Explorer Trail Circular Walk at Gibside

We love this walk at Gibside and have enjoyed it a fair few times now. It's one of our go-to walks with Fozzy as there is lots for him to sniff, the paths are mostly wide, it's pretty quiet and it includes the dog exercise field at the Stables where he can safely run around as we enjoy a coffee. 

Access to this walk is included with National Trust Membership / admission to Gibside. 

  • 2.2 miles / 3.52km circular route 
  • Dogs welcome on leads (there is an enclosed exercise field where you can let them off lead en-route)
  • Lots of activities to try en-route including a play area, animal sculptures, den building zone and low ropes course 
  • Cafe at the start/end
  • Pushchair accessible - step-free, roughly surfaced paths with a few steep gradients
  • Suitable for a powered mobility vehicle - there are two available to hire 
  • Toilets at the start/end, Strawberry Castle Play Area and Stables 
  • Well signposted route 
  • Should take 1 hour but you can easily extend this by spending time on activities 

There is a map with various walking trails (including this one in orange) on arrival just before the walled garden. Take a snap of it with your phone. You can also collect trail maps from the visitor's kiosk on arrival but to be honest, I don't really think there are needed as it's a pretty straight forward route with minimal chance of getting lost. 

Explorer Trail Circular Walk at Gibside

For some reason, we always walk this route in reverse. The correct route is Market Place> Avenue> Stables Cafe> Nature Playscape> Den Building> Low Ropes> Strawberry Castle Play Area> Market Place. 

I actually think this route makes more sense if visiting with younger kids as the play area at the end is a nice carrot for them. You can check out detailed directions of the correct route here: Explorer Trail Directions 

The rest of this post will share the route in the way we usually walk it (in reverse). 

Market Place 

This walks starts at Market Place where you can grab a drink, pop to the loo and let the kids play table tennis/with the play equipment here as you get sorted. 

Dogs on leads are permitted in the outdoor and indoor seating area in the cafe. 

Strawberry Castle Play Area 

The first stop off is Strawberry Castle Play Area which is excellent! There's lots of play equimpent for various ages including castle-themed climbing frames and zip wires. There are picnic tables (including some covered), a seasonal kiosk selling snacks, drinks and ice creams plus toilets. 

Dogs on leads are welcome in the vicinity of the play area but not on the barked areas. 

Strawberry Castle Play Area Gibside

Low Ropes Course 

The route then continues past Strawberry Castle into the woods and you can take a small detour to visit the Low Ropes Course. This area is fab for older kids who like a challenge - you basically have to use your balancing skills to move around the ropes suspended in the trees. My teens enjoy it here. It is unstaffed though so take care. 

The walk towards the Low Ropes follows a lovely stream and there is wild garlic around here in the spring. 

Low Ropes Course Gibside

Den Building, Sculptures, Natures Playscape & Outdoor Gym

Next you head further into the woods and it's one long path between the Low Ropes and the Stables.

 There are several points of interest and places to stop off along the route including outdoor gym equipment, a den building area which is always super quiet, wooden animal sculptures (don't forget to look up in the trees too) and a nature playscape which has lots of natural play equipment. 

I love how there is loads of points of interest and things to do along the route and it's far from a boring walk. 

The setting in the woods is beautiful too and there are some stunning views peeking through the trees. 

Outdoor Gym Gibside

Explorer Trail Circular Walk at Gibside Animal Sculptures

The path is mostly wide with a rough surface (quite a few stones) and a mix of short steep inclines and gentle gradients. Most children should manage it ok, especially with all of the stop offs. I would take an all terrain pushchair along this route no bother too. There are several seating areas along the route. 

Once you go off from the main path into the activities, it can get muddy so if it's been raining, I'd recommend waterproof boots. I've walked this in regular trainers before and although it was fine, I do prefer my walking boots for this one. 

The Stables 

After the Nature Playscape Area you will see the Stables emerge in front of you. This is an ideal spot for a breather with a small cafe, toilets, indoor exhibitions and the enclosed dog park. 

Fozzy loves it here! It's only small but he enjoys a run around while we enjoy our drinks. Make sure you read the signs on arrival and follow the rules. 

Gibside Dog Park

The Avenue & Walled Garden 

You then head down from the Stables long the Avenue which is a stunning route lined with trees which seem to go on forever. You can visit the Chapel if it's open (no pet dogs in here) and enjoy the Walled Garden which usually hosts additional activities during school holidays (we have enjoyed live music, puppet shows and seed planting in here over the last year or so). 

You're then back where you started at Market Place where you can reward yourself with a nice bite to eat. 

This is a lush walk and I'd definitely recommend giving it a go. 

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