Burnhope is not one of the biggest of the area's reservoirs, but it has several distinctive features that make it work a visit. First, it is the only one of the north pennine reservoirs to be found in Weardale. Second, it is slightly smaller than the other main reservoirs, meaning that a walk around the reservoir is only just over two and a half miles long. Third, although both sides of the lake are wooded, each has a very distinctive feel - the north bank has an well constructed path, while on the south bank a cleartrail winds its ways through the trees. There are several picnic areas along the northern path. At the far end of the reservoir you emerge from the trees into the wild countryside of the Burnhope Hope valley.
Thereservoir was built in 1936, one of the many reservoirs built to provide water to the growing cities of the north east. It is now used as a trout fishery.
The plantations around the lake are of Sitka spruce. A variety of birds breed in the trees, amongst them the goldcrest, redpoll, chaffinch, great tit, coal tit and robins. The lake shore is home to common sandpiper and pied wagtail. The reservoir is used as a winter home by whooper swans, goosander and wigeon. The trees are also the home to a variety of animals.
Parking is available at both ends of the dam, although the car park at the southern end was out of use on my last visit (August 2006) while building work was going on. To get to Burnhope Reservoir, follow the A689 west up Weardale. Take the second left hand turn in Ireshopeburn (NY 866 386). After a mile, take a right turn down a gated lane (please close the gate behind you). Alternately, continue along the A689 to Cowshill (NY 855 406). Turn left into the village, and then almost immediately left again. You can drive across the dam, so it is possible to do a round trip.