Northern Kites

Red Kite Trail

Walkers enjoying the Red Kite TRailThe lower Derwent Valley has a beautiful mixture of mature woodlands, wetlands and open countryside through which the Red Kite Trail meanders. The Trail, at just over 18 km (11 miles), can be walked over two days and guides visitors through this ideal kite country. It provides many opportunities to see red kites and a variety of other wildlife, as well as passing areas of important historical and heritage interest.

Red Kites

Red kites are magnificent birds of prey. They are easy to spot with their wingspan of just under two metres, colourful plumage and distinctive forked tails. Kites mainly feed on carrion but will also take some live prey, such as worms and beetles. Their incredible agility in flight makes them a pleasure to watch.

Kites Return to the Region

A red kiteDuring the 1800’s and 1900’s red kites disappeared from much of the UK due to human persecution. In 2004 the Northern Kites Project began to return the kites to North East England, after an absence of over 170 years. This partnership project released 94 kites in Gateshead’s lower Derwent Valley between 2004 and 2006. It was in the last year of releases that kites began to breed once again in the region.

The Red Kite Trail - a basic guide

The Red Kite Trail is a circular route starting and finishing at Derwenthaugh Park car park at Winlaton Mill on the A694 (OS grid ref: NZ186609). It is identified by Red Kite Trail waymarkers (in both directions) and can be walked either in two stages over two days or as a longer walk in one day.

Stage One - Winlaton Mill to Lintzford, via Rowlands Gill

For the first 7.5 km (4 miles), the Trail follows the River Derwent upstream through Derwenthaugh Park and the Derwent Walk Country Park. The majority of this stage follows multiuser routes on well-surfaced paths, accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. Here the Trail passes the 2006 nesting site of the first pair of kites to breed in North East England after their return to the region.

Red Kites flying above the viaductThe Trail continues through Rowlands Gill village where there is the option to access the National Trust’s Gibside Estate. Here you can catch the Red Kite bus to return to the start of the walk, particularly for wheelchair and pushchair users who would not be able to access the bus stops at Lintzford due to Trail access on steep slopes. From Rowlands Gill the Red Kite Trail then joins the Derwent Walk Railway Path before connecting to a footpath to Lintzford. Here walkers can catch the red kite bus to return to Winlaton Mill

Stage Two - Lintzford to Winlaton Mill, via Barlow

The second stage of the Trail, a 10.5 km (7 mile) stretch, continues on a network of rights of way where rougher surfaces, stiles and steep slopes are common. The Trail heads from Lintzford through Chopwell Woodland Park and on to Spen Banks Wood, which is often used as a winter roost by the kites. The Trail then loops north to Barlow village, one of the best places to see kites.

From Barlow the Trail continues on public footpaths back to the A694 where it crosses into woodland. It passes the Thornley Woodlands Centre before rejoining Derwenthaugh Park where way-markers guide walkers back to the start of the Trail at the car park.

A detailed Trail guide is available to download as a PDF

Local Wildlife

Red kites can be seen throughout the lower Derwent Valley along with many other beautiful and sometimes rare wildlife. Walking by the River Derwent provides opportunities to see kingfisher, heron, dipper and sometimes the elusive otter. The Trail passes through several woodlands that are full of spring flowers such as bluebells and wood anemone, and numerous fungi in the autumn. Bird life is also abundant with regular sightings of great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch. Many butterflies can also be seen in the summer, such as common blue, large skipper and meadow brown.

Local History and Heritage

A red kiteMuch of the lower Derwent Valley has historically been dominated by the mining industry, which was supported by the construction of the Derwent Valley Railway (1867 to 1962). The railway crossed the River Derwent on the magnificent Nine Arches Viaduct, which is now a central feature of the Derwent Walk Country Park.

One of the valley’s other defining features is the 40 metre tall Column of Liberty in the Gibside Estate. This was the ancestral home of the Bowes Lyons family built by George Bowes in 1750. The National Trust now manages the Estate.

Visitor Information

The Red Kite Trail travels along many rights of way that allow access to different users.

These include:

  • Footpath - Pedestrians only. Cycles and horse riders are not allowed. No motor vehicles.
  • Bridleway - Pedestrians, horses and cycles only. No motor vehicles.
  • Permissive - Access is granted and specified by the landowner. No motor vehicles.

While following the Trail please obey the Countryside Code:

  • Show consideration and respect for other users of the countryside
  • Keep dogs under close control at all times and take particular care near livestock
  • Leave gates and property as you find them or follow instructions on the sign
  • Follow paths and use gates, stiles or gaps in field boundaries when provided
  • Cyclists slow down and give way to walkers and horse riders
  • Horse riders give way to walkers
  • Protect plants and animals and take your litter home.

A range of visitor facilities such as toilets, pubs and information centres are located along the Red Kite Trail. These are highlighted on the Trail Map. For local accommodation please contact Gateshead Tourist Information on (0191) 478 4222.

Directions to the Red Kite Trail

The Red Kite Trail starts at Derwenthaugh Park car park at Winlaton Mill

By road… Take the A694 from the A1 just west of MetroCentre on the outskirts of Gateshead.

By public transport… Catch Go North East’s ‘Red Kite’ bus (services 45, 46, 46a) from Newcastle’s Eldon Square Interchange, Central Station (for mainline rail connections) or from the MetroCentre Interchange (nearest local train station). For bus information visit or telephone Traveline 0870 6082608. For train information visit or telephone 08457 484950.

By bike… The Red Kite Trail through the Derwent Walk Country Park is part of Sustrans’ C2C long distance cycle route. This connects with Keelman’s Way, Consett and Sunderland Railway Path, Derwent Walk Railway Path, Waskerley Way Railway Path and Lanchester Valley Railway Path.

Image showing location of red kite trail

Red Kite Trail Contacts

Red Kite Trail and Kite Information:

  • Northern Kites Project (0191) 496 1555

Rights of Way Issues:

  • Gateshead Council Rights of Way Officer (0191) 433 3141,
  • Gateshead Countryside Team (01207) 545 212 (for Derwenthaugh Park and Derwent Walk Country Park)
  • Durham Co Council Rights of Way (0191) 383 3239
  • Durham Co Council Countryside Rangers (0191) 383 3594 (for Derwent Walk Railway Path)

Local Tourist Information:

  • Gateshead Tourist Information (0191) 478 4222

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