoy the scenery in solitude. The return route follows the outward route. However a visit to Cauldron Snout close to the dame across the outlet to Cow Green Reservoir should not be missed. After crossing the bridge below the dam, turn right and follow the Pennine Way for a short distance. The wonderful waterfall of Cauldron Snout will soon be reached. After enjoying the spectacle, retrace your steps back to the dam, bear right along the access track and you will soon be back at the start.(A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 511m - Start: Cow Green Reservoir car park
1 : km 4.3 - alt. 461m - Birkdale
2 : km 9.83 - alt. 582m - High Cup Nick
D/A : km 20.86 - alt. 511m

Useful Information

The North Pennines offer some wonderful walking through often wild and windswept landscapes. This walk uses a lengthy section of the Pennine Way which makes route finding much easier yet it still retains the natural characteristics of the area. The route is, in effect, an out and back walk, something I'm not usually in favour of but in this case I feel the choice is justified. The walk is not demanding with little ascent yet the length and remoteness does mean you should be well prepared and carry food and drink. If you have the benefit of two cars then the walk could be extended to the village of Dufton making it a one-way walk.

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

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.5/5
Number of opinions : 2
Description quality : 4.5/5
Routemap quality : 4.5/5
Walk interest : 4.5/5

on Mon 16 Sep 2019 20:06:47 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 13/09/19
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Superb walk. Isolated and remote, but not difficult. Stunning scenery. I walked it fairly briskly, and I managed each direction in 2 hours. If I'd been planning a long day's walk, this pace would have been too much, but it was fine for this walk. Just to note that according to my Pacer app, it was nearer 7.5 miles in each direction than 6.5 miles.

on Fri 23 Mar 2018 13:53:55 CET

Dear Nickb500, thank you for pointing this out. There was indeed an error in the walk track, which didn't include the return leg of the walk. This has been corrected now, so that distance and time are accurate Glad you enjoyed the walk anyway, despite the unexpected distance!!

on Mon 12 Mar 2018 16:50:05 CET

Global average : 4 / 5

Date of walk : 16/02/18
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Good

Being new to this site and its abbreviations/terminology and not having my own map to cover the route I was under the mistaken impression that the TOTAL distance was 6.48 miles including the return leg; in reality it was twice that distance i.e. around 13 miles. I have classed the description as 'Good' on the assumption that the mistake was mine - if the details could be clarified for the sake of others then please do so.

Having set out reasonably early and being keen to reach High Cup Nick for the first time in 20 years I persevered despite strong winds, sleet and snow and some snow drifts. On several occasions I discovered streams beneath the snow a couple of which overtopped my boots. Needless to say progress was fairly slow in these places. On the return leg I had the prevailing westerly wind behind me which helped.

Dramatic scenery and a love of the area made it worthwhile even if I did complete the final road mile in darkness, the black tarmac road showing up well between the snowy fields. Total walk time was 7.5 hours! Looking forward to repeating it on a summer's day!

Other walks in the area

distance 5.64km Vertical gain +70m Vertical drop -72m Durée 1h50 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Forest and Frith - Durham

An easy walk in the North Pennines this walk visits one of the waterfalls on the upper Tees. The walk can easily be extended to visit the limestone crags of Falcon Clints by using the Pennine Way.

distance 8.95km Vertical gain +135m Vertical drop -136m Durée 2h55 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Forest and Frith - Durham

Circular walk passing by High Hurth Edge and the Upper Tees Valley.

High Force and Upper Teesdale: A Circular Walk
distance 14.27km Vertical gain +296m Vertical drop -295m Durée 4h55 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Forest and Frith - Durham

A lovely circular walk with a variety of interest. From the popular waterfall of High Force through upland pasture and then the more desolate upland landscape of Thistle Green before descending to the River Tees and following its course with a final leg through farmland.

High Force Hotel : High and Low Force Waterfalls
distance 7.45km Vertical gain +101m Vertical drop -104m Durée 2h25 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Forest and Frith - Durham

Easy and circular walk around High and Low Force Waterfalls.

Tees Circular
distance 12.06km Vertical gain +176m Vertical drop -185m Durée 3h55 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Newbiggin - Durham

This Tees circular walk from Bowlees takes in the spectacular scenery of Teesdale, Low Force, the Iconic view of High Force, the geographically famous Holwick Scars and views of the Royal residency at Holwick Lodge.

distance 16.27km Vertical gain +329m Vertical drop -330m Durée 5h35 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Newbiggin - Durham

A circular walk from Bowlees. Following the river Tees downstream to Middleton-in Teesdale before climbing out through open moorland via the mysterious corpse of ancient Kircarrion, with wonderful views over Lunedale before descending the dramatic Holwick scar back to base.

distance 9.12km Vertical gain +339m Vertical drop -341m Durée 3h35 Moderate Moderate
Starting point Starting point in Stanhope - Durham

The North Pennines offer some of the wildest landscapes in England. This route explores the hills and moors to the north of Wearhead. A short section of the Weardale Way is also included.

Bales Hush art installation
distance 6.97km Vertical gain +203m Vertical drop -202m Durée 2h35 Easy Easy
Starting point Starting point in Newbiggin - Durham

An easy walk from the Bowlees Car Park / Visitor Centre up to Bales Hush and the art installation called Hush.

For more walks, use our search engine.

The GPS track and description are the property of the author.