Holwick Scars are one of the most distinctive features in the lanbdscape of Teesdale, a brooding line of sombre crags of fluted pillars of volcanic dolerite standing on the southern side of the valley.
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: exhilarating moorland walking, inadvisable in adverse weather
Refreshments: Howick and Middleton
OS Explorer Map OL31
Originally published: 8 August 2008
We start our 9 mile walk below the crags in Holwick village, (GR 903271), in preference to starting from Middleton-in-Teesdale, so that the strenuous section of the route across Lune Moor can be tackled first, leaving the easy riverside stretch to the end. There is verge parking about a quarter of a mile beyond the Strathmore Arms.
Where the tarred lane turns sharp right for Holwick Lodge go ahead through a gate and past Green House. Ignore a right turn and continue ahead for 150 yards into a rocky defile to where a bridleway is signed to the left, down across the gorge and up between two of the dolerite cliffs.
It's here that we join the 18th century drovers' road which came out of Scotland, along the South Tyne valley and over into Teesdale, crossing the Maize Beck at the Birkdale fords. We meet it here where it turns south across the moors to Bowes and on to Askrigg and other cattle markets.
Cross the unbridged stream and climb the short, steep slope to emerge on to moorland. Though little used the right of way is visible as an indistinct path. It's now crossed by the occasional 19th century enclosure wall which makes it easy to follow from gate to gate. In the
3 and a half miles between Holwick and the Pennine Way at Wythes Hill farm there are another three unbridged becks to cross.
After the third gate our bridleway turns right along the wall side and heads up towards the heights of Crooks o' Green Fell on Lune Moor. It then veers left along the lower slopes under a long line of crags before crossing the watershed. All along here there are magnificent views of Teesdale with its prominent whitewashed farms of the Raby Estate. The distinctive tree crowned hill of Kirkcarrion is readily visible too.
The right of way now descends gently to Brown Dod to join a shooting track coming in from a line of butts away to the right. After a gate the track turns right, down to two black huts.
Take a little used track here, right, up a bank between the huts. This ends within a few yards and our route continues as a path downhill over moorland, keeping to the left of a rounded hillock. The reservoirs in Lunedale are seen ahead as well as our target of Wythes Hill Farm, about half a mile away.
Where the path forks, some 200 yards beyond the hillock, bear right, leaving a very ruinous building on your left. The path goes down to cross Merry Gill and then follows the beck dowstream to a gate. From here bear left to another, hidden, gate, from where a track crosses a rough field to join the Pennine Way near Wythes Hill. Go left.
Our walk now follows the Pennine Way for the next 5 miles. The oldest of the National Trails, (it was opened in 1965), it is also one of the longest, some 250 miles from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Borders. It seems less popular than in its early years, (I met
only 6 other walkers on a fine midsummer's day), but this may be due to the proliferation of alternatives. It's still spectacular, however, whatever length you walk.
For the first few steps the Way descends as a walled lane to cross Merry Gill. It then rises across two fields to a track with a hard core surface. Go left for a few yards to a gate and then right. The route soon leaves the stony surface for a green track which climbs around the shoulder of Harter Fell from where there are good views of Grassholme Reservoir in Lunedale and the junction of that dale with Teesdale. Closer at hand on the hillside are the ruined buildings of a disused quarry.
There are more extensive panoramas when you reach the summit at 1577 feet where the tranquillity is broken only by the calls of lapwings and curlews. Close by is the walled enclosure of Kirkcarrion with its Scots pines, the site of a large Bronze or Iron Age tumulus excavated in 1804.
The path continues down into Teesdale, joining the lane up to Holwick at the bottom. Go right here and then left along the B 6277 towards Middleton and its many refreshment possibilities.
If Middleton is not for you then continue with the Pennine Way which leads off to the left just before the cattle mart and the bridge. It's an easy three mile stroll between hedgerows and through some of Teesdale's famous flower meadows. The river is followed for two sections and away to the left along the valley side the gashes in the dolerite whin sill caused by quarrying are still evident.
We leave the Pennine Way next to Scoberry Bridge, built for quarry workers and lead miners. Turn left here over a stile and then through a gate. The path leads across fields with fine views of Holwick Scars and of the grand mansion of Holwick Lodge, built by the MP Cosmo Bonsor, in the late 19th century.
There's a final geological feature to look out for too. When you reach the village street go left for a few yards to an explanatory board about the Holwick drumlins, the two rounded hills of glacial debris deposited in the last Ice Age, some 11,000 years ago.