The Lesser Known Durham Denes and the Coastal Path

A varied and interesting circular walk from Castle Eden. It starts and finishes near the Castle Eden Inn which is well known for its good beer and good food. Explore the lesser known denes that lie to the south of the village via the disused railway which is now a bridle path and part of the national cycle network. Traverse the coastal path north before dropping to the beach and then heading back via the better known Castle Eden Dene.

Technical sheet
No. 3351250
A Castle Eden walk posted on 02/06/20 by Alwayswiththehills. Update : 20/11/20
Calculated time Calculated time: 6h10[?]
Distance Distance : 20.19km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 154m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 156m
Highest point Highest point : 117m
Lowest point Lowest point : 2m
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Castle Eden
Starting point Starting point : N 54.731046° / W 1.344207°
Download : -
The Castle The Beach Looking Back (South) Information Board Hesleden Pit Heap


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.) This walk presumes you have parked at the village hall.

(D/A) From the car park, cross the road with the Castle Eden Inn in front of you. Turn right and walk down through the village. Look out for a small bungalow on your left just before a track. Turn left and walk along the track passing the gates to some houses. When there are fields on either side keep an eye out for a path crossing from the left and continuing along the bottom edge of the field on your right. (yellow arrows)

(1) Turn right and cross the stile or go through the gap in the fence (whichever is present). Follow the path along the edge of the field and go through a gap in the fence, Descend through light woodland to the bottom of Bleachery Dene. Follow the path rightwards with the stream to your left until you cross a footbridge, then follow the path upwards to come out on the edge of another field. Turn left again and walk along the field boundary with the woodland of Bleachery Dene to your left. Do not get distracted by any tracks down into the dene; the descent is steep, muddy and used by trials bikes for practice. Instead, keep to the side of the field until you come to two obvious stiles.

(2) Take the right hand stile and cross from the field into a meadow with a few trees. Descend diagonally to a footbridge. Opposite you will see the workings that are taking place to remove spoil from the old Hesleden pit heap. After crossing the footbridge follow the path into Hesleden Dene. (In medieval times this would have been known as Hazel Dene, giving its name to the village of Hesleden). The path is pleasant as is winds its way along the dene bottom before ascending through the woods to the old railway track beside Hesleden village. This is the Hart to Haswell bridleway/cycleway

(3) Turn right and follow the bridleway which follows the line of the disused railway. Take care as this is also part of the national cycle network and passing cyclist don't always give a warning when approaching from behind.
Continue until you see a barn in a field on your left. The path splits and a narrower path lies parallel to the bridleway, take this smaller, parallel path but it will be muddy after prolonged rain. (If it is muddy continue along the railway and look out for a stile on the left with a path leading more steeply down) The path and the stile both lead down to the entrance to a tunnel.

(4) Go through a gate, turn right and take the short tunnel under the old railway, then continue along the track with fences on either side to Low Hesleden Farm. At the farm take the gate on the right onto the road. The farm dogs are known for their barking and they may well escort you along the road and through the village to the triangle of grass. Make a turn up hill and then take the signposted path along the tarmac road (Private Road) to Hesleden Hall. Pass beside the hall, go through a gate and then a second (wooden) gate. There will be the shell of an old mine pumping station in front of you in an enclosure.

(5) Turn right and follow the path beside some allotments until it enters the woods (sign No Horses). Here the path broadens out and descends into Nesbitt Dene. There is a steep drop on the left into an old quarry working so stay on the track. At the bottom, turn left and pass the entrance to the old quarry. The path will cross the (usually dry) stream bed and will continue wending its way through the bottom of the dene. You will pass a signpost and paths leading up on the left and these take you back to the railway track so ignore them and continue straight on. Where the track turns right to cross the stream via a bridge stop. On your left is a faint path through the trees with the stream on the right. Take the faint path, it will lead you through the woods to the entrance of a tunnel where the stream goes under the old railway.

(6) Do not try to go through the tunnel, it is wet and you will need to wade. Instead, there is a far more cunning route. Take a path up the embankment to the left of the tunnel and cross behind the parapet before the path ascends again for a short way. It comes to a second tunnel that is stacked on top of the first. This tunnel is dry; walk through it and on the other side turn right and take a path back up to the Hart to Haswell bridleway/cycleway. Now continue along the old railway track, pass under a bridge and arrive at a metal footbridge on the left which crosses the working railway.

(7) Take the steps and cross the bridge over the railway tracks, then descend on the other side and take the path towards to coast and the mouth of Crimdon Dene. The path leads down through grassy dunes to the mouth of Crimdon Dene.

(8) Cross the bottom of Crimdon Dene and ascend the opposite side to gain the road past the pony trekking centre. Then continue along the path past the car park with the dunes and sea on your right, keep straight on until you reach a blue metal sign with Durham Coast; this is at the entrance to the static caravan park. Follow the path along the bottom of the caravan park until it curves back on itself along the side of steep sided gill heading towards a railway embankment and a brick bridge.

(9) Just before the bridge, turn right and take the road toward a metal fenced enclosure. Just before this, turn right again and cross a stile into a meadow which is on the opposite of the gill. You are in a nature reserve (lookout for rare orchids in spring and early summer) and the path follows the top of the meadow along the edge with the steep embankment always on your right. It will bring you to a set of steps that descend and reascend, Ignore these and continue past the steps on a path at the bottom of the railway embankment.

(10) The path is parallel to the embankment and goes up over a couple of rocky steps before entering a field, turn right and head directly towards the coast again. (alternatively, you could have taken the steps mentioned in (9) and then followed a path around the short headland). Turn left at the coast and follow the path above the steep grassy embankments, it cuts back on itself to negotiate another gill and heads towards the end of a tarmac road and small car park.

(11) From the car park, follow the steps down onto the beach, then walk along the beach, passing Blue House Gill and then the course of the stream coming out of Castle Eden Dene. Walk past the mouth of Castle Eden Dene and then head towards the path under the embankment on the north side.

(12) Gain the path, turn left and follow it into the mouth of Castle Eden Dene, you will be heading for an obvious brick railway viaduct. The path goes beneath this and joins a road which ascends. Lookout on the left for a place where the path descends (yellow dolomite) into light woodland and follow the path down to the stream where it enters a tunnel under the road.

(13) Step over a culvert and onto a raised footpath which hugs the wall of the tunnel with the stream on your left; there is just enough light to walk the tunnel without needing a torch. At the far side, there are usually a few tree trunks that have been washed down when the stream floods, step over them and onto an earth path, follow this to join a better track coming down on your right from the road above the tunnel. Now follow the good track along the bottom of Castle Eden Dene, keeping the stream on your left. You will come to a place where there is a bridge and set of steps on the right that lead up to Peterlee.

(14) Ignore these steps and continue a short way, looking out for a marker post and a good track on the left which ascends through the wood, at the top, there is a plank bench. Continue along the path with fields on your left and the woodland and dene on your right. Follow this ignoring a turn on the right (don't worry if you take the right branch it takes a lower path and rejoins the main path again further along) to where it descends and joins another good track.

(15) Turn left at the junction and head uphill following a good track with a stream on your left. It will bring you to a kissing gate and a junction with a road.

(16) After the gate, you can turn right and walk along the road to get a view of the Castle and then retrace your steps. Alternatively, just turn left, go through the gates to the castle drive and walk past the church, then follow the footpath to the road.

(17) Cross the road diagonally rightwards, heading to a metal gate. Pass beside the gate and follow a path along the side of the field with the hedgerow on your left and then along the side of the next field, this time with the hedgerow on your right. The path will bring you to a broad track, this is the Hart to Haswell bridleway/cycleway again.

(18) Turn right and walk along the bridleway, look out for a section that becomes more enclosed and where there are paths either side of the track.

(19) Take the left hand path through a narrow alley between two gardens which brings you out on a road next to the Castle Eden Inn car park. Walk up through the car park and cross the road to get to the village hall and your parked car.(D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 117m - Car park
1 : km 0.79 - alt. 92m
2 : km 1.92 - alt. 102m
3 : km 2.65 - alt. 100m
4 : km 3.52 - alt. 90m - Gate
5 : km 5.12 - alt. 69m - Hesleden Hall
6 : km 6.29 - alt. 45m - Tunnel
7 : km 7.92 - alt. 32m - Steps
8 : km 8.57 - alt. 7m - Crimdon Dene
9 : km 10.44 - alt. 38m - Bridge
10 : km 10.93 - alt. 42m
11 : km 12.27 - alt. 15m - Car park
12 : km 14.56 - alt. 8m - Hartlepool Point
13 : km 15.43 - alt. 28m
14 : km 16.69 - alt. 48m - Garden bridge
15 : km 18.31 - alt. 100m - Castle
16 : km 18.72 - alt. 110m - Gate
17 : km 19.06 - alt. 111m - B1281
18 : km 19.44 - alt. 107m - Bridleway
19 : km 20.02 - alt. 114m
D/A : km 20.19 - alt. 117m - Car park

Useful Information

It can be muddy in all of the denes so boots are recommended.

You might be able to buy ice cream and soft drinks from ice cream vans at Crimdon Dene but they will not be there all year round.

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

Castle Eden Dene is managed by Natural England and is known for it flora and fauna including the Argus butterfly. Its neighbouring denes to the south are less well known, but this route explores the best parts.

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.

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"

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.

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.

If you are interested in exploring Castle Eden Dene in its entirety why not check out the walk.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.67/5
Number of opinions : 1
Description quality : 5/5
Routemap quality : 4/5
Walk interest : 5/5

on Sun 23 May 2021 21:21:20 CEST

Thanks for the feedback, I am glad you enjoyed this overall.
I live locally so will go and check out the stile at pt 2; I have not been that way since last autumn and it might have been taken down.
I will look at the text and try to make it clearer at point 4; it is all about keeping an good eye out for the narrower path on the left which runs parallel and below the cycle track. I will also try and give a better indication of how far to the marker post at pt 14.

It gives me a good reason to do this walk again

on Sat 22 May 2021 12:01:31 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 15/05/21
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Very good

Did this walk in a small group on 15/5/21. We really enjoyed it, very varied, and good quality paths. Timing was spot on, it took us bang on 6 hours. We had slight difficulty with direction finding around waypoints 2, 4 and 14 - slightly clearer instructions including an indication of distance to the marker post at 14 would be helpful, and one of the stiles mentioned at 2 seems to have disappeared, hence brief confusion! Shame the Castle Eden Inn wasn't open when we finished - but nothing we can do about that!

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