Nestled on the edge of a housing estate in Peterlee is Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve. Only 15 minutes from home, it made for a perfect hidden gem to uncover under the current tier 4 restrictions.

We visited on New Years Day as we wanted to start the year by discovering somewhere new to have adventures. This is something that I hope will occupy lots of our free time in 2021!

The dene is 3 miles long and stretches from the A19 motorway to Denemouth where the river through the reserve joins the sea on the Durham Heritage Coast. You can read my blog post about the Durham Heritage Coast HERE.

The winter sun warming through


There is a small car park at the entrance to the reserve. There aren’t a great deal of spaces here so getting here early is key! Parking is free, as is access to the reserve which is always a great bonus! There are also toilets and a café here however I’m not sure what the open times are for this as both were closed when we visited on New Years Day.

Postcode: Stanhope Chase, Peterlee SR8 1NJ


Within the reserve there is an incredible variety of wildlife living there. The 221 hectors of woodland make a perfect place to go searching for foxes, squirrels, roe deer and many others! We weren’t this lucky as to find any kind of wildlife. However, I would love to go back and try searching again!

In the car park there is this board with all the wildlife you can find in the reserve!

The Route

The path through the dene was really quite icy in some parts which just added to the adventure. If you are going to visit it’d highly recommend some good footwear like hiking boots as the edges of the dene can be quite steep and will make for a nasty fall should you slip.

There are a few routes you can do through the reserve. More information on these can be found on the ‘This is Durham’ website.

The route we took was a right turn along the path that runs parallel to the carpark. This takes you to the top of the dene and then you follow the path down the hill to the iconic Red Bridge.

The Red Bridge in the dene

When looking at photos of the reserve, this bridge is what came up most often. You can’t really tell from the photo above, but the drop down from this bridge is probably 30 meters! It was actually terrifying to be on it as the river which runs below is menacingly loud.

From here, you follow the path up the hill on the other side of the dene. There are a couple of great spots to see the density of the reserve from here.

Can you see the other side of the dene?

Finally you will arrive at the castle itself which was built in 1678. It is now a listed building which also has a golf club in with grounds. The actual castle area is all private land as I’d quite of liked to go snooping through it.

Castle Eden

We then carried on through the dene. The path takes you back down the hill to a bridge at the bottom. This was the iciest part of the entire reserve and crossing the bridge without slipping over was a tremendous achievement.

The river through the dene

We then walked back up the hill to the carpark. The whole route was less than a mile but with the gradient it felt like a lot more. There was also a longer route we could have taken which takes you through the 3 mile long dene to the sea. We might go back and do this longer route at some point, perhaps when there is less ice.

Overall thought it is a great place to go explore right now while we are under the tier 4 restrictions that prohibit us from going very far from home. You can also find some great places to go for daily walks in my blog post about my top 5 favourites; Top 5 places for Daily Walks in Sunderland.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and have found some inspiration from it!

Stay Safe and Happy Adventuring!


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