High Force

High Force & Holwick Scar

Walk Summary

A superb walk along the River Tees visiting the waterfalls at Low Force, High Force and Bleabeck Force before returning via moorland paths and the crags of Holwick Scars.

Distance: 7.5 miles
Total ascent: 1070ft
Walk Rating: *****
Parking: Car park, Bowlees Visitor Centre
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

After a trip up to Teesdale just over a week before to visit Goldsborough I decided to head back up to the same dale for this walk. Despite being one of the most impressive waterfalls in the country I'd realised that it had been almost ten years since I'd last visited High Force. On that occasion it was with my friend Matt on our way down from the lonely summit of Bink Moss.

On this occasion I decided to give Bink Moss a miss. At the same time I didn't want to just walk to High Force and back along the river so plumped for this route returning via the flanks of Holwick Fell and Holwick Scars.

"The walk upstream from High Force is especially beautiful. When seeing one of my photos one of my friends said it was reminiscent of one of the salmon rivers of Alaska."

Having parked in the car park of the Bowlees Visitor Centre I followed the signs for High Force. This took me over Bow Lee Beck, past the visitor centre, across the road and down a field to reach some woods. Just into the woods I came to the river and a superb but narrow suspension bridge. Called the Wynch Bridge it crosses the River Tees just below Low Force.

Low Force is actually a series of waterfalls with three main drops. The middle drop is the highest and to many people's interest there were a couple of canoeists taking turns going over the falls. It should be noted that I'd managed to time my arrival with a coachload of tourists who were on a guided walk. As a result the path was very busy!

Continuing along the river the path passed a number of interesting features. These included a narrow rocky stretch which is separated from the main flow by a small island. After passing some more modest waterfalls and Holwick Head Bridge the path began to climb up away from the river to pass above the unseen Keedholm Scar. The path soon became enclosed by gorse and it is easy to miss the narrow side path that leads to the High Force viewpoint.

The viewpoint is on a precipitous edge high above the river with a stupendous view of High Force. Whilst not the highest waterfall in the country it certainly is the biggest in terms of volume of water. It is worth noting there are no safety barriers so care must be taken at this viewpoint. Returning to the main path I soon reached the top of the falls. Again there is a fantastic view looking down over the drop but again care must be taken.

Continuing upstream from High Force I finally left the crowds behind. Indeed after leaving High Force I didn't pass anyone again until I descended into Holwick several miles later. The walk upstream from High Force is especially beautiful. When seeing one of my photos one of my friends said it was reminiscent of a salmon river in Alaska.

The lovely scenery was slightly marred by the sudden appearance of Force Garth Quarry on the opposite bank. Ample compensation was had though by a visit to a third, much less well known waterfall, Bleabeck Force. While it can be seen from the path it does reward a closer visit.

After taking a number of pictures I returned to the main path and continued on with the dramatic cliffs of Dine Holm Scar now on the opposite bank. Eventually the path left the river to climb Bracken Rigg. Here I began to encounter patches of snow underfoot. At the top of Bracken Rigg I left the Pennine Way behind to turn left on a path to briefly head south before reaching a junction with a bridleway.

Turning left on the bridleway an awkward crossing of Skyer Beck preceded a climb up alongside the wall. At this point some lovely patches of sunshine began to break through the cloud. Turning to look back I was treated to some quite fantastic views of the hills surrounding upper Teesdale.

Continuing on I crossed Blea Beck via some stepping stones. Not long after the faint path I'd been following joined a good track and as a result the going underfoot became much easier. The next mile and a half was an absolute delight. There were superb views across the valley to the likes of Westernhope Moor, Fendrith Hill and Three Pikes. Meanwhile, up to my right, was the snow topped upper slopes of the little visited Bink Moss.

Eventually the track dropped down between the superb dolerite cliffs of Holwick Scars. I remembered these from that walk all those years ago and had been looking forward to seeing them again. I wasn't disappointed. All too soon though the track led me down to a road bend above Holwick. Without entering the small hamlet I turned left down the road. Reaching a bend I then took a path across a couple of fields to return to the Wynch Bridge. Crossing back over I went to take a few more photos of Low Force and a nice unnamed waterfall on a nearby side stream. I then retraced my earlier steps back to the visitor centre.

This was a super walk with three great contrasting waterfalls. The sunshine from Skyer Beck to Holwick Scars was also a real added bonus as it had been forecast to remain cloudy all day.

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