A Walk around Burnhope Reservoir

Map showing route around Burnhope ReservoirAn interesting walk around one of the less well known Pennine Reservoirs. Even in the middle of summer, we saw nobody else during the entire walk. The first half of the walk is very gentle, along a well built and maintained path through the trees. The second half follows a real woodland path, and includes one minor scramble. There are several picnic areas along the path on the northern side of the reservoir.

Ascent: 220 feet/ 65 metres
Length: 2.7 miles/ 5 km
Map: OS Explorer Map 31 North Pennines: Teesdale and Weardale
Last Walked: 26 August 2006

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 (click on the walk map to go to a map of the wider area). You can drive across the dam.

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Link to picture of the path on the northern shore of Burnhope ReservoirYou can start this walk at either end of the dam. When we last did this walk, only the northern car park was open, but that should change soon. From the car park, look for a gate in the wall to the north. Once through the gate, turn left and follow the very good path along the northern shore of the lake.
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Link to picture of Burnhope MoorAt the western end of the reservoir, we briefly emerge from the trees into the valley of Burnhope Burn, as it must have looked before the reservoir was built. Cross the burn on the bridge, and turn back east towards the trees on the southern bank of the reservoir.
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Link to picture of the path on the south bank of Burnhope ReservoirJust for a moment it looks as if the path is going to end suddenly at the trees, but as you reach the edge of the forest you will see that the path continues on between the trees. On this side of the lake the path is less ??, but still perfectly acceptable. Blue patches painted on the trees mark the path.
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The only difficult moment on this walk comes half way along the south bank, where it crosses Limekiln Sike. The crossing is easy enough, but on the east side of the sike the ground rises steeply. You have two choices here - one path turns north towards the lake, before climbing up the slope near the water. A second, more obvious path, simply clambers up the slope in front of you. We took the obvious path, and recommend you do the same.

The path continues on through the trees, still marked by the blue paint, although this eventually starts to run out. If in any doubt, keep to the path nearest to the lake - this path never climbs up too far away from the water. Half way back to the dam the path has to swing to the right to get around an inlet in the lake, where Whin Sike reaches the reservoir. On the far side of the sike, cross a short patch of open ground between the forest and the lake, re-entering the trees through a gap in a stone wall. Soon after this, the path joins a track, which runs alongside the lake.

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At the end of the track, we reach the southern end of the dam. If you parked here, then you've finished, otherwise walk across the dam to the car park at the north end. Remember, the top of the dam is a road. There are great views into Weardale from the eastern side of the dam.