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Teesdale – guide for exploring this amazing area of Northern England

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Teesdale is a special place - you will find an amazing mix of green open spaces, majestic waterfalls, adventure, culture, shopping, and more. The towns of Barnard Castle and Middleton are great to visit, but there is so much more to see within the villages and within the countryside. We wanted to round the best things to see and do during your time in Teesdale, all updated for 2022. Let's get into the guide:

 

Where is Teesdale?
What is there to do during your time in Teesdale?
Raby Castle
Visit the dark skies sites
Moor House
The Bowes Museum
High Force
Barnard Castle
Hamsterley Forest
Hannah's Meadow
Egglestone Abbey
Cauldron Snout
Things to be aware of before visiting Teesdale

Where is Teesdale?

Teesdale is a dale (often more commonly referred to as a valley). It falls right between the Durham and Yorkshire Dales in the North of England. Although officially no longer within Yorkshire, Teesdale is often described as being the most northern of the historical Yorkshire dales area.
FireShot Capture 1682 - Teesdale - Google Maps - www.google.com

What is there to do during your time in Teesdale?

Teesdale is a great place to head to, here are some of our favourite things for you to check out:

Raby Castle

This castle was built in the 14th Century and has been home to Lord Barnard's family since the early 17th Century. A guided tour round the castle will take you through the stunning castle interiors, and you'll get to see the art collections and the workings of a true medieval kitchen. The walled garden is lovely and has a coach house, as well as a collection of horse-drawn carriages. You'll also have the chance to spot some deer in the 200-acre deer park surrounding the castle. We love this castle and think it is well worth a visit, learn more here - raby.co.uk

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Dark Skies sites

If stargazing is your thing then Teesdale is an amazing place to head to. Due to the low population, there is a very low level of light pollution throughout the area. Typically you'd be lucky to see a handful of stars from a city or town, but in Teesdale thousands of stars can be visible at any one time, especially from the designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites. The areas to head to are - Balderhead Reservoir, Burnhope Reservoir, Cow Green Reservoir, Grassholme Reservoir, Hury Reservoir and Selset Reservoir, which have all been designated as Dark Sky Discovery Sites. You've got car parking space at each of the reservoirs and can be visited at any time. The moorland at Tan Hill Inn has also been designated as a Dark Sky Discovery Site and is one of the best places to stargaze in the whole of Teesdale.

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Moor House

The Moor House National Nature Reserve is split into 2 excellent parts and is a great area to visit if you want to see spectacular geological formations and three dramatic waterfalls, Cauldron Snout, Low Force and High Force (more on that one later). The reserves are free to access and are open all year round. This area is especially popular with bird watchers where they can get the chance to spot birds such as lapwings, golden plovers, curlews, and redshanks. Also, keep an eye out for the rare arctic-alpine plants called blue gentian, as this area is the only place in England where you can find these flowers.

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The Bowes Museum

Visiting a museum might not seem like a "must-do" thing during your visit to  Teesdale, but Bowes Museum is a bit special. The building and the surrounding parkland are seriously impressive - a grand French Chateau with amazing views across the valley.

The museum's most iconic piece is an automaton of a silver swan. Every day the clockwork mechanism is wound up by museum staff and you can watch the mesmerizing display. The art collection is incredible here too. But the real cherry on top of all of this is that the cafe serves truly delicious food for breakfast and lunch! Learn more here - thebowesmuseum.org.uk

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High Force

We mentioned it earlier within the Moor House section, but England's highest waterfall, High Force, deserves its own section. With a drop of 21 metres and the unforgettable sounds of the thundering water crashing into the plunge pool below, a trip to High Force won't be forgotten in a hurry. A short walk through Forest-in-Teesdale (for which there is a small charge) takes you to the waterfall. The path is flat and suitable for wheelchair users. You can enjoy the view from the base of the falls at the bottom of the steps there, or from the top.

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Barnard Castle

This castle is a lot more famous now than it was a few years ago for all the wrong reasons, but enough about that! This castle is worth visiting for much more than that. It's a picturesque 12th Century castle perched on a rock high above the River Tees. Managed by English Heritage, it is very enjoyable to visit and explore despite being a ruined castle after it was effectively abandoned in the 17th century. Highlights to see include the sensory garden and Richard III's boar emblem. Learn more and plan your visit here - english-heritage.org.uk

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Hamsterley Forest

If you're looking to truly escape the hustle and bustle of city life, a visit to Hamsterley Forest is highly recommended. Covering more than 2000 hectares, this is the largest forest in County Durham and has something for everyone - from peaceful trail walks to an adventure play area for children. There is also an impressive network of graded mountain- bike trails (more than 33 miles), walking routes, bridleways, and more. The newly added Wellbeing Trail is a real highlight, a route which has been created to help promote mindfulness and relaxation. Learn more here - forestryengland.uk

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Hannah's Meadow

Hannah Hauxwell was a farmer who rose to stardom following a documentary series showing her amazing life in the early 70s. Hannah's Meadow is named after her, as this was the location of her farm for more than 50 years. The very rich floral composition found within the meadows (leading to a variety of rare flowers and plants) is thought to be a result of the traditional farming practices employed by Hauxwell, with no artificial fertilisers every being used. This is a lovely and peaceful location, and we'd highly recommend you visit. Learn more here - durhamwt.com

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Egglestone Abbey

This is one of the best free things to see in Teesdale (although there is a small parking charge if you're driving). Managed by English Heritage, the abbey is a delightful place to explore and contemplate what life must have been like for the monks who lived here in the 13th century. You can wander around and enjoy the stunning views over the River Tees and beyond. It's a great trip for families with children. Learn more here - english-heritage.org.uk

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Cauldron Snout

Just down from the Cow Green Reservoir (2 miles from the car park) you'll find Cauldron Snout, a cascade which might not be as impressive as High Force but which is still well worth visiting. It is often described as a waterfall, but because it isn't a straight drop and is more a long cataract, we think it is best described as a cascade. It's still very special though and quite amazing to watch. The cataract stretches over 180m so if you want to refer to it as a waterfall, it is technically the longest in England!

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Things to be aware of before visiting Teesdale

We've mentioned it already - Teesdale is pretty large! There is plenty to see and do and unless you've got a fair bit of time, you won't get around all of it. We've tried to round up our favourites to give you an idea of what you should definitely see during your time, but if time isn't an issue then there is even more to see including some lovely villages and towns.

If you enjoyed this guide, check out our other guides about places in and around Yorkshire including the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moors.

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