High Force | Waterfall Walk & Sunday Lunch

This is an advertisement for June 2021 (based on a visit in June 2021). Any shares/updates to this post beyond this date have not been asked or paid for. Information may have changed since this post was first published so please double check details with High Force Hotel before making plans for up to date info. 

There are a few ways you can visit High Force, this post focuses on the most convenient/easiest way (for us anyway) to visit via the access path from High Force Hotel which is managed by Raby Estates. 

About High Force & Location 

High Force is a spectacular waterfall situated within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (and also a European Geopark). The waterfall is part of the River Tees near Middleton-in-Tees, County Durham. 

The waterfall falls for a magnificent 21 metres and usually splits into two parts. We visited after a particularly dry spell so only managed to see one part (the other half tends to 'dry up' in warmer weather) but this is definitely a reason to return and one reason to look forward to rain I guess. 

Jack was interested to learn (there is an information board by the waterfall) that the waterfall is made up of three different types of rock dating back millions of years and you can physically see the differences. In fact, the waterfall dates back across 300 million years. Impressive! 

Fact fans may also be interested to learn that High Force has the largest volume of water flowing over an unbroken drop in England. It is not the highest waterfall in England but it is pretty close. 

We parked in the car park next to High Force Hotel (more info and postcode in the next section). The car park is around a 90 minute drive (55 miles) from Newcastle and a very scenic route over the winding roads of the Pennines. Expect to see a lot of sheep casually venturing into the middle of the road or grazing very close by as you travel. 

High Force Tickets / Booking 

Access to the waterfall is available from 10am - 4pm daily (with the car park, refreshment kiosk, ticket office and facilities holding the same hours). Last admission is around 3:30pm. 

If you wish to visit High Force via the access route from High Force Hotel, the cost is a very reasonable £2 per adult, £1 per child and under 5s/dogs go free. 

You can book your tickets ahead online here which I would highly recommend as it means you bypass the ticket kiosk queue and can just head straight to the waterfall (bring your email to show the attendant though). Please note it will give you a time of 10am when you book online but you can arrive at any time from 10am - 3:30pm on the date booked, you do not book a specific time slot. 

Alternatively, if you are visiting on a whim, you can buy tickets on arrival from the kiosk in the car park (but there may be a queue / short wait). 

The small admission fee goes towards maintaining the footpaths, keeping the route safe and clear, litter collection and preservation of the environment. You can definitely see the investment as the walkways were immaculately clean and very well kept. 

High Force Facilities & Parking 

There is a fairly large car park beside High Force Hotel (postcode DL12 0XH). The car park is chargeable and you need to pay for parking within 10 minutes of arrival. There are several ways to pay - 
using the Phone & Pay App (might be worth downloading and registering before you visit), pay by phone (details on arrival - have your debit card ready) or you can buy a ticket from the machine or you can pay at the ticket office.

Sometimes there is a bit of a queue so I would recommend either the app or the pay by phone option, especially as that records your payment too. I know some people have been caught out with charges so do ensure you purchase parking correctly and for the correct amount of time. 

Parking is either £3 for 3 hours or £6 for 6 hours. You only need around an hour for the walk and I would say 3 hours is enough time for the waterfall walk and a main course in the hotel restaurant. If you wish to enjoy a longer lunch or extended walks in the area, I would probably opt for 6 hours. 

The car park features a large information board with walking routes and information. It's a good idea to snap this on your phone if you are planning a longer walk. 

There are also several picnic tables next to the car park if you wish to bring a picnic or purchase a local ice cream from the car park kiosk. You can also purchase hot and cold drinks / snacks from the kiosk to takeaway. I would recommend bringing your own bottles of water as on the day of our visit, they only had sparkling water available. 

There are (free) toilets available in the car park too including an accessible and baby change toilet. There are no facilities at the waterfall. 

I should say, the High Force Hotel is also right by the car park and is available for overnight stays, drinks, events and meals. More on that later though. 

High Force Waterfall Walk & Trails 

The waterfall is well signposted and easy to find. Take care crossing the road by the hotel and you will see an attendant by the walkway entrance who will check your tickets and ensure track and trace information is completed. 

In 'normal' times, I believe you can pick a few different walking routes to the waterfall but at time of publishing (early June 2021), there is a one way system in place in order to comply with COVID guidelines. Please see the map below for details. 

The first part of the walk is accessible and suitable for pushchairs (and maybe wheelchairs - although it is a gravel path so I think it may depend on the type of wheelchair you use). It is fairly flat and around 10-15 minutes to the waterfall. 

The return journey is not suitable for pushchairs / wheelchairs and is up a fair few steps and through woodland on uneven surfaces. It is a bit of a climb up the steps but I managed it without too much trouble and I am not the fittest of people. It may not be suitable for some with mobility issues though. 

I have spoken with a few parents and most seem to say it is ok for adventurous toddlers if you keep an eye on them. In fact many say the kids find it easier than the grown ups.

Credit | Raby Estates 

Due to the one way system and social distancing in place, you are asked to leave your pushchair at home at the moment. As guidance changes I do expect this to change though and once the one way system is no longer needed, you should be ok to use the flatter accessible path towards the waterfall for the way back too and bring a pushchair along. Please keep an eye on High Force Social Media and website for updates as to when this can happen. 

At various points across the year there are seasonal trails which are included with admission and add a little interest to the walk for kids (and adults actually). We enjoyed the Spring Trail on the day of our visit and learning about / spotting various wildlife with the prompts. 

We actually heard the waterfall before we spotted it. I can't believe how noisy it is! You can really feel the power as you approach. 

It takes around 10-15 minutes to reach the waterfall and you get a pretty good view from the walkway. However if you'd like a closer look, you can continue down the steps to the rocks below......

You do not need to venture onto the rocks as part of the one way system - it is optional.

The steps are narrow and there is a sign to say only one household should use them at a time. This was adhered to on the day of our visit. There is a bit of a bottleneck at the bottom but once you are on the rocks there is plenty of space to spread out. 

High Force is a popular beauty spot, do not expect to have it all to yourself (unless you are super lucky). There will more than likely be several groups enjoying the scenery along with you. For us, there was plenty of space on the day of our visit and we were able to find our own space. 

It goes without saying that young children should be closely supervised on the rocks and dogs be kept on a short lead. High Force is extremely powerful and even strong swimmers can get into trouble so you must not enter the water at any point. I would recommend a sturdy pair of walking shoes or boots if you would like to walk any distance along the rocks. 

High Force literally took my breath away. These pictures just do not do her justice. Such an incredible force of nature and I am so pleased we got to see her. 

Dee absolutely loves rock climbing and had a fantastic time clambering around the rocks to find the perfect vantage point. I know we are having a good day out when both Dee AND Harry are taking photos with their own phones too (which they did here). 

Jack and I do not have the same adventurous gene as Dee and Harry and decided to forego jumping around rocks, preferring to read up about the history of the waterfall instead. 

Now onto the return journey. Following the one way route, it is up some pretty steep stairs into the woodland. There are several places to stop for a rest if needed but it was ok for us (although we did feel like we'd worked for our lunch). 

We visited during a particularly dry spell and the ground was ok but I do know if there is rain it can get muddy so be prepared with the correct footwear. 

We passed through the very end of bluebell season and I bet the woods are beautiful here if you catch the bluebells at the right time. 

The very last section of the one way system takes you through some spooky woodland which the kids said they thought looked straight from a horror movie. They kept jumping out at me which they thought was hilarious! It isn't actually scary and you can see the road from the woods but we liked the illusion and it kept the kids entertained at the end of the walk. 

The circular route including a bit of time down on the rocks by the waterfall and completing the trail took us around 40 minutes. It isn't a long walk but if you look at the board in the car park, there are extended walking routes if you fancy something a little longer. 

The walk through the woodland was nice with various different areas and plants, it wasn't busy and there was plenty of hand sanitiser available throughout. There is nowhere to stop for a picnic along the route but there are tables with lovely countryside views in the car park.  

Sunday Lunch at High Force Hotel 

As you emerge from the (spooky) woodland after your walk, the first thing you see is the High Force Hotel which is right beside the main car park. It has recently been refurbished and looks lovely inside. I was also extremely chuffed to see that it is dog-friendly too. If we had visited on a day that we had Ollie, I'm sure he would have loved it here. 

Those outdoor tables on the front terrace sure did look inviting. There were a fair few disappointed walkers who were turned away on the day of our visit though as the restaurant and bar were fully booked. I strongly recommend booking ahead (call 01833 622336), especially while restrictions are in place. 

We decided to make the most of the sunshine and sit in the pretty courtyard to the rear of the building. The staff set us up a parasol so were sheltered from the sun. 

The staff were so lovely. They were clearly very busy, especially dealing with lots of people trying to 'walk in' when they were fully booked but still managed service with a smile and were super friendly and helpful. Sunday lunch is served at the hotel from 12noon - 6pm (with bookings available between 12noon-3pm) and offers local cuts of meat with homemade yorkshires and freshly prepared veg. 

Smaller portions are available for children too - just ask. 

Our main courses arrived fairly quickly and we were provided with extra gravy jugs too (with Dee being given their own personal jug of veggie gravy which they loved). 

There isn't much better than a waterfall walk and a decent Sunday lunch. What a way to end the week. 

We all really enjoyed our Sunday lunch, everything tasted nice and fresh and I particularly enjoyed the crispy roast potatoes. The portions were good and I feel like the lunches provided really good value considering the ingredient quality and setting. The gravy was thick and moreish so I am pleased we had extra jugs on the table. 

After around 1pm the restaurant did get significantly busy with people coming and going and service wasn't as attentive. I cannot blame the staff at all, there was just a high number of people stopping by / to cater for and they were rushed off their feet. There was a long wait for dessert for us but we were not in a rush and passed the time playing Thumb Wars. 

If I had my time again, I would probably skip dessert / enquire how long it was likely to be before we ordered and purchase an ice cream from the kiosk outside instead, especially if time was running out on our parking. 

Like I say though, we were not in a rush on this occasion and Jack said that his brownie sundae was worth waiting for. 

When we revisit High Force, I will 100% book lunch at the hotel again. A scenic walk and lovely lunch is just the perfect combination for me. I would also recommend staying at the hotel if you are looking for a base to explore Teesdale. It is such a lovely area and definitely a part of the North East I would encourage you to visit if you have not already. 

High Force Events 

High Force (and their sister venue Raby Castle) run a programme of events across the year. It is a scaled back programme at the moment but do sign up to their newsletter here to keep up to date with future events. At time of publishing, event highlights include: 

  • A Stargazing Supper (30 October, 27 November and 11 December)

    Enjoy a delicious 3 course meal at the High Force Hotel before a gentle stroll down to the waterfall which will be illuminated for you to photograph. Astronomy binoculars will be provided for you to enjoy the night stars. 

    After I typed this out I noticed the event was fully booked (apologies) but hopefully it will give you an idea of the kind of events you can expect. 

Where To Visit Nearby 

Teesdale is such a pretty place to drive around. There are lots of cute little villages, plenty of countryside views and little spots you can stop off and paddle in a stream. Many people combine a visit to High Force with Low Force Waterfall which is just up the road. 

Raby Castle is 8 miles away and one of our favourite places for a day out - you can enjoy the woodland playground, walled gardens, deer park (home to actual herds of deer), the castle and more. 

High Force Top Tips For Visiting & FAQS 

  • Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your car before you set off. You do not want to be caught short in the middle of the Pennines and there aren't many petrol stations in the vicinity

  • Book your waterfall tickets online to save queuing and time 

  • Download the parking app and register before you visit 

  • Book a table at the restaurant in the High Force Hotel in advance 

  • Allow 45 minutes - 1 hour to walk to and from the waterfall at a leisurely pace with time to enjoy the scenery 

  • At the moment, the one way system is not suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs but this will change once the one way system is no longer needed

  • Bring a bottle of water with you 

  • There are toilets in the car park - make sure you go as there are no facilities at the waterfall / along the walk

  • Double check your parking has been paid and don't run over your time

  • Wear sturdy walking boots / shoes if you wish to climb down onto the rocks and supervise young children and dogs 

  • There are no picnic facilities at the waterfall (or en-route) but there are tables in the car park

  • Be careful of sheep, lambs and wildlife when driving - they get pretty close to the road

  • Most of the parents I have spoken to have said the walk is ok for toddlers if you take your time and supervise them if you go down onto the rocks. Personally, I am not sure if Jack or Harry would have enjoyed the walk at that age but I know Dee would have loved it and completed it without batting an eye. You know your own kids. 

I am so pleased we finally made the trip. The walk to High Force followed by Sunday Lunch in the Hotel was a lovely way to spend an afternoon with older kids / teens and get outside and enjoy nature. It was a lovely little road trip for us and a nice way to spend a Sunday. 

Find out more and book: https://www.raby.co.uk/high-force/waterfall/


1 comment

  1. Thank you for the info... Do you happen to know if there is a 5 mile walk? my son is doing a walk for pancrestic cancer and this waterfall at the end would be fab.


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