High Force and Upper Teesdale: A Circular Walk

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.

Technical sheet
No. 3411779
A Forest and Frith walk posted on 14/06/20 by Alwayswiththehills. Update : 20/11/20
Calculated time Calculated time: 4h55[?]
Distance Distance : 14.27km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 296m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 295m
Highest point Highest point : 544m
Lowest point Lowest point : 289m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Forest and Frith
Starting point Starting point : N 54.652883° / W 2.178564°
Download : -
Teesdale Meander Frog Ravens Scar White Well


Park at the High Force Hotel Car Park, This is manned and there is a daily parking charge. (£5.00 all day in 2020) There is a maintained route to the foot of the falls which is also charged for. This walk used the car park but not the chargeable paths.

(D/A) From the car park, cross the road. Ignore the Raby Estate route ahead of you and instead turn left and walk along the footpath. After a short distance, take the path on the right that descends through woodland. The steps can be a bit slippery after rain so take care. The path brings you out in a meadow, Turn left and walk across the meadow to the obvious footbridge.

(1) Cross the bridge and on the far side turn right and take the good path. Please heed the safety notices as there is a steep drop on this section of the walk. The path leads gently up above Keedholm Scar and through ancient Juniper Woods. The Juniper is under threat from a disease and you may find stations where you can clean your boots to ensure that the disease is not spread beyond this area. You will soon hear the sound of the waterfall; where the path branches take the right hand path to the viewing area.

(2) Once you have taken in the dramatic view of the falls, return to the path and continue into more open countryside with the river as your companion on the right. Soon you will pass a working quarry on the opposite bank of the river where they blast and sort the Whin Sill to use as aggregate. You will then cross a series of small footbridges and ascend the gentle slopes of Bracken Rigg with marvellous views across the river. Look out for two distinctive stone markers either side of the broad grassy path.

(3) The left hand marker stone has an arrow and PW carved into it. Turn diagonally left and follow a faint path to the corner of the field where there is a wooden kissing gate and a small metal gate. Pass through the gate and use the stones to cross the small beck (Fell Dike Sike) then head diagonally right on another faint path to join a broader grassy track.

(4) At the broad grassy track, turn right and ascend Birk Rigg with lovely views of White Force Waterfall on your left. The paths runs briefly beside a stream before ascending through the rockier ground to the top and a wire fenced enclosure.

(5) The enclosure is one of 7 that are being used to protect the sugar limestone soil from erosion and encourage the growth of rare indigenous plants; please respect this important conservation work. Walk with the enclosure on your right and pass a cairn. The path then crosses to a second enclosure which you walk past, with it on your right, before starting to descend to a third enclosure, this time on your left. Look ahead; you will glimpse Cow Green Reservoir behind the hill in the distance. Besides the third enclose is an outcrop of the sugar limestone. It is very granular in texture and is easy crumbled, it is easy to see where it gets its name from. At this point lookout for the natural spring of White Well, which emerges from under the bed of limestone. Keep on following the path passing the odd cairn to an obvious cairn and information board.

(6) This cairn marks Man Gate; ahead is the River Tees and the outcrop of Falcon Clints. The path descends from Man Gate across the fellside and the path becomes more feint towards the bottom. Head for the corner of the enclosure where there is a stream.

(7) The path that you want to pick up runs beside the River Tees, so head diagonally across to it using sheep tracks. You will soon pick up the better path with the River Tees on your left. This path leads under the outcrops of Foxes Earths and Ravens Scar. In places, it is narrow and used wooden boards, in some placed the boards have gone and it can be muddy or boggy underfoot. There can also be small boulders to negotiate so take care on this section. The path will lead around to pass through a gate opposite Widdy Bank Farm. This is a good place to have a drink and a snack, sitting on the banks of the river. If you look carefully you will see lots of the local frog inhabitants. Continue on the path, which is easier to follow to a gate next to an outbuilding.

(8) Pass through the gate and go diagonally across the field aiming for the obvious bridge. You will join a good track that leads from some barns, turn left and take the track over the bridge.

(9) After the bridge, the track bends right and crosses a cattle grid, follow the track up and around to a gate with the sign Hill End.

(10) Pass through the Hill End gate and walk towards the farmhouse but then cut across the field to follow the wall to a stile in the corner. cross the stile and walk to a short stone wall ahead of you. There is a natural spring to the right of this wall and a gap in the wall below you.

(11) A grassy track leads from this gap up and past the spring/stone wall. Follow the grassy track upwards with a stone wall topped with barbed wire on your right, Aim for a gate on the left in the adjoining wall.

(12) Pass through the gate and walk through the pasture with the wall on your right. (Ignore the metal gate as this leads up to High Knott) The path leads across the field to join a good stone track.

(13) Turn right on the track and walk past West Force Garth Farm and then through East Force Garth Farm. The track leads down to a junction with the quarry road.

(14) At the junction, turn left and follow the tarmac road. At the top there is a one way system for vehicles, take the right hand fork and join the main road (B6277) through Teesdale.

(15) Turn right and walk along the narrow footpath back to the High Force Hotel and car parking.(D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 324m - High Force Hotel Car Park
1 : km 0.61 - alt. 290m - Bridge
2 : km 1.46 - alt. 315m - High Force Waterfall
3 : km 3.57 - alt. 387m - Bracken Rigg
4 : km 3.86 - alt. 391m - Birk Rigg
5 : km 5.11 - alt. 524m - Pile of Stones
6 : km 6.53 - alt. 500m - Man Gate
7 : km 6.95 - alt. 413m
8 : km 10.65 - alt. 360m - Gate
9 : km 11.26 - alt. 351m - Bridge
10 : km 11.61 - alt. 360m - Hill End gate
11 : km 11.9 - alt. 366m - Grassy track
12 : km 12.13 - alt. 384m - Gate
13 : km 12.75 - alt. 376m
14 : km 13.41 - alt. 340m - Junction
15 : km 13.71 - alt. 334m
D/A : km 14.27 - alt. 318m - High Force Hotel Car Park

Useful Information

One started there is no shelter on this walk and you will need to take your own food and drink with you. It is best done on a day with good visibility and with little wind /rain as the crossing of the upland behind Cronkley Scar can be bleak if a westerly wind is driving rain in your face.

Even on a hot day the breeze can make it chilly up here so be prepared for all weather and take a waterproof or windproof with you.

It can also be muddy or boggy in places so a pair of waterproof boots are recommended.

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 spectacular waterfall of High Force is an obvious attraction but there is so much more to see on this walk.

There is a variety of scenery as you walk beside the river and then ascend to the upland moors.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.83/5
Number of opinions : 4
Description quality : 4.75/5
Routemap quality : 4.75/5
Walk interest : 5/5

on Mon 08 Nov 2021 10:56:48 CET

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 19/10/21
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

The Hotel carpark accepts cash or internet stuff. No cards. And it's now £6 for 5 hours. It took us 5 and a half hours (we are slow) but we got away with it.
(D/A) The footpath down to the meadow is also part of the Raby estate and there are signs telling you to buy a ticket, although we didn't.
We did the walk in rain, and a strong wind sprang up before we ascended Birk Rigg, and I can confirm it's probably more fun in dry or still weather.
Some of the path over Birk Rigg and also back alongside the river is difficult underfoot, although we didn't find any missing boardwalk sections as mentioned by other reviewers, so perhaps that's been repaired.
It really feels remote at the far end of the walk.

on Sat 05 Sep 2020 14:26:24 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 01/09/20
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Another perfectly described route from 'Alwayswiththehills'.
Spotted a few of the missing walking planks from the Tees south bank route (7-8) grounded on shallows in the river. Possibly in a few years there will be none left at all, so best to try this walk sooner rather than later!

on Fri 04 Sep 2020 09:16:25 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 28/08/20
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

walk description was very detailed and clear, allowing me to focus on the views and landmarks in a relaxed way rather than worrying about the route.

on Wed 08 Jul 2020 20:36:48 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 08/07/20
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Very good

Enjoyable but quite a challenging walk in my favourite area.
Coming up Birk Rig (4 to 5) certainly got the lungs working and the walk back along the river (7 to 8) had quite a lot of tricky bits with big stones, badly eroded footpaths and missing board walks.

One note that the instruction 5 is not quite correct. There are 2 enclosures you pass and then follow the track up a rocky path to a 3rd enclosure which you pass, with it on your right, before starting to descend to a 4th enclosure. There may have been a second enclosure added at point 5 since the route was loaded up but it confused us a little (not difficult).

I thought 14.2k would be a little short so we started and finished at Holwick (@ +5.5k) but we probably didn't need it.

Well worth doing.

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