Castle Eden Dene starts just off the A19 at the A181, Castle Eden Dene, Blackhall turn off, but the best parking is at St James Church in Castle Eden, 2 minutes drive from the A19 turn off.
The Dene is in a limestone gorge, being so steep sided it is impossible to build or plant there so it has been left to grow wild. It is perfect for hot sunny days as you can get shade from the sun, on windy days it’s sheltered from the wind and in the rain you get some protection from the tree cover.
Once you get there my advice would be, just get out there, explore, get lost and have fun. The Dene is riddled with paths, so it’s possible to run for as short or as long as you like, but it’s never flat! I occasionally go there for hill reps, there are short and sharp hills, long steady hills and lactic inducing, lung burning hills that will have you begging for the summit
The path is wide enough to run two abreast at the start but soon becomes single tracked, it winds its way along the top of the gorge with some nice views over the tree tops towards the other side of the valley. There are quite a few bridges in the Dene, but the best and most impressive comes after about a mile of running. The bridge is narrow and arched with a head spinning drop and on wet days good views of the waterfall below, I stop and have a look every time I pass. Continue along the path that you were on, it now gets a little exposed with a drop on your right and a strong smell of wild garlic.
The path drops away quite steeply and even in the summer this section is muddy so be careful. At the bottom cross the small footbridge and take the path to the left, this now climbs diagonally up the side of a deeply wooded area, this is one of my favourite sections of the run. Once on the top of the climb the path now runs along the side of Castle Eden golf course
Once at the valley bottom, cross the small footbridge and follow the river. Make the most of the flat path and take the opportunity to run alongside your running partner as the path is nice and wide again. Cross another bridge and start climbing, this path leads back to the arched bridge. At this point you could cross the bridge and head back, however I would continue.
Very shortly you have a choice, stay on a good wide path or take a smaller single track path, this would be my choice. This path is really, really steep with an awkward fallen tree to duck under, at this point be thankful I didn’t take you up this hill. At the bottom of the valley,there is yet another bridge to cross. Stick to the lower path at the junction, this is a belter of a path, with more bridges, steps and even an overhanging rock face to run under. This rock face hangs over the footpath with foliage hanging from it like a waterfall. Shortly after this you’ll meet the main path again, if you’ve had enough turn right and climb back up to the car or if you’re enjoying yourself continue along the nice wide footpath along the valley bottom.
If you take the longer option this path eventually reaches a main road, cross this and pick up the path on the other side of the road, this is steep and tarmaced. At the bottom you pass under a very impressive red bricked viaduct, continue along the path and you will eventually reach the beach!!! Yes the beach! Where did that come from? One minute you’re running through deep woodland, next you’re on a beach. I must admit, it’s not the nicest sandy beach, more coal than sand in places, but scattered with very unusual red rocks.
Now there are lots more footpaths, other options, hills to climb, streams to splash in and trees to jump over, my advice is make sure you’ve got plenty of time and have an adventure, get lost and have fun.
Running isn’t all about sessions on the track and watching your Garmin every step of the way, find out what running is about, give Castle Eden Dene a visit.