High & Low Force

There are some sights which don’t get any less impressive no matter how many times you see them. High Force in County Durham is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the north of England, but you may be surprised to know that it isn’t actually the highest: both Cautley Spout in the Howgills and Hardraw Force in North Yorkshire have higher drops. Nevertheless, High Force and the close-by Low Force are no less remarkable, particularly after prolonged periods of rain.

There are many routes of various lengths you can choose from to visit the waterfalls. This time, we started from the pretty village of Middleton-in-Teesdale and followed the Pennine Way for an out and back walk of just over 11 miles – our longest walk since the end of summer. We were all very tired when we got home despite the relatively gentle gradients!

This section of the Pennine Way is pretty easy walking, with no steep climbs (excepting one set of stairs as you near the falls). The path is a mixture of grassy tracks through fields and riverside trails, including a few sets of stepping stones (which may lead to wet feet if there’s been a lot of rain and the stones are submerged!).

Walking along the banks of the river Tees you’ll experience many different but equally lovely views. From the start in Middleton you walk through rolling countryside high above the river, before steadily dropping down to the water level, where the river bank is adorned with incredible rocky formations along the edges.

The walk started out a little overcast, including a brief hail shower, but by the end of the day the sun had come out and there was definitely a taste of spring in the air. A highlight of the day was spotting a flock of oyster-catchers sunning themselves by the river: I always think spotting an oyster-catcher is the first sign that spring is truly coming.

When you reach High Force, it can be viewed from the south bank by continuing along the Pennine Way, or you can see the iconic north bank view by paying for a ticket from the Raby Estate. Tickets are £2 per adult and can be purchased from the small booth next to the pub opposite the entrance.

The walk down to the falls along the north bank is a well surfaced track maintained by the estate. During the pandemic they introduced a new circular route and a one way system: the one way system is no longer mandatory for visitors so you can choose between a linear or a circular route to the falls.

Dog friendly rating 3.5/5. This is a great walk for water loving dogs – there are quite a few sections where they can jump into the river for a dip, and multiple streams where they can have a paddle. There are also sections through the woods and along the river where you can let dogs have a run off the lead, although you need to watch out for livestock in the fields and put dogs on leads, especially around lambing. Aside from the entrance to the falls, the walk is completely off-road.

There were lots of stiles on this walk – too many to count! Including quite a few which were tricky the get the dogs over, although smaller dogs will be able to fit through gaps and need less help. For this reason I’ve knocked half a mark off the dog friendly rating.

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