Northern Saints Trails, Durham

Dave Robson

The Pandemic meant there were no events when the first lockdown restrictions were lifted so Melanie and I turned our attention to doing some long distance trails in roughly ten mile sections with a car at the start and end of each section.

We were particularly attracted to the new Northern Saints Trails which were only developed shortly before lockdown started. Part of the interest was because four of the six trails finish at Durham Cathedral so we would not have to travel too far. The Northern Saints website has excellent route descriptions, but the gpx files aren’t very accurate, so below we have given links to hopefully more accurate gpx files which we have fine tuned as we ran the trails. Signage on the route is very variable, some routes have few or no signs, others aren’t too bad especially as you get close to Durham (when you need them less…). Also the signs (as illustrated) do not have an arrow on them like most public footpath signs, so when you get a junction and there is a sign on a post at the junction, which way do you go ? We made quite a few errors, but working out what to do next was part of the fun. Having OS maps on our phones was often our saviour and we enjoyed seeing sites we hadn’t seen before. The routes sometimes make small diversions to run past churches and we found a couple of diversions because of the pandemic and building works.

Way of Life 30 miles Gainford to Durham
Rolling hills and a runnable trail which starts at the village of Gainford to the west of Darlington and goes north to West Auckland, then Witton Park, Bishop Auckland, Buyers Green, Whitworth, Tudhoe, Low Burn Hall and Durham

Way of Light 46 miles Heavenfield to Durham
Heavenfield is on Hadrian’s Wall north of Hexham and the route heads south to Hexham and continues on to the lovely Hexhamshire, followed by Slaley Forest, Blanchland Moor, Blanchland, more moors above Derwent Reservoir, Edmundbuyers, Castleside, Lanchester, Esh, Ushaw College, Witton Gilbert, Flass Vale, Durham. If you are only going to do one of these, do this one, it is stunning ! There is currently a high locked gate in Ushaw College but if you amend the above route to stay to the north of the main College buildings that will save you backtracking.

Way of Love 30 miles Hartlepool to Durham
This one starts by going up the coast and then through Hart, Castle Eden (but sadly not the Dene), Trimdon, Cassop, Old Durham, Whinney Hill and to the Cathedral. This twisty route has more old railway tracks than most of the other trails. There is a very overgrown nettle section before Trimdon Colliery, we would advise taking the footpath to the north !

Way of the Sea 40 miles Warkworth to Jarrow
You could start this one at Holy Island and follow St Oswald’s Way to Warkworth. St Oswald’s Way turns inland there and the Way of the Sea continues south along the coast via Blyth, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth to North Shields and across the Tyne on the passenger ferry and on to the finish at Jarrow. That links to the Way of Learning which starts from there.

Way of Learning 40 miles Jarrow to Durham
This is a more urban route and you pass the entrance to the Tyne Tunnel followed by a winding route past Temple Park and on to the Cleadon Hills to the coast at Seaburn, into Sunderland, Penshaw Monument, Houghton-le-Spring, Chester-le-Street and back to Durham via the Cuddy’s Corse route

Angel’s Way 31 miles Seaton Sluice to Chester-le-Street
The most urban route starting on the coast north of Whitley Bay. It joins the  Tyne Wear Heritage Way for a while and then heads into North Gosforth and right into the centre of Newcastle, down Northumberland Street to the Quayside and past the Sage, on to Saltwell Park and then of course, the Angel of the North. Then off to the west towards Beamish and then back east to Chester-le-Street where you can join the Way of Learning back to Durham if you wish. There is currently a well sign posted temporary diversion from the route above because of house building at White House Farm near North Gosforth.

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