High Force from Holwick

A simple and relatively easy walk to the impressive waterfall of High Force from Holwick.

On Location 25th December 2020

Parking at the road end, Holwick. Limited spaces, please park considerately.

Refreshments: Sadly the pub at Holwick, the Strathmore Arms is now closed. The nearest location for a pub, tearoom or shop is now in Middleton in Teesdale.

Route Description. Many visitors to the falls of Low Force and High Force use the popular “there and back” route from Bowlees Visitor Centre. Every Christmas day we like to head out early for a good walk. So it was for this day. We stayed fairly local this year, heading over to Holwick near Middleton in Teesdale. A short but interesting circular route to take in Low Force and then High Force was on the agenda. A touch of winter with even a bit of snow on the ground added to the atmosphere.

Route map: click on the arrow to play the route. GPX route and other formats available for free by clicking in the Plotaroute.com link at the bottom right .

Cotherstone Moor sunrise, Teesdale
Cotherstone Moor sunrise

What a glorious start to the day as we drove across Cotherstone Moor, the colourful sky reflected in the frosted pool.

Holwick, Teesdale with Swaledale sheep
Holwick near Middleton in Teesdale

Parking up at Holwick there was a soft glow to the light as we headed down towards Low Force using the public footpath across the fields.

Teesdale barn near Low Force, Field barn in a Teesdale landscape
Teesdale barn near Low Force

A long band of cloud filled the winter sky as we descended down towards the river Tees.

Low Force, Waterfall on the river Tees, County Durham
Low Force on the River Tees

The familiar viewpoint of Low Force waterfall from the south side of the river. The Pennine Way follows this bank.

Sunrise near Low Force
Sunrise near Low Force

Behind us the sun was bursting through the trees. Not enough warmth in it yet to take away the chill of the morning. We headed upstream on the well used path.

Low Force waterfall, river Tees, Teesdale
Low Force Teesdale

We were now on the Pennine Way route which passes by Low Force falls.

Pennine Way Low Force
Pennine Way Low Force

The air may not have been warm but the colours of the early sun certainly were. I love the silver birch trees along here.

Pennine Way Teesdale near Low Force
Pennine Way Teesdale near Low Force

The path continues through a section of woodland. Passing through a couple of gates and past Holwick Head footbridge we stay on the south side of the river and head uphill.

Pennine Way path near High Force
Pennine Way path near High Force

Its a sound footpath and continues along towards High Force. You are likely to hear the waterfall before you see it.

A side path leads you through a safety rail before you get a full view of the falls.

High Force waterfall and the river Tees, County Durham in winter.
High Force in winter

These days a fence on the cliff edge prevents and accidents as you peer into the gorge of High Force.

Andy Beck Artist

This was a good spot for a Christmas day selfie.

We were the only ones around and the weather conditions were perfect so I took the drone up for an aerial view of the force.

High Force waterfall in black and white, aerial photograph
High Force from above

I am particularly pleased with the black and white version of the image. The light dusting of snow picks out the shapes on the buttress of rock.

After a good look we headed back the way we came.

Pennine Way near High Force, Teesdale
Pennine Way near High Force

Winding our way back on the icy path.

Holwick Head, near High Force, Teesdale, County Durham
Holwick Head

At Holwick Head house many walkers just head back down the pitched steps to re-use the outbound route. We didn’t, we walked on the footpath that goes right in front of the house.

Holwick Head bridge, near High Force, Teesdale
Holwick Head bridge

Below is the Holwick Head bridge that crosses the Tees and the path that we walked on earlier.

Teesdale shed at Holwick, near High Force waterfall
Teesdale shed at Holwick

This old shed caught my attention, I always see these as a potential painting subject.

Swaledale Sheep in Teesdale, winter feeding in the snow
Sheep in Teesdale and winter feeding

The farmer had just been on his rounds, providing hay for the sheep. They were tucking in with vigour.

Holwick Head lane, Teesdale County Durham
The lane to Holwick Head

The footpath continues along the track. Here we look back at the house that it services, it must be interesting in full winter conditions.

Teesdale hills near High Force, County Durham
Teesdale hills above Low Force

Across the valley there is a good covering of snow on the high ground of the dale.

Swaledale sheep flock, Teesdale
Swaledale flock near Holwick

Swaledales are a hardy breed and are the most common sheep found in the north Pennines.

Swaledale sheep in Teesdale feeding in winter
Swaledale sheep in Teesdale

They are particularly attractive to draw and paint so I take plenty of reference photos whenever I can.

Low Pikestone Holwick near Middleton in Teesdale
Low Pikestone

It is simply a case of following the track past Hield House farm and then past this, Low Pikestone. A short walk back up towards Holwick brings us back to the start.

campervan breakfast
campervan breakfast

For our Christmas Day brunch we sat in the campervan in the sunshine and has bacon, brie and cranberry sauce croissants with coffee. Not a bad way to start of our Christmas day.

Its a route which I have done many times and I can recommend it as a change from a “there and back” route to High Force. Let me know if you have done it or have varied it in any way.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Classic walk with fabulous views and pictures, cheers Andy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.