Walking in Durham #1. The River Path and Pelaw Wood

Toby Crewe

One of my favourite activities since joining the university has been exploring nature in the area. As members of Durham, we are lucky to have great woodlands and high up viewpoints easily accessible from every college. More than most other cities, Durham coexists with nature; I have seen a herd of deer running in the snow less than 2 miles from the very centre of the city, got lost in woodlands less than 400 metres from a supermarket, and never have I ran out of interesting places to wander.

Before I start listing off places, for some of the less paved routes, it is well worth getting a good pair of boots, a rainproof coat (it is rare for the weather to be predictable here!), make sure you bring a drink (and a snack never hurt anyone), and lots of these paths are best when shared with a good walking buddy. Please also respect the environment you are in! That means following the countryside code.

Also, do check out the Durham University hillwalking society for adventures further afield. They run regular trips across the country, mainly at the weekends for bigger days out.

The River Path

Perhaps the most essential, and easiest route to take around Durham is the river path. I’d recommend starting from Prebend’s bridge, and following around along to Maiden Castle (perhaps with a detour to Old Durham Gardens), before crossing the river to continue on past the rowing club and the Racecourse.

A great time for this route is at the weekend, when there are more rowers about. It really makes the river extra interesting (though, do mind the spotters on their bikes). The Durham regatta, which occurs annually, is notable for being older than Henley.

Other highlights of the route are great views to the cathedral and castle, and the proximity to the town centre makes it very easy to stop off at one of the many brilliant cafes. If you have time, maybe stop off at Crook Hall – the National Trust garden near the city centre, take a tour around the castle, or head into the cathedral. Another great way to enjoy most of this route is Parkrun, a 5 km route that follows the river for much of the distance. If you have thought about starting running, Parkrun is one of the best ways to get into it, with some of the most supportive and friendly volunteers. The start is 9 am on Saturdays by Maiden Castle.

Pelaw Wood

Right next to the river path is Pelaw wood. I don’t know any other city quite like this; within a few hundred metres of the town centre is a wonderfully dense and walkable woodland, filled with paths to discover. It also has some of the finest viewpoints in the area.

Silver Link Bridge leads to Pelaw Wood is is accessible from Gilesgate or from the river path

A favourite part, hidden away in the wood’s 13 hectares is the Silver Link Bridge, as pictured above. It towers many metres above the ground. The path along it is nearly level with the tree canopy. It is very accessible from the main road through Gilesgate. On the opposite side (after a few steps) is the fabulous view seen below over to Maiden Castle, the university’s sports ground.

The view of Maiden Castle sports grounds from one of the many vantage points in Pelaw Wood

Carrying on further to the east heads down through hidden paths along to the river again and Old Durham Gardens. I won’t attach a detailed map of this walk as I feel the best way to experience this area is to ‘follow your nose’, though some maps are available from the website:


Discover more

Follow Toby as he continues his walks around Durham here

Take a look at Durham University Hill Walking Society

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Toby Crewe

Hi, I’m Toby, and I’m a maths student at St Mary’s College here in Durham. I keep busy with walking, ultimate frisbee, and photography.

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