A thundering waterfall that’ll shake your boots, a stay in a cosy hotel with crackling fires, plus stunning castles and inspiring hikes… a joyous exploration of the North Pennines
There’s no such thing as bad weather, they say, just bad clothing. So it was lucky my waterproofs kept me mostly dry as I hiked through a cracking storm in the beautiful countryside of Upper Teesdale.
Swirls of mist clung to the hillsides and fat raindrops slapped me in the face. But in this picturesque corner of County Durham, there were several benefits to that.
One was that the High Force waterfall, a ten-minute walk from my hotel, was in full flow.
It was so powerful, in fact, that it had split into two overnight, with the River Tees thundering 70 feet left and right over the edge to create a ground-shaking force that made the soles of my boots quiver.
Hikers’ haven: Will Hide checked into the High Force Hotel (above) and hiked through the beautiful countryside of Upper Teesdale
The thundering High Force waterfall, above, is a 10-minute walk from High Force Hotel
The second is that once back at High Force Hotel, you get to dry out by one of two crackling log fires, lingering over a pint or a cup of tea and a copy of the local newspaper, the Teesdale Mercury.
There are 11 bedrooms in this whitewashed building some 14 miles north-west of Barnard Castle, which once housed Victorian shooting parties, one of which included the future Edward VII.
The interiors have been brought thoroughly up to date with a dash of country-pad casual under the personal direction of Lady Barnard, who, along with her husband, Lord Barnard, owns the imposing Raby Castle and Estate, of which the hotel is part. It’s well worth a visit.
The hotel lies some 14 miles north-west of Barnard Castle, pictured above
High Force Hotel is part of the imposing Raby Castle and Estate, owned by Lord and Lady Barnard. ‘It’s well worth a visit,’ says Will
You’ll find extra-wide double beds, antique dressers and paintings, comfortable reupholstered chairs, powerful showers and bathtubs in which to soak after a day’s exploring.
Some rooms can accommodate dogs alongside their owners. Behind the bar, a friendly cohort of local staff, overseen by manager Andrew and his partner George, can recommend nearby attractions and walks.
Hiking is a popular pastime in the Upper Teesdale Valley. It forms part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with undulating dry-stone walls, rippling green dales flecked with sheep, as well as hay meadows and high moorland.
The interiors have been brought thoroughly up to date with a dash of country-pad casual under the personal direction of Lady Barnard, Will reveals
You’ll find extra-wide double beds, antique dressers and paintings, and comfortable reupholstered chairs at the hotel
From February to May you might see black grouse ‘lekking’, when males strut and display their tail feathers to court females.
There’s a rich carpet of flowers too, especially in spring: the area overlaps the northern-most zone for some southern wildflowers and the southern-most region for those that extend from the north.
You won’t see rare spring gentians anywhere else in the UK.
In the hotel’s restaurant, Will dined on a dinner of steak and ale pie with mash, followed by sticky-toffee pudding and ice cream
The hotel has powerful showers and bathtubs in which to soak after a day’s exploring
Back at the hotel, bag a fireside spot for a pint of Black Sheep ale or a bottle of Raby Estate beer before tucking into dinner. My steak and ale pie with mash was exactly what I needed after my soaking, and miraculously I found space for sticky-toffee pudding and ice cream.
Because of cloudy skies there was no stargazing during my stay – it’s a popular spot for that thanks to low light pollution – so instead I chatted fireside with a young couple from North Carolina who were bowled over by the area.
Next morning the full English breakfast hit all the right spots, and was plenty to fuel a day exploring this uncrowded corner of County Durham.
B&B from £119 per night (raby.co.uk). Will Hide was a guest of LNER (lner.co.uk) with Darlington the nearest mainline station to the hotel.
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