Middleton-in-Teesdale is a village of 1,100 people (2017) in County Durham, ten miles northwest of Barnard Castle. It's in the scenic Tees valley, where the main visitor attraction is High Force waterfall.
The lower River Tees is mostly industrial, but its upper valley between Cow Green and Barnard Castle lies in scenic moorland, part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As with other AONBs, the "natural beauty" is partly man-made, through hill farming and 18th / 19th century lead mining. The Tees foams over a series of waterfalls as it cascades down Whin Sill - the layers of tough dolerite formed from magma in the late Carboniferous period, which elsewhere form Hadrian's Wall and the Farne Islands. There is some quarrying in the area, beware big trucks along the lanes, and the threat of further mining hasn't entirely gone away. There was interest in mining zinc here when its price spiked in 2006, but nothing has come of this.
Scarlet Band run buses roughly every hour during the daytime M-Sa from Barnard Castle to Lartington, Cotherstone, Romaldkirk, and Middleton-in-Teesdale. They alternate between route 95 and 96, which provide connections to different villages in Teesdale. The full journey from Barnard Castle to Middleton takes about half an hour.
An additional service on Wednesdays only is provided by Hodgson's. This is numbered 73 and runs from Barnard Castle to Eggleston and Middleton-in-Teesdale, but then continues through Upper Teesdale to Newbiggin, Bowlees, Forest-in-Teesdale, and Langdon Beck. This operates twice in each direction with an additional third trip just on the upper section between Middleton and Langdon Beck. This is the only bus service which runs beyond Middleton to destinations such as High Force.
Barnard Castle has half hourly buses to the town of Darlington, which lies on the railway network and has direct services to London, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and many other cities. These are operated by Arriva and numbered X75 or X76, with the journey taking 35-50 minutes depending on the routing and time of day.
If you're driving, the A66 is the best route from the south or west — follow signs to Barnard Castle then take the B6277 or B6278 up the dale. From the north east, the A688 runs from Bishop Auckland (and beyond) to Staindrop — from there take the B6279 to Middleton.
You need a car.
- 1 High Force (via B6277). Daily Apr-Oct 10AM-5PM, Nov-Mar 10AM-4PM. Impressive waterfall, where the River Tees plunges 71 feet (21 m) over the layer of hard rock known as Whin Sill. A mile downstream is its junior brother, the 18-foot Low Force. You can access both free, any time, by approaching on foot along the south bank path. This can be reached from the footbridge below Bowlees Visitor Centre, or by taking the lane towards Holwick that branches off B6277 just south of Middleton. But most people approach by the north bank path, where the hours and charges described here apply. This side gets very busy and touristy. Parking £5 plus adults £1.50, child 50p.
- 2 Kirkcarrion along B6276 is a tumulus that's believed to be a Bronze Age burial site. It's nowadays topped by a copse of pine trees.
- 3 Colberry Lead Mine can't be entered, but it's left a dramatic scar on the landscape in the form of a "hush". This is a ravine created by directing a torrent of water to wash away the overlying material and expose the lead-bearing vein. This hush even cuts through the watershed between two valleys.
- Romaldkirk church has Saxon and medieval components.
- 4 Cow Green Reservoir lies at the head of the River Tees and controls its flow. Construction of the reservoir in the 1960s was fiercely opposed, as it covers part of an Arctic or alpine habitat that's rare in Britain. From the car park walk 2 miles south to Cauldron Snout, the long cascade where the river leaves the reservoir.
- Walk the Pennine Way. Going north (the usual direction, to have the weather at your back) the route towards Teesdale is from Tan Hill Inn northeast across the moors onto the lane at Sleightholme which you follow into Bowes village. The definitive route bypasses Bowes (via "God's Bridge") but most walkers visit to break up a 16-mile section. Then head north over moors dipping into Baldersdale, halfway point on the entire Pennine Way, and where "Hannah's Meadow" is a survival of flowering pasture that has escaped modern agriculture. Another moorland slog then the route trends east into Middleton, .
- Continue the route from Middleton along the south bank of the Tees upstream past Low Force, High Force and Bleabeck Force. You can stay at the hostel in Langdon to break up another long section. The valley then leads west to the source of the Tees at Cow Green Reservoir, set in semi-tundra heathland. Follow Maize Beck west into Cumbria, past a tiny waterfall that deserves to be called Micro Force, and beware the army training ranges. The trail leads over a soggy plateau before descending into Dufton.
- Walk, cycle or horse-ride along the old railway track up the Tees valley. From Barnard Castle follow B6277 or the Ray Gill path northwest to Lartington to pick up the trail, which takes you through Cotherstone, Romaldkirk and Mickleton to Middleton.
1 Kingsway Adventure Centre, Alston Road Middleton in Teesdale DL12 0UU, firstname.lastname@example.org. Organises outdoor activities. They're geared to groups (youth and adult) and have accommodation, but they don't have activities that individual visitors can tag onto.
- Co-op Food on Chapel Row is open daily 7AM-8PM.
- The hotel bars are best bet for a main meal. There's a collection of cafes along the main street, and a fish & chips takeaway.
- Head for the hotel bars. Middleton is too small for a standalone pub.
- 1 Brunswick House, 55 Market Place, Middleton DL12 0QH, ☏ . Cosy welcoming B&B with five rooms in charming 18th C building. No dogs. B&B double from £90.
- Other small hotels in the village include Teesdale Hotel, Forrester's Hotel[dead link] and Grove Lodge.
- 2 Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk DL12 9EB, ☏ . Charming small hotel in 18th-century coaching inn. B&B double from £120.
As of June 2020, all carriers have a decent mobile signal and 4G outdoors in the village and the approach road up the valley. Indoors Vodafone is okay, the others are scratchy. Expect dead spots out on the moors. 5G has not reached this area.