Gibside skyline walk
See Gibside from a new perspective as you rise out of the Derwent Valley surrounded by fantastic panoramic views.
Marker post and wooden bridge on West Wood track, south of Stables, grid ref: NZ 17868 58773
Branch off the main West Wood forestry track and follow the Skyline path uphill through the woodland over three small log bridges and along a stretch of boardwalk.
The old quarry at direction point 2 provided stone for buildings at Gibside. Although the landscape gardens were designed to look beautiful, Gibside was also a working estate and largely self-sufficient. For example, the woodlands provided timber and the walled garden supplied food for the table. Cut Thorn Farm, which will soon come into view, also provided lots of the estate's meat produce.
At the end of the boardwalk you reach a kissing gate. Go through the gate and walk straight ahead up the side of the field, keeping the fence and a ditch on your left. Take care as there may be animals grazing in this and other fields. Please keep dogs on a short lead around livestock.
Cut Thorn Farm
Cut Thorn Farm was the 'home farm' for the Gibside estate. In the 18th-century it used all the latest developments in farming methods. It bred the first ever herd of northern Shorthorn cattle. George Bowes was so proud of his livestock that he showed off his farm animals in the heart of his landscape park. We now do this again today. You may spot cattle and sheep in Park Fields, near the Avenue. For many years the fields were ploughed intensively to grow arable crops, but our tenant farmer is restoring them into wildlife-friendly meadows.
Exit the field through a kissing gate and emerge onto a track, cross to the other side of the track and straight in front of you there is another kissing gate to go through. One more gate will take you into a meadow - walk up a short, sharp bank to the top of the field and the fence line. These fields are all part of Cut Thorn Farm. The farm buildings themselves are out of view but are open to the public for Open Farm Weekend.
From up at direction point four, there are fantastic views across the Derwent Valley all around - from the high moors of the Pennines and Durham Dales, across the Gibside estate (can you spot the Column to Liberty?), north to the Cheviots and east towards Newcastle.
When you reach the fence turn left and walk along the top of the field. You'll pass two stiles (do not cross these) and carry on until you reach a third stile with the waymarker pointing the way.
One of the houses you pass after direction point five is Fellside House. This was once home to Gibside's land agent in the 18th-century. He managed the estate while the family were away staying at their other homes or away visiting London for the winter. The hedge here is colourful with rhododendrons in the summer.
Climb over this stile and emerge onto a quiet lane. Turn right and walk along the lane, go through a farm gate and carry straight on along the lane passing a hedge hiding a row of houses on your left and farm fields on your right.
New farm acquisition
As you walk through the meadow, take a look at the field on the other side of the fence line. This was acquired by the National Trust in spring 2011 to safeguard the land from the threat of open-cast mining which was very unpopular with local people. We have offered 10 acres to the community to develop vegetable growing and a veg box scheme. Get in touch if you would like to get involved!
As the road bends to the right, in front of you there is a stile. Climb over this stile into another meadow and walk straight ahead, keeping beside a fence on your right. Carry on until you reach a stile at the far end of the field.
The historic entrance to Gibsie
Today, visitors to Gibside arrive and park at what would once have been the tradesmen's entrance to the estate. The original arrival route for the Bowes family's guests was from the absolute opposite direction. In fact, the original gatehouses to Gibside still exist, but they now form part of Whickham Golf Course.
Climb over the stile on your left to continue the Skyline Walk and return into Gibside's woodlands. Follow the path round to the left (Whickham Golf Course is on your right) and walk down some steps.
Carry on along a level path through a woodland corridor until you come to a gate in the wall. Go through this gate and follow the route downhill to re-join the forestry track in Snipes Dene.
George Bowes and his family created the fine buildings and landscape gardens at Gibside with a fortune amassed through coal mining. George was one of the north east's most important business tycoons in the mid-18th century and owned over 40 collieries in the area. The raised embankment was part of a network of waggonways used to take the coal from the Bowes' mines in County Durham down to the River Tyne.
Well done, you have now completed the Skyline Walk! Turn left to head back to the Stables on the original entrance drive to Gibside or turn right to explore Snipes Dene and our riverside paths.
Head of Snipes Dene, grid ref: NZ 19052 58853
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