North East: Our Favourite Places to Visit in Durham

Tuesday 23rd November, 2021 by hs-admin

Steeped in history and culture, with stunning countryside scenery and activities around every corner, it’s no surprise that Durham is a hot choice with staycationers from across the UK. If you’re thinking of heading to a holiday cottage in the North East for your next trip, the city is a great place to start – here’s just a taste of what’s on offer when you get there.

Explore Durham Cathedral and Castle 

With its high beams and stunning stained-glass windows, Durham Cathedral is one of the city’s most iconic sights and has been in continuous use since its original construction over 900 years ago. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, a visit to the Cathedral is as it was used as the backdrop for many parts of Hogwarts in the Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets films.

Visitors can enjoy guided tours, climb up the tower to take in the magnificent views of the city or view the various exhibitions on offer throughout the year. There’s even a gift shop and café – and trust us, you’ll deserve a cuppa if you’re taking on the steps of the tower! 

And sitting just down the road from the Cathedral, at the heart of Durham’s world heritage site, is Durham Castle. Now home to university students, the Norman Castle hosts guided tours for visitors to marvel at the exhibitions and relics held there. From fine art to arms and armour, there’s tons of history to be soaked up from both inside the Castle and across its grounds. 

Discover Beamish Open-Air Museum

Fancy stepping back in time during your visit to Durham?

Located just outside of Durham city centre, Beamish open-air museum tells the story of life in the North East during the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and 1950s.  Ride the tram through the 1900s town, stopping off for traditional cinder toffee and a trip to the bank; step into the miners’ cottages and learn a lesson or two at school in the 1900s mining village; and get a feel of life working and living on the land at the 1940s farm. 

There’s something for all members of the family to enjoy at Beamish, and it’s easy to while away a day wandering around its vast site and enjoying the sights and activities on offer.

Visit Durham University Botanic Garden

There’s nothing like exploring the great outdoors and breathing in some good old Northern air – and the Durham University Botanic Garden is one of the most beautiful places to do so. Set across 10 hectares of mature woodlands on the outskirts of Durham City, the Garden is blooming with plant collections from around the world, as well as a woodland garden, alpine garden and bamboo grove.

Wander through the unique garden at your own pace and enjoy family-friendly activities including crafts and storytelling in the greenhouse. Or, if you fancy a bit more direction, you can take part in a tour, talk or trail with one of the gardeners. Events are also held throughout the year, including a festive Winter Wonderland.

Discover the Magic of Lumiere

As the UK’s largest festival of its kind, Lumiere sets the city of Durham alight when it takes place every other November. The festival invites local and international artists to share works that reimagine some of the city’s most recognisable buildings and public spaces. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel from across the country to take in the sights, take part in the interactive activities on offer, and enjoy the various shows, such as flashmobs and musical entertainment.

Enjoy Kynren and the 11Arches Park 

If you fancy venturing out of Durham centre while on your break, take the short drive to Bishop Auckland for Kynren, the blockbuster tale of England, set in an outdoor theatre with views of the town’s Castle. The show, which runs weekly throughout August and September, tells 2,000 years’ worth of history, rebellions, wars, magic and celebration in just 90 minutes of breath-taking action. 

To truly make a day of it, check out the 11Arches Park, located on the same site as Kynren. The park offers a variety of pre-show attractions and entertainment; wander through the Viking Village, get lost in the Maze of Fame, and enjoy tasty pre-show street food all in one place. 

And while you’re in the area, visit the newly opened Spanish Gallery in the town’s marketplace, designed to take you on a tour through the history of Spanish art, and its impact on modern culture.

 Wander Around Ushaw House and Chapel

Just a short 10-minute drive outside of Durham centre, you’ll find the magnificent Ushaw House and Chapel, a collection of stunning historic buildings and woodland trails set within acres of countryside. 

The house, chapel and gardens were originally built back in 1808 as a Catholic seminary (a school for priests). Today, it welcomes visitors of all ages to enjoy its art collections and exhibits and explore its vast grounds. Guided tours are also available, for those who want to learn a little more about its history and culture from guides. 

Ushaw also hosts family events, theatre performances, live music and festive activities such as wreath making – you’ll certainly find plenty to do!

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Wharton Park 

For those who like to use their staycations to spend time in the great outdoors, Wharton Park is a great place to start. Overlooking the city, visitors can take in spectacular 360 views of Durham (penny for whoever spots the Cathedral first!), while roaming around the vast park grounds. There’s a heritage centre, café, family play area, games area and amphitheatre to explore, as well as a putting green and outdoor gym – so make sure you bring your trainers!

Ready to explore Durham? View our range of properties to start planning your perfect staycation.

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