Waterfall Walks from Bowlees Visitor Centre (Dog Friendly)

This article has been published by Gaia and Sam and is based on multiple visits. Please check with venues direct for the most up to date info as information can change over time. 

Waterfall Walks from Bowless Visitor Centre (Dog Friendly)

If your family is interested in nature, exploring and finding out more about the rich history of the North Pennines (or you just want to see some cool waterfalls and visit a lovely dog-friendly cafe) then Bowlees Visitor Centre is for you.

Please follow North East Family Fun on Instagram here for lots more ideas for things to do around the North East & beyond). 

Highlights include:

  • Walks to High Force, Low Force & Summerhill waterfalls
  • Nature walks and trails to explore
  • Information boards along the routes 
  • Some accessible routes 
  • Mud kitchen, bird watching garden, stepping stones
  • Cafe serving good coffee and tasty cakes 
  • Vistors centre with info for exploring the North Pennines
  • Picnic benches for packed lunches
  • Parking by donation
  • Dogs are allowed in the cafe and gift shop and welcome to accompany you on a lead during the walks 

Mud Kitchen at Bowlees Visitor Centre 

Getting there and parking

Bowlees, Newbiggin, Barnard Castle DL12 0XE

We parked at Bowlees Visitor Centre car park which is by donation - they have a parking ticket machine and you simply pop in whatever you can afford and get a ticket for a day’s parking to display in your windscreen. 

The 73 bus from Barnard Castle stops on the road outside of the visitor centre on Wednesdays.

There are lots of walks and trails that start from here; you can get to High Force, Low Force and Gibson’s Cave and Summerhill Force to name a few. There’s a 4-5 mile (6.5-8km) circular walk, from Bowlees Visitor Centre that takes in Low and High Force for those that can handle that! 

You can view the locations of all of the places mentioned in this post in our FREE interactive google map here: FREE Waterfall Walks Google Map

All of the walks and routes are well signposted from the car park / visitor centre or pop inside for a map / in-person directions before you set off if you prefer. 

Gibson’s Cave and Summerhill Force

There's a short 600m walk (not accessible, there are quite a few steps) to this lovely little cave and waterfall. You can go right next to (or under if you fancy it!) the waterfall, and there was even someone swimming in the pool below it when we visited.

We loved it, the kids were keen to have a dip and it was interesting reading about Gibson and why the cave is named after him!

Low Force Waterfalls 

Low Force is a series of low cascades on the River Tees. It’s a short 600m / 10 minute walk from Bowlees Visitor Centre to Low Force and you can visit Wynch suspension bridge which overlooks the waterfalls too. This route is step free and accessible (with the exception of the bridge). 

Waterfall Walks from Bowless Visitor Centre (Dog Friendly)


High Force Waterfall

You can walk to High Force waterfall from Bowlees but it’s quite a big walk for little legs (around 2 miles each way, 4-5 miles altogether). 

If you don't fancy the walk from Bowlees, you can park at the car park next to the High Force hotel.

Admission to the High Force walk that starts at the hotel is £9 for a family ticket (2 adults 3 children) or Adults (16+): £3.00, Children (5-15): £1.50, Under 4s: Free and includes an activity sheet for the kids to spot wooden sculptures on the walk back to the car park.

We love it, it’s not fully accessible as half the walk takes you up lots of steps and there are steps at the final bit next to the waterfall, but you can avoid this and just walk along the bottom path back so if you're visiting with a pushchair / wheelchair, it is still possible to enjoy. It’s a dog friendly walk. 

More info on this walk including parking info is in this post: High Force Walk & Sunday Lunch  

Bowlees Visitor Centre Café

There’s a lovely cafe in the visitor centre with indoor and outdoor seating. We had icecreams, cakes and coffees and they were all good. The ice cream selection was limited to little tubs of chocolate or ice pops, but the cakes were plentiful and delicious (GF carrot cake and chocolate biscoff traybake highly recommended).

The visitor centre and cafe are open daily from 10am - 5pm. Check out their website here: Bowlees Visitor Centre Website. 

They offer hot and cold food including bacon rolls, soup, chips, sandwiches and toasties too.

Bowlees Visitor Centre

There are information boards and exhibits to check out in the visitors centre which give info on all the nature and archeological sights in the area. They had a whiteboard listing all the birds that have been spotted nearby when we visited, which was interesting.

You can find out more about the conservation that they do in the local area and how they help people to connect with nature. They hold lots of events and workshops in various locations including 
Children’s archaeology taster days.

There’s a little gift shop in the Visitors Centre where you can get High Force memorabilia (which is handy as there’s no gift shop at High Force itself) and you can pick up other gifts too. Outside there is also a  lovely little nature garden where you can sit and watch the birds in peace.


There are toilets next to the visitors centre which were clean, accessible and modern with baby changing facilities. There’s also a toilet closer to the car park, which is not as modern but fine.


There are a number of steps from the car park to the visitor centre and to Summerhill waterfall. We did spot an accessible picnic table.  There is a small, accessible car park and ramp at the front of the Visitors centre and from here there is a step free route to Low Force Waterfall. You can hire an all terrain mobility scooter from the visitor centre. 


Please do not enter (or allow your dog to enter) the water at High Force or Low Force and keep dogs well under control. There are strong currents and sadly, people have drowned here in the past. Dogs should also be kept on leads around livestock and it goes without saying to pick up after them. 

Paddling near the Visitor Centre 

If your kids / dogs do fancy a paddle, the streams around Bowlees Visitor Centre are great for a splodge all year round (in wellies in the colder months!) as the stream is quite shallow and easily accessible. We had fun crossing the stream next to the bridge that leads from the car park to the Visitors centre.

Bowlees Visitors centre is a great place to start an adventure - exploring local beauty spots, waterfalls and caves in the North Penines. Kids and adults of all ages can learn a bit more about the nature and history of the surrounding area and immerse themselves in nature. We will definitely be back!

Looking for things to do nearby? Check out this article: 16 things to do at Barnard Castle 


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