The reason Upper Teesdale is so famous for its spectacular waterfalls dates back nearly 300 million years. Molten volcanic rock solidified to create the Whin Sill, a thick sill of dolerite which is still a feature of the North East landscape to this day, resisting erosion and channelling the River Tees over steep drops, gentler slopes and stepped surfaces. This unique landscape is part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a UNESCO Global Geopark.
By far the most dramatic waterfall in Upper Teesdale – and one of the most impressive in the whole of the UK – is High Force. The River Tees drops 70ft over the falls, crashing into the pool below. Thousands of visitors descend the maintained woodland walk at High Force every year to enjoy the stunning scenery. In high season there is a kiosk selling refreshments and ice creams and there are plenty of pretty picnic spots.
High Force is within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there is plenty here to satisfy bird watchers and nature lovers. Juniper bushes, grey wagtails, black grouse, wild pansies and blue gentian are just some examples of the wildlife to look out for.
At just 18ft, Low Force may not be as tall as High Force but it is still a beautiful waterfall in a peaceful natural setting. It is possible to walk from High Force to Low Force along the Pennine Way. It takes about half an hour and is just under two miles.
Walk from Bowlees Visitor Centre, follow the Bow Lee Beck to Summerhill Force for about half a mile. Summerhill Force is a very pretty waterfall in a wooded glade with a recess in the rock behind it which is known as Gibson’s Cave.
Upstream from High Force is Cauldron Snout which is one of the longest waterfalls in Britain, stretching for around 180 metres. Cauldron Snout is on the Pennine Way and is just under two miles from Cow Green Reservoir. The water cascades through a long channel in the rock, tumbling onwards towards High Force.
Visiting and staying
Extend your visit to the Geopark and its waterfalls by staying in Upper Teesdale. The Langdon Beck Hotel is on the road to Cauldron Snout and the High Force Hotel is just next to the High Force waterfall. Both serve food and offer overnight accommodation.