The route instructions on this page are up to date.
The trail begins from Isaac’s Well in Allendale and follows the River East Allen s up the valley. Mostly out of view the path strays never far from the river in wooded denes and crosses tributary burns over hay meadows or fields where sheep, cattle and horses graze. Behind timeless pastoral images is a fascinating history less evident when the valley led the world albeit, briefly in mining technology.
In the mid 1800s it was the Silicon Valley of its day with the latest ground breaking hydraulic engines from W.G. Armstong’s Elswick works in Newcastle installed in shafts along the line of the Blackett Level under construction. Named after the land owners the Blackett Beaumonts, an ambitious engineering project to build an underground channel up from Allendale to Allenheads to drain the lead mines and discover new mineral veins. The costly scheme was not a success. The advanced surveying and engineering required may behind Allendale’s own claim to be the centre of Britain.
After 4 miles, the trail turns its back on the East Allen beyond Pry Hill and the Rowantree Bastle ruin and turns up for a steady climb on to the moors on the Black Way into the prevailing wind. There is the paraphernalia of grouse shooting of feeding stations and marker posts, complete with lines of stone and timber reinforced butts. Other than for the brief spells, when grouse shooting is underway, it’s a tranquil place. People are few and far between. There’s just the cries of lapwings and calls of curlews on the climb up and on the tops the tweets from golden plover for company. Under the watchful eye of the occasional bird of prey or even a short-eared owl.
In the heydays of the lead mines it was much travelled ground with strings of ponies laden with lead ore making their way over the moors to be smelted. Walking this open and weather worn landscape, it is hard to imagine the great fortune carried away from below with no more than an indistinct track as a reminder. Ahead the mass of Killhope looms, where the counties of Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria meet.
The trail drops down to the nameless hamlet of Coalcleugh. In the 1700s at the forefront of mining innovations and home to upwards of 200 miners with a public house, library, allotments, chapel and a rectory. Before casting an eye down the West Allen Valley, the path climbs to its highest point (585m) and then descends steadily to the village of Nenthead.
Accommodation and refreshments are available in Nenthead.
Distance: 18.51kms, 11.5 miles; Allow 6 hours
Max height: 581m; Min height: 211m; Total Climb: 586m;
Route Changes / Points to Note: None at the moment.
Description: Area description – to be added
Allendale (Isaac’s Well) GR NY 838558 – Pry Hill, East Allen GR NY 839518
Distance 5.51 km or 3.42 miles
Isaac’s Well is on the edge of the Market Place on the left as you enter Allendale from Hexham or Haydon Bridge. A few paces further along the road is signposted to Alston and Carrshield to the right. Follow down the peth towards the river as the road twists down to the old Corn Mill Bridge over the River East Allen to the Isaac’s Tea Trail sign to the left and a track.
(Don’t be confused by a logo sign returning on the other side of the road. This description is based on the circular trail taking a clock wise direction out of Allendale facing South up the East Allen Valley).
Follow the tarmac lane by the river side to a white wicket gate. Continue by the river and along where the field narrows to climb to the stile at the far end and follow the narrow path along as it leads over stiles to a field gate beneath trees. The next mile or so requires close attention to the signage and map as it loops round.
Proceed along the field edge as far as the stile crossing a couple more fields until a junction of paths and drystone walls. Go through the metal wicket gate, next to the field gate and follow the path, where additional signs are displayed to the marker post with a trail directional arrow. Where the path drops down the slope to the wooden field gate and continues through woodland and the cottage to the left and steps to the Steel Burn footbridge.
Continue once more by the banks of the River East Allen past the Peckriding footbridge over the river and towering craggs opposite. Follow through the meadow near the river side past a ruin and an often muddy track, leading out to the field beyond to the iron lattice work bridge up to Studdon. Don’t cross the bridge, but keep to the same side of the river as far as Park Farm. At Park Farm keep the farm and barns on your right and continue above the tree fringed riverside.
Before the path drops down to cross the dene. Down steps (due to be repaired) to the footbridge and emerges onto a low ridge past the 4 way footpath sign complete within its own enclosure. Continue on up the valley and follow the footpath sign marked Pry Hill. Cross a further two fields to a stile over the Acton Burn ahead.
Particular care is required in the drop down of 40 yards to the right of hawthorn bushes to the footbridge. Then left to the board walk and up the steps and the other side to the stile in the fence over the field to Pry Hill and the road.
Pry Hill GR NY 839518 to the Black Way GR NY838500 – See map
Distance 2.21 km or 1.37 miles
Total distance walked = 7.72 km or 4.80 miles
Turn right on the road past the junction with Pry Hill farm and then left over the stile next to a field gate. At the end of the farm on the left, look out for the stile in the drystone wall. Go through the wicket gate opposite and turn right past out buildings to a field gate beyond.
Because of a land slip, the path now takes a minor detour indicated by a marker post to a flight of steps down and around the drop down to cross the Knockburn, where it runs into the River East Allen. Follow next to the meanders of the burn upstream to the footbridge to Rowantree Stob bastle
Continue past the ruin with the Knockshield Burn to the left through the open gate or nearby stile as far as the marker post. Look down to a short drop down to the “hidden” footbridge just below. Climb up and follow the fence line through wicket gates and stiles, to pass the entrance to Knockburn Farm on your left. Then continue along the fence line over a further stile and the drystone wall, where in places the ground is showing signs of fracture and slipping down and out to the road.
Turn left along the road over the Knockshield Burn and continue to the road junction. Then right and along past the drive to High Knockshield farm. The road comes to an end at the field gate onto the track up the Black Way.
Black Way GR NY 838500 to Coalcleugh GR NY 801451 – See map
Distance 6.57 km or 4.08 miles
Total distance walked = 14.29 km or 8.80 miles
Follow the track onto the moor. Take care to turn left on the track over a culvert and white marker stones (don’t continue straight up). Follow the path alongside the track to the 3 way bladed sign and take the bladed sign – Isaac’s Tea Trail to Coalcleugh. Follow the regular trail way marker posts and not to be confused by other posts for grouse beaters or grit feeder stations found near this bridleway.
Pass by Philipson’s sheepfold up on your right and across Nan Davison’s Cleugh and on below Blackway Head to Carrshield Moor. After an intersection of paths descend and pass the remains of Rushymea to reach the road. Then turn right along the road past Mutton Hall and turn left at the road junction.
Coalcleugh GR NY 801451 to Nenthead NY781 437 (Bainbridge Memorial) –
Distance 4.22 km or 2.62 miles
Total distance walked 18.51 km or 11.50 miles
After a short distance follow the trail footpath sign to the right and join the track over the ford with Sunniside to the right. Continue on the track over the Alston Cleugh footbridge. Then shortly turn left at the marker post and climb to the higher ground up to the County boundary with a wooden gate between Northumberland and Cumbria with views of Cross Fell and the Pennine Mountain Chain.
On the drop down into the Nent Valley, keep to the line of the marker posts over tussocky grass and reed clumps, over uneven ground from quarrying and shallow mine workings to the 3way footpath sign and only a few yards beyond the ruins of Roughside Farm. Then join the fellside track back past Roughside all the way to the road to the footpath sign to Nenthead.