Weardale, one of the Durham Dales, was once the hunting ground of County Durham’s Prince Bishops. This spectacular dale has beautiful historic settlements, great attractions and exhilarating landscapes to discover.
Stanhope Deer Park
Eastgate and Westgate marked the boundary of the Stanhope Deer Park where the famous ‘Great Chases’ were held. Weardale is also famous as the source of a unique form of ‘marble’ – known as Frosterley Marble. It’s actually a type of limestone and when highly polished the fossilized remains of sea creatures are plain to see.
Stanhope is the largest settlement in Upper Weardale and is a good spot to spend a while planning your next move as you explore the North Pennines. Don’t miss the spectacular Stanhope Fossil Tree (originally from a quarry near Edmundbyers) in the churchyard. Take a walk by the River Wear and find out more about the area, including local walks, at the Durham Dales Centre.
Lead mining landscape
The poet WH Auden loved the North Pennines, especially the area around Rookhope. It was here in the lead mining landscapes of Weardale that he first felt his creative juices flowing. Visit the arch to the northwest of Rookhope – a reminder of the area’s lead mining past and the inspiration that Auden drew from the fascinating part of the North Pennines.
Places to visit, things to do
Weardale has a fascinating history which is brought to life by two award winning museums: Killhope Museum; and the Weardale Museum and High House Chapel. Hamsterley Forest is also on the doorstep, with 2,000 hectares of woodland’s offering numerous mountain biking, walking and horse riding trails to suit all abilities. If you would rather sit back and enjoy the scenery then take a trip on the Weardale Railway which runs between Stanhope and Bishop Auckland.
- Killhope Museum – 01388 537 505 – Killhope is a multi-award winning 19th century mining museum in the centre of the North Pennines where you can experience the life and work of the lead mining families of the North Pennines.
- The Winking Sheep Sportive – Annual ride starting and finishing in St. John’s Chapel. Three routes (90, 75 and 55 miles) wholly within the North Pennines AONB. Registered with British Cycling.
- Hire an electric bike from Edmundbyers or Blanchland.
- Weardale Museum & High House Chapel – Ireshopeburn. Independent folk museum telling Weardale’s story. Catch a glimpse of home life for lead miners a century ago.
- Weardale Adventure Centre, Ireshopeburn – 01388 537 387 – 80-bed residential centre with a reputation for high quality outdoor education and activity courses.
- Chatterbox Café, St. John’s Chapel – 01388 537 188 – Café, tourist information, local arts and crafts.
- Weardale Railway – 01388 526 203 – Runs between Wolsingham, Frosterley and Stanhope – the only heritage railway based on part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.
- Durham Dales Centre – 01388 527 650 – information, gift shop, tearooms, courtyard shops, activities and events and grounds.
- Harehope Quarry Project, Frosterley – 01388 528 015 – restored quarry with geology trail and interpretation and volunteer-built eco-classroom. A unique environment for study, relaxing, volunteering opportunities, community events and a meeting place with a difference.
- This is Durham – Durham Tourist Information – find things to do in Durham City and County, hotels and accommodation, what’s on, restaurants, special offers and itineraries.
- Auckland Castle – 01388 743 750 – Steeped in almost 900 years of history, Auckland Castle is one of the most important episcopal palaces in Europe, and the magnificent home of England’s only Prince Bishop.
- Kynren – 01388 311 813 – Live action, night show set in the shadow of Auckland Castle. An epic tale of England on a large outdoor stage with a cast of 1,000+.
- Bishop Auckland Food Festival – A celebration of the very best food and drink the north of England has to offer.