If you’re new to the area of Durham or if you are a local who hasn’t explored their beautiful surroundings, here are some of my favourite places in Durham to visit with the family.
Visit the Cathedral and Castle
Durham Castle and Cathedral were awarded the status of a World Heritage Site in 1986 and are definitely one of the counties must-see attractions.
Durham Cathedral is a stunning building which was built to house the bodies of St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede and it’s the biggest and best example of Norman architecture in England.
If you don’t mind heights, you can climb the tower for amazing views of the City. Harry Potter fans may recognise the cloisters that were used in some of the films and around Christmas they hold some great local stalls during the Christmas Market.
Durham Castle is home to Durham University students during term time however, you can book guided tours if you plan well in advance. You can even book a family fun tour which is more focused on children and has activities aimed just for them.
Beamish Museum is one of my favourite East attractions and it’s a wonderful place to visit throughout the year. It’s a world-famous open-air museum that transports you back in time. It has so many different areas, including a 1940’s farm, a 1900’s town and they’re currently expanding to include a 1950’s town and a Georgian coaching inn. I love how you get a true museum experience without being stuck in a boring building. Beamish is also perfect for picnics and walks in the Sunshine, tram rides and you can even take the dog!
It’s a complete bargain too, once you’ve paid your initial entry fee, your ticket becomes an annual pass which allows you re-entry as many times as you like for a full year.
Take a walk in the Durham Dales
Durham is home to miles and miles of beautiful countryside. The Durham Dales Centre in Stanhope is a great place to get inspiration on which walking route to take, learn about local history or even enjoy a slab of cake in the café.
High Force is one of the most impressive waterfalls in England. Located in Forest in Teesdale, it’s right in the middle of the Durham Dales. The walk down to the falls is a pleasant one and short enough to little legs, and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a row deer. It’s suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, however, access to the falls viewing area is by steps. High Force has a 21-metre drop and when the river is full, looks spectacular. It’s definitely one for an Instagram shot.
You do have to pay for car parking and admission to the falls themselves, but once you’ve paid you can stay as long as you like. There are toilets and changing facilities in the car park and the High Force hotel offers reasonably priced food and a decent kids menu.
Shildon Railway Museum
Little sister to the National Railway Museum in York, the Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon is small but perfectly formed. The main collection building contains numerous locomotives such as Sans Pareil and Apt-E Advance Passenger Train all of which visitors can get up close too. There’s also a café serving simple food and drinks, a pleasant outdoor play area and at certain times of the year, you can take a short train journey along to the next station on the passenger steam train.
Visit the Coast
If you prefer a sea breeze, why not take a visit to the coast. Durham has 11 miles of coastal footpaths from Seaham to Crimdon. You’ll probably want to take a picture next to Ray Lonsdales, iconic Tommy statue which is at Seaham, grab an Ice Cream at Lickety Splitor just take a bucket and spade and spend the afternoon on one of the beautiful beaches.
Perhaps one for the digger enthusiasts, Digger Land is just over 5 miles from Durham City centre and is great for any machinery fans. You can take a ride on a dumper truck, play skittles with an excavator or have a go on the SUV safari. It’s definitely one for the warmer weather but worth a visit if you have children obsessed with vehicles like me.
Killhope Lead Mining Museum
Set in The North Pennines, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Killhope Lead Mining Museum is famous for its working water wheel and is the most complete lead mining site in Britain.
Visitors can take an underground tour of the mine, try on Victorian clothing or get an insight into the lives of miners.
You might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a red squirrel if you take a walk in the beautiful countryside around the museum.
Cricket at the Riverside
Just 7 miles out of the city centre, the Emirates Riverside is the home ground of Durham County Cricket Club. Throughout the year it’s host to County Cricket, T20 and International Cricket matches, there’s also yearly family day too which offers face painting and children’s activities. If cricket is your sport then a visit to the Emirates Riverside is a must when you’re visiting the Durham area. It’s literally a few hundred yards from Chester Le Street Riverside Park which has a splash park, a large children’s play area, beautiful gardens and riverside walk ( don’t forget to feed the Swans!).
Look after by the Forestry Commission, Hamsterley Forest is a great place to visit for any outdoor lovers.
It’s great for wildlife watching, dark sky gazing and has plenty to keep the kids entertained. With the Viking wild play centre, The Highway Rat trail and plenty cycle routes throughout the forest, children can have hours of fun without spending a fortune. There is a charge of £6 for each car but this does increase to £10 on bank holidays. However, take a picnic, a fishing net and some wellies and that can be the grand total spend for a fun day outdoors.