Sitting to the north of Teesdale, the valley of WEARDALE was once hunting ground reserved for the Prince Bishops, but was later transformed into a major centre for lead-mining and limestone quarrying; this industrial heritage is celebrated at the excellent Killhope Iron Mining museum and the Weardale Museum in Irehopesburn. The main settlement is Stanhope, a small market town with a pleasant open-air heated swimming pool, perfect for cooling off after a long walk in the hills.
Killhope Lead Mining Museum
If you’re keen to learn about Weardale’s mining past, a visit to Killhope Lead Mining Museum, five miles west of Ireshopeburn, is an absolute must. After many successful years as one of the richest mines in Britain, Killhope shut for good in 1910, and now houses a terrific, child-friendly museum that brings to life the difficulties and dangers of a mining life. The site is littered with preserved machinery and nineteenth-century buildings, including the Mine Shop where workers would spend the night after finishing a late shift. The highlight of the visit comes when you descend Park Level Mine – you’ll be given wellies, a hard hat and a torch – in the company of a guide who expounds entertainingly about the realities of life underground, notably the perils of the “Black Spit”, a lung disease which killed many men by their mid-forties.