This route mainly follows well maintained woodland and riverside paths with some sections on farm tracks. There are some parts of this route which could become very muddy at certain times of year but diversions of equal distance can be taken to avoid some of these sections.
Circular | 15.2km (9.4 miles) | Difficulty: Easy
|Please note that the route given is a rough guide and should not be relied upon solely when planning a walk. Remember to plan ahead, get a proper map and ensure you have the right equipment.|
Though there are many hills to climb and descend on this route there is nothing too arduous. Going clockwise does ensure that the steeper sections are descents rather than climbs.
1: Walkers will find the beginning of this route at the start of Hollingside Lane. The route follows the lane uphill through Gray College and past the Botanic Garden’s main entrance. Shortly after the Botanic Gardens there is a track to the left through the Great High Woods through a gate. The route follows this track along the top of the hill in the woods until it reaches a fork in the track.
2: At the fork the route turns right and follows the steep stairs down to the bottom of the hill. At the bottom the route follows the track to the left until it eventually reaches a road. Walkers are advised to use great caution here as they cross and follow the track on the other side.
3: There is an optional diversion here walkers are recommended to take which entails heading left up Whinney Hill and walking to the mound in the middle of the field from which there is a great view of Durham City. However, the only way back down is the same way. From here the route continues along the track to the bridge over the Wear. Here walkers can choose which side they wish to walk along, following the river to the right which eventually leads to Shincliffe.
4: At this point walkers are advised to cross the road at the traffic lights and use the small lane to the left to get onto Low Road. Walkers should follow this till the turn in the road where the route continues ahead pass the Poplar Tree garden centre (this is an excellent spot to stop off for refreshments if needed). The route continues up the small lane till it reaches the tree line outside Shincliffe Hall. Here, walkers could follow the track and continue along the Weardale Way for a slight shortcut but the route follows the track on the other side of the gate, staying near the river till it rejoins the Weardale Way further ahead. The route then follows the path as it winds South through the forest and eventually climbs uphill.
5: The Weardale Way path eventually emerges from the forest at the top of the hill. The route continues following the Weardale Way as it heads right and follows a farm track along the tree line for some distance. The track continues for some way till it reaches the estate of Croxdale Hall and starts heading downhill. The track eventually takes a right to lead around the hall, walkers can follow a track here just past the hall’s walls to the left short-cutting the curve of the track and meeting back up with it on the other side of the hall’s entrance. The track continues along straight ahead under the A167.
6: At the gates exiting the Croxdale Hall Estate the route turns right and heads over Sunderland Bridge. From here walkers can shortcut right or head forwards onto the main road and then turn right for a better view of the Croxdale Viaduct. Here walkers are again advised to take caution and cross the A167 using the islands around the roundabout. The route follows the A167 northwards (there is a footpath on the side of the road) past The Honest Lawyer (another opportunity for refreshments) till a gate on the right hand side is reached just on the other side of the Browney River.
7: The gate here leads into the Croxdale Woods Reserve which has many different tracks for walkers to follow. This route continues along the riverside, taking the right-most path at each opportunity until several houses are passed on the left. Here the route heads slightly uphill away from the river and goes left along the bottom of a field till it reaches a track on the far side heading further uphill to the right.
8: The route follows this track uphill. Walkers can continue straight along this track to the top but the route follows a track to the left about halfway up. At the top of this track the route turns right following a track along the top of the hill. Walkers can stop here at the seating provided by the Woodland Trust to take advantage of the great viewpoint. The route continues on to the Wicker Miner sculpture. Here the route heads slightly back downhill then left along a track which winds its way along near the top of the hill before coming down to a stone circle. The route follows the right-most path forwards which winds back left eventually and downhill to a small bridge and stile which leads walkers out of the Croxdale Woods reserve. From here the route heads uphill to a field which has a track along its side to the left. The route follows this track.
9: Near the top of the hill the track leads up there is a path to the left. Walkers have a choice here; they can continue along the track which meets with the end of Hollingside Lane – this can be followed back to the start of the route (this is advisable during, or shortly following, wet weather) – or the path downhill can be followed. The route continues along the downhill path here which meets up with a track at the bottom. The route follows this track for a short distance before following a smaller path which heads off downhill from it on the right. This path can be extremely muddy at the best of times. This path heads through a small dell before reaching Durham’s South Road. The route here turns right, following the footpath along the side of South Road back into Durham and the start of the route.
There is parking at several points along the route where walkers could start from, such as Sunderland bridge. Most parking near the suggested start of the route is for the University or the Park-and-Ride. The Park-and-Ride requires those using it to either take a bus (which leads away from the start of this route) or be a visitor to the Botanic Gardens – this second option is recommended as it is well worth visiting and provides an interesting alternate section to the start of the route going from the park-and-ride to the start of the great high woods.