Map: OS Explorer map 316 & 307; start: Thornley Wood car park, Thornley Lane, Rowlands Gill NE39 1AU, grid reference: NZ179603; 2 miles; difficulty: easy walk mostly on a disused railway line; refreshments at Gibside.
A recommended family-friendly walk or cycle ride to Gibside from Tyneside is through the Derwent Walk Country Park and along the Derwent Walk railway path (a wide, 11 mile track between Swalwell and Consett). I usually walk from Winlaton Mill or Thornley Wood where there are car parks. It’s flat, wide and offers glimpses of Gibside’s orangery, house, the column and the river twinkling through the leaves of birch and oak trees in the vale below. The view from the 500 foot Nine Arches Viaduct is expansive and you’d be very unlucky not to see a red kite (with prominent forked tail). These semi-urban birds of prey were reintroduced to the Derwent Valley in 2004 and are now a frequent sight above Gateshead.
From Thornley Wood car park, follow the yellow route markers which lead you onto the old railway trackbed. Once on the railway line, head in a westerly direction for just over a mile until you meet the busy A694 which you cross, picking up a grassy footpath through the houses. It gets a bit fiddly now so unfold OS Explorer map 307. When you meet the A694 again, cross the road and drop down along the side of the old Station House (a Victorian house with prominent chimneys). Cross the road bridge and another road, and then take the left turning into Gibside (signposted).