The Weardale Alternative takes you over the highest A road in England, through a series of picturesque villages at the head of the River Wear and along the prettiest seven mile back road, returning you to the official route in the market town of Stanhope.
It offers a much needed alternative to the main route, where it is sometimes difficult to find accommodation and food. “We simply cannot cope with the demand,” is an oft heard refrain, though the Herculean efforts made by the Allenheads Inn come in for high praise.
Unlike the splendid isolation of the official route via Allenheads and Rookhope, Upper Weardale offers you cafes, convenience stores, museums and a range of accommodation, from camping to a luxury country house hotel.
From Nenthead, simply carry on the main road over the three hump hill of Killhope Cross (647m) and enjoy the exhilarating downhill stretch in to Weardale. If you find the hills of the North Pennines hard, you may want to stop off at Killhope Lead Mining Museum to experience something of how life was for those working in and under the hills – and get a coffee while there, from the Café.
The villages of Lanehead, Cowshill and Wearhead line the route to Ireshopeburn, home of The Weardale Museum, which is brim full of fascinating insights into how life was when Weardale was a hive of mining and Methodism.
Chatterbox Café in St John’s Chapel hosts the Upper Weardale Visitor Information Point and Weardale Bike Hire. As well as being a perfect place to rest up before Crawleyside Bank, it also provides info on the eating and sleeping places in the dale and route maps for cycling challenges you may want to attempt on a return visit – including over Chapelfell, the highest road in the country.
Half a mile down the valley in Daddry Shield, The Weardale Alternative turns off the main road and down a beautiful back road wending its way alongside the river, past the Hare N Hounds pub in Westgate, and the 5 star luxury hotel of Horsely Hall before recrossing the river in Stanhope and you’re back on the official route.