Bowlees Holwick Circular Walk
This circular walk takes you along the Pennine Way to Bowlees, Low Force and back via the Village of Holwick. It offers a number of additional routes which can extend the walk. Download a PDF copy of the Middleton, Holwick, Bowlees Circular Guide.
The walk takes in the route of the Pennine Way, closely following the South bank of the River Tees westwards from the County Bridge to the Winch Bridge and the water falls at Low Force. The famous suspension bridge was built for miners crossing from the South of the Tees to get to their work on the North side, the first bridge was opened in 1741 and rebuilt in 1830 after an earlier fatal accident.
At Low Force there is the opportunity to visit the Bowlees Visitor Centre to take the half mile walk along the Nature Trail to Gibson’s Cave and its spectacular waterfall, Summerhill Force. Nearby Newbiggin Chapel was, until its recent closure, the oldest Methodist Chapel still in use in Britain. It contained a pulpit used by John Wesley. Scorberry bridge also crosses the Tees between Middleton and Low Force.
From the South side of the Tees, at Low Force, you have the option of continuing for a mile and a half along the Pennine Way to the viewpoint above High Force. To complete the circular walk from Low Force the trail takes you across the fields and down the lane into Holwick. The physical geology of the area is dominated by the Whinsill (the great columns of Dolerite formed from molten magma millions of years ago). The Strathmore Arms at Holwick is the most Northerly public house in the Ancient County of North Yorkshire, it is however currently closed. From the “Strath” the road towards Middleton meets a footpath which cuts across the fields back to your starting point. Cattle may be in the fields. Alternatively, continue on the road back to Middleton.
This walk offers several possibilities. The hardy walker will take in the Pennine Way, Low Force, High Force, Bowlees and Holwick. Most of the walk includes stile crossings which will defeat anyone less mobile (and in some cases the less mobile dog). It is possible to park at Bowlees Visitor Centre and Low Force is very accessible from there. The Nature Trail to Gibson’s Cave and Summerhill Force is only accessible for a short distance. High Force can also be accessed via the Raby Estate Car Park and footpath on the B6277 next to the High Force Hotel. There is a charge for the car park and the walk.
Stout footwear is recommended for all these walks. Much of the area covered by this set of walks is working farmland. As ever when walking in the countryside, dogs need to be kept under close control and don’t forget the Countryside Code! There are several places for refreshments along the route: Bowlees, Holwick, High Force and of course Middleton. There is a “Yellow Map” which covers this area and the OS map is sheet OL31 in the Explorer series (both available from Middleton TIC, Bowlees Visitor Centre and many other outlets in the area).
Middleton, Bowlees, Holwick Circular Walk Directions
From the Bainbridge Fountain in Middleton-in-Teesdale, cross the County Bridge (via the B6277) passing the cattle market until you come to a Pennine Way/Public Footpath sign on your right. Go through the gate and follow the Pennine Way westwards. The footpath follows the course of Tees crossing several stiles and Crosthwaite Beck Bridge until you reach Low Force.
From Low Force, cross the Tees via the Winch Bridge, cross two fields and a road (the B6277) and follow the signs for the Bowlees Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre in the old chapel, with its Ford Kitchen provides refreshments, information and public toilets. Starting from the Bowlees Visitor Centre car park, a Nature Trail follows Bowlees Beck and leads to Summerhill Force and Gibson’s Cave. The first part of the trail is an easy path to the quarry, after a flight of steps the footpath becomes more uneven as it follows the banks of the beck to reach Summerhill Force. Bowlees Beck cascades over limestone to create a fine waterfall where the softer shale has been worn away to form Gibson’s cave.
You may return by reversing the route from Bowlees to Middleton or complete the circuit by visiting Holwick, which is signposted from the South side of the Winch Bridge. For Holwick, follow the waymarked footpath through the fields to the road that takes you up to Holwick scar, the large house on your right is Holwick Lodge. Once at Holwick Scar, walk down the road towards Middleton. You will pass the Strathmore Arms (currently closed) and the Low Way Farm Tea Rooms (limited opening). From the Strathmore Arms continue for a mile and a half down the road until you come to a finger post on your left. If you have an OS map you may follow a footpath which crosses fields through several stiles to re-join the Pennine Way towards Middleton Auction Market. Cattle may be in these fields. Alternatively, continue to Middleton along the road.
For a spectacular view of High Force from the South Side of the Tees, you may continue for a mile and a half along the Pennine Way from Low Force. If you have an OS Map to follow there is also a footbridge on this path to coss the Tees, just before High Force, then a path with a steep set of steps which leads to the High Force Hotel and Raby Estate’s walk on the North bank (there is a charge to use the Raby Estates’ walk and their car park). If you cannot undertake the whole walk you may drive to several points for shorter walks: Bowlees, Holwick, High Force and Newbiggin. You can also reach Newbiggin, Bowlees and High Force by Hodgsons’ bus from Middleton-in-Teesdale on Wednesdays but please check the current timetable.