Follow our free downloadable Birdwalks and you’ll be well placed to discover the birds of the North Pennines.

The North Pennines is a fantastic place to watch birds! The rich mix of habitats, wildlife and stunning landscapes is unique in England.


Such is the wealth of birdlife in the North Pennines that if you visit virtually any part of it you are likely to see a range of birds and other wildlife. The following series of walks and sites has been put together to provide a range of options for discovering the birds of the North Pennines. It’s by no means a definitive list, more an introduction to the characteristic habitats and birds you can see.

Each birdwalk provides:

  • Short introduction
  • Route map and directions
  • Notes on characteristic birds you’re likely to see

A downloadable map showing the location of each walk can be found at the side of this page in the ‘Related files’ area.

See birds of the high moors, grassland birds, the black grouse, woodland birds, birds of rivers and streams, birds of scrub, scree and crag and birds of open water for more information about the bird life found in the North Pennines.

The walks

1. Lambley & The South Tyne

  • On this 8 mile circular walk in the South Tyne Valley you’ll experience a range of North Pennine habitats and their distinctive birdlife: rushy allotment; heather moorland; and woodland.

2. Tindale Tarn

  • This 5.6 mile circular walk takes you to Tindale Tarn in the far north west of the North Pennines. Here you’ll find a rich variety of breeding birds in the spring and summer and a range of wildfowl during the winter months.

3. Allen Banks & Staward Gorge

  • This 6 mile (in total) linear route explores the birdlife found in Allen Banks and Staward Gorge – a stunning site in the north of the AONB looked after by the National Trust.

4. Chimneys on Dryburn Moor

  • This 2.4 mile (in total) linear route, in the Allen Valleys, explores much that is characteristic of teh North Pennines – high peaty moorland, the sweet melancholy call of the giolden plover and the towering remains of chimneys from the area’s lead mining past.

5. Blanchland

  • This short (1.5 mile) circular walk from the attractive North Pennine settlement of Blanchland combines an experience of both woodland and river habitats.

6. Derwent Gorge

  • This 2.4 mile (in total) linear route explores the upland oak woodland found in the dramatic Derwent Gorge National Nature Reserve. The views across the woodland canopy from the gorge sides are impressive and excellent for birdwatching.

7. Burnhope Head

  • Take this 3 mile circular route, in the Derwent Valley, and discover the area’s characteristic heather-clad moorland. You’ll (on a clear day) be greeted with impressive sweeping views. In misty conditions navigation may be tricky.

8. Cowshill

  • This 5.6 mile (in total) linear route explores the pastures and allotments around the village of Cowshill in Upper Weardale. These grasslands are an important nesting habitat for visiting wading birds in the spring and summer.

9. Wellhope Moor

  • Set off on this glorious 3 mile, circular route, and you’ll be greeted by stunning views across the Nent Valley and the chance to experience a mix of typical North Pennines upland habitats – hay meadows, pasture and allotment, heather moorland, blanket bog and upland streams.

10. Garrigill

  • Explore the stunning South Tyne Valley. This route travels along the banks of this tumbling upland river and you’re likely to see common sandpiper, oystercatchers and grey wagtail, as well as lots of waders in the spring and summer.

11. Dufton Pike

  • This 4.3 mile circular route circumnavigates Dufton Pike on the Eastern Fellside. It’s great habitat for buzzards and you may also see the more elusive ring ouzel, singing from one of the gnarled hawthorns that dot the hillside.

12. Upper Teesdale

  • This 4.3 mile circular tour of Upper Teesdale offers stunning views of Cronkley Scar and Widdybank. This area is one of the best places to see waders during the breeding season and black grouse throughout the year.

13. Howden Burn

  • This 3.6 mile (in total) linear route passes through grassland and up onto heather moorland and you’ll be treated to splendid views across the open uplands and down to the Bollihope Burn. It’s a great area to watch wading birds in the spring and summer.

14. Blackton Reservoir

  • This 3.7 mile circular route goes round Blackton Reservoir, set in the dramatic landscape of Baldersdale. You’ll pass through meadows, pastures and allotments which support large numbers of breeding wading birds. The reservoir also provides a refuge for wildfowl during the winter.

The sites

Site 1. Derwent Reservoir

  • Derwent Reservoir, in the Derwent Valley, is a great place to watch birds at any time of year. You’ll see wildfowl all year round. Easy access paths on the south and north shores of the water make this a brilliant destination for wheelchair users and families with pushchairs.

Site 2. Ouston Fell

  • Ouston Fell, in the West Allen Valley, supports large numbers of breeding waders and red grouse. It’s a great spot for viewing displaying waders and (fingers crossed) hunting birds of prey from the comfort of your car.

Site 3. Harwood Beck and Widdybank

  • This site, in Upper Teesdale, is one of the best places in the North Pennines to see breeding waders and black grouse. It’s also ideal viewing from the comfort of your car.

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