The full tour of Castle Eden Dene taking in all the best parts with varied and interesting scenery:- Old buildings, open country, ancient woodland, the North East coastline, a magnesium limestone dene with its craggy outcrops, a meandering river and steep-sided gorge. There is a multitude of flora and fauna; if you are quiet you may see squirrels and/or deer. Starts and finished near the Castle Eden Inn which is well known for its good beer and good food.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
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.)
(D) From the road walk past the Inn car park following the road into the small housing estate. Just as you have come around the rear of the car park you will see a path on your left which is bounded on one side by a wall and on the other by a fence. Take the path and arrive on the disused railway line which is now a bridleway and part of the cycle network.
(1) Turn right and head towards Hesleden and Crimdon. You will soon come to a place on the track where a smaller path crosses it a right angle.
(2) Turn left and follow the path across two fields following the field boundary; it can be muddy here after a rain. You will leave the fields at the road B1281
(3) Cross the road and turn right then turn left into the part of Castle Eden known as The Village. There is a row of terraced housing on your right and a white barn conversion on the left. The road leads down passing some detached properties, past Saint James Church on the right. Through the gates to the castle drive. As you cross the small bridge you will see a path leading into the Castle Eden Dene on the right, ignore this and continue along the road with The Castle appearing on your right and the grounds of the golf club on your left. At the bottom of the drive, you will see a kissing gate on your left leading into the dene.
(4) Go through the kissing gate and take the broad right-hand track down the hill. This will lead you down, around to the right and back uphill. Ignore paths/tracks on your left heading downhill, wait until you see a path on your left which goes gently upwards. (If you want to miss out the views of the Castle you can get to point (5) from the path after the small bridge and gates point )
(5) Follow the path, at a junction I tend to take the better right-hand track as shown on the map but the smaller left-hand path can also be taken as it re-joins the main path further along. The main track has woodland on the left and open fields on the right, it then contours around the top of a small stream feeding into the dene. Keep following the track until you come to a notice board on the left, shortly after this you will come to a place where the path splits into three.
(6) The left-hand path goes downhill and into the dene, take the right-hand path which is faint and which heads into woodland, crossing some fallen trees before it is bordered on the right by a small stream called Priest's Gill. ( The center path also goes into the wood and curves around to join the right-hand path) The path then crosses Preist's Gill and wends it way downwards and into the bottom of Castle Eden Dene.
(7) Turn right on the good path in the dene bottom and head eastwards, crossing a small footbridge and turning right again on the other side of Castle Eden Burn. The path is good and quickly leads to a junction. Ignore the good track which leads uphill on the left towards the main road, instead, take the path along the dene bottom with the burn on your right. This leads to a tunnel under the road.
(8) There is a raised path and just enough light to walk the tunnel without needing a torch. Ignore the graffiti and enjoy making some echoes as you walk through. When you exit the tunnel take a path on your left which heads upwards to join a good track coming down from the main road. (If you want to avoid the tunnel you can take the previously mentioned track up to the road, cross it, turn right and then take the track on the right back down again. However, the tunnel is much more interesting)
(9) Follow the track downhill and towards the railway viaduct. Pass beneath this and take the path on the left which leads to the mouth of Castle Eden Dene and the Durham Coastal Path. Another path on the left comes down from Limekiln Gill and at the junction, it is possible to get onto the shoreline. There is a one-meter drop caused by the erosion of the sea but usually, fishermen have cut a ramp or some steps to make it easier to get down. It is possible to see the layers in the shore at this eroded section and the bands of black sand from the time when waste from the coal mines was dumped. The whole North East coastline has undergone a massive clean-up and is now a marvelous natural habitat to both flora and fauna.
After spending time at the coast, turn around and retrace your footsteps back under the viaduct, through the tunnel and along the dene bottom to the small footbridge over the burn.
(10) Instead of crossing the burn go straight ahead and follow the path with the burn on your left. This is a good path and leads to another bridge and then past some boulders; the first on the left (actually two boulders touching and known as the 'Kissing frog Stones') and the second on the right (The Devil's Lap Stone), and then a third larger boulder on the right supported by two concrete pillars. After this, the dene becomes steeper with loose outcrops of magnesian limestone on either side. There are various paths on the right leading uphill and into Peterlee, ignore these until you arrive at a point where the track turns left towards a bridge and a good stoned track on the right heads uphill.
(11) Ignore the good tracks and go straight ahead on a footpath, there is a signpost warning that this path might be impossible. It will only be impossible if there is a lot of water in the burn, usually after heavy or prolonged rain. (I have added an alternative at the end of the path is impossible). Go along the path an into a very quiet part of the dene, at a bend, you will come across the remains of a footbridge which once spanned the burn. It collapsed a number of years ago, usually, it is possible to cross on a dry rock as the water runs beneath the limestone but after heavy or prolonged rain there may be enough water to make you turn back. Presuming that you have been able to cross the path climbs and there is one steep section just after the bridge where you will need to take care. After this, the path contours along the steep-sided gorge and beneath a few outcrops before crossing the stream at another bridge.
(12) Ignore the path into the Gunner's Pool and instead go over the bridge and up to a steep path passing beneath the boughs of an ancient Yew tree before coming out on the top path. This is a good path and leads onward but take care as the drop on the left is very steep, the trees and vegetation hide the danger but in winter and spring when the leaves have died back it is possible to see the remains of the steep cliffs above the Gunner's pool and the pale rock scars left by the collapse. The path is joined by another from the right before turning left towards a red suspension bridge.
(13) Cross the bridge but stop midway to take in the view on either side. Looking east, you will see a steep rocky arete jutting out over the Gunner's Pool. Looking west, you will a very narrow and steep-sided gorge, it is always damp in this gorge and the steep rocky sides are lined with ferns. The burn finds its way in underground passages but after heavy rain, it can be quite impressive to see the torrent raging through the narrow cleft beneath the bridge. After the bridge turns right and follows the path it soon leads downhill (often muddy) passing the roots of an old tree via some steps and to a bridge over the burn. (If it is dry the adventurous among you could follow the burn on the right which leads with some boulder hopping and pebbly beaches into the steep narrow gorge, head back the way you came to the bridge)
(14) Cross the bridge and turn left to cross another bridge then head uphill. The woodland is different here, the trees are less mixed and there are more pine trees. In autumn these give a wonderful display as their needles turn orange and drop to the floor. The path climbs steadily uphill and then contours, dropping to cross a stream before contouring with the golf club grounds on the left. It will lead you to a gate and junction with the old road from Castle Eden which pre-dates the A19 .
(15) Turn left and follow the old road, now a footpath, back towards Castle Eden it exists at a gate and goes past the bus turning circle and then along the path with the Golf Clubhouse on the left. Continue past a terrace of stone houses on the left, which started their life as a textile factory, and then right past the war memorial and down to the Castle Eden Inn and your car.
D/A : mi 0 - alt. mi 0 - Castle Eden Inn
1 : mi 0.09 - alt. mi 0.09
2 : mi 0.46 - alt. mi 0.46
3 : mi 0.71 - alt. mi 0.71
4 : mi 1.14 - alt. mi 1.14
5 : mi 1.35 - alt. mi 1.35
6 : mi 2.24 - alt. mi 2.24 - Path splits into three
7 : mi 2.81 - alt. mi 2.81
8 : mi 3.25 - alt. mi 3.25 - Entrance of the tunnel
9 : mi 4.5 - alt. mi 4.5
10 : mi 4.93 - alt. mi 4.93
11 : mi 6.26 - alt. mi 6.26
12 : mi 6.81 - alt. mi 6.81 - Bridge
13 : mi 7.04 - alt. mi 7.04 - Gunner's Pool Bridge - Gunner's Pool Bridge
14 : mi 7.2 - alt. mi 7.2
15 : mi 7.68 - alt. mi 7.68 - Old road
D/A : mi 8.82 - alt. mi 8.82 - Castle Eden Inn
It can be muddy in the dene so boots are recommended.
If you get to point 13 and it is not possible to cross the burn turn back towards the good stoned path at point 12. head up on your left and then take the left hand track at the junction. This will lead you along the top of the dene until a small path on the left takes you to the suspension bridge. It is possible to continue the walk from this point.
Use the map to check this out before you start the walk so are familiar with it as an alternative.
Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
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.
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.
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"
As you will read the dene has legends and there are many names relating to the devil and a tale of how he tried to trick the builders of Durham, Cathedral into using the soft magnesian limestone rock for the foundations. He dropped one of the rocks which became the Devil's Lap Stone. Look out for his nail scratches on it as you pass.
According to https://englandsnortheast.co.uk/castle-e... :- "Gunner’s Pool is allegedly where a man called Gunner who was assisting the devil in collecting stone was stoned to death by the ‘evil one’ after defying the devil’s command not to turn around and look evil in the eye.
Given that the name Gunner (Gunnar) is a Norse one it is tempting to somehow link this legend to the evil doings of the Vikings Scule and Olaf Ball, whose territories were divided by Castle Eden Dene from 918AD. Both were both known to have abused the sanctity of St Cuthbert much to long-lasting horror and memory of the people of County Durham."
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.