Discover Durham

Discover Durham

Discover the history and heritage of Durham County, with its UNESCO world Heritage site and unique attractions. Explore the beautiful landscapes of the Durham Dales; experience the vibrant culture of Durham City and the unspoilt views of Durham's Heritage Coast

To help plan your visit we have suggested 7 themed itineraries. Whether you are interested in history and heritage, arts and culture or simply want to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the beautiful countryside, we have created a few ideas to whet the appetite!

As well as a choice of routes you will find we have planned it down to the last detail and have included timings between locations and suggested times for the length of visit at each stop.

Christian Heritage

Durham has so much to see across the county, from a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Durham City, to a peaceful Roman Catholic Seminary with hidden treasures waiting to be discovered and from picturesque village churches to the 7th Century Escomb Church, one of the oldest churches still in regular use to Newbiggin and High House Chapel, two of the earliest Methodist Chapels in John Wesley’s great evangelical revival. 

To experience the wealth of Christian Heritage Durham holds you simply have to schedule two full days you won't be disappointed!

Route - Day One
Durham City

Coach Timings - Day One 

  • Durham City

Route - Day Two
Durham City - Bishop Auckland - Escomb - Witton le Wear - Wolsingham - Frosterley - Stanhope - Eastgate - Westgate - Daddry Shield - Ireshopeburn - Stanhope - Eggleston - Barnard Castle - Staindrop - Durham City

Coach Timings - Day Two 

  • Durham City - Bishop Auckland (Auckland Castle): 30 mins 
  • Bishop Auckland - Escomb Church: 15 mins 
  • Escomb - Stanhope (Durham Dales Centre): 45 mins 
  • Stanhope - Ireshopeburn (High House Chapel): 20 mins 
  • Ireshopeburn - Barnard Castle: 50 mins 
  • Barnard Castle - Durham City: 1 hour

Attractions - Suggested Length of Visit

  • Durham Cathedral: 1 - 2 hours 
  • Durham Castle: 1 hour 
  • Auckland Castle: 1 - 1.5 hours 
  • Escomb Church: 30 mins 
  • Durham Dales Centre: 45 mins - 1 hour 
  • High House Chapel: 45 mins - 1 hour 

Did You Know...

  • Durham Castle is a fantastic piece of Durham's history and now home to a modern day student residence.
  • Friendly tour guides are available at Durham Cathedral, helping groups explore the importance of the Cathedral through the ages.
  • Which church allows you to collect the key from a nearby house and then step inside 1300 years of history? Escomb - a 7th Century Saxon gem.

Castles, Historic Houses, Parks and Gardens

Durham is steeped in history and what better way to experience the rich heritage than a visit to one of the castles or historic houses, spread across the county each with their own story to tell!

Be dazzled by the beautiful art and furniture collections housed behind the striking facade of The Bowes Museum, explore the Medieval kitchen at Raby Castle or escape to the peace and tranquillity of Crook Hall and Gardens

Wherever you choose to explore you will be met with beautiful surroundings, momentous legends and even the odd ghost or two!

3 days to Discover Castles, Historic Houses, Parks and Gardens in Durham

Route - Day One
Durham City  - Staindrop - Barnard Castle - Middleton in Teesdale - Eggleston - Staindrop - Durham City

Route - Day Two
Durham City - West Auckland - Piecrcebridge - Scotch Corner - Greta Bridge - Barnard Castle - Staindrop - West Auckland - Durham City

Route - Day Three
Durham City - Crook - Wolsingham - Frosterley - Stanhope - Eggleston - Middleton in Teesdale - Romaldkirk - Barnard Castle - Durham City

Why not add another day to your trip and visit Beamish Museum and see the rich history and heritage of the people of North East England brought to life.

Attractions - Suggested Length of Visit

  • Barnard Castle (town): 1.5 - 5 hours
  • Raby Castle: 2 - 3 hours
  • Durham Castle: 1 hour 
  • Egglestone Abbey - view from road for photo opportunity 
  • Rokeby Hall: 1.5 hours 
  • The Bowes Museum: 2 - 3 hours 
  • Durham Prince Bishop River Cruiser: 1 hour
  • Crook Hall & Gardens: 45 mins - 1 hour 
  • Durham University Botanic Garden: 1 hour
  • Egglestone Hall Gardens: 45 mins - 1 hour
  • Ushaw College: 1.5 - 2 hours 

Coach Timings - 

  • Durham City - Barnard Castle: 50 mins 
  • Barnard Castle - Raby Castle: 50 mins (via scenic route)
  • Barnard Castle - Raby Castle: 15 mins (direct route) 
  • Durham City - Rokeby Hall: 70 mins (via scenic route and Piercebridge) 
  • Rokeby Hall - The Bowes Museum: 10 mins 
  • Durham City - Stanhope: 55 mins 
  • Stanhope - Eggleston: 20 mins 
  • Eggleston - Barnard Castle: 35 mins 
  • Eggleston - Barnard Castle: 35 mins (via Middleton in Teesdale) 
  • Durham City - Ushaw College: 15 mins 

Did You Know...

  • University College or Durham Castle as it is affectionately known is the oldest college of Durham University founded in 1832 and located in a Norman fortress.
  • You find an outstanding collection of 17th Century Francisco de Zurbaran paintings at Auckland Castle which houses thirteen 8 feet tall paintings in its Long Dining Room.
  • Groups can take the Prince Bishop River Cruiser Boat through Durham City. Enjoy awesome views of the Cathedral and Castle from the beautiful riverbanks.
  • The impressive ruins of Egglestone Abbey in Teesdale provided inspiration for the artist J.M.W. Turner. 
  • Barnard Castle town took its name from the imposing 12th Century Castle. Explore its extensive ruins.
  • What is played in a 'Cat Ring'? Pay a visit to Ushaw College to find out where students would play a unique game akin to rounders.
  • Raby Castle's Baron's Hall was the site of royal intrigue where hundreds of northern knights plotted the 'Rising of the North' in 1569 - a rebellion to dethrone Queen Elizabeth 1.
  • You can enjoy 18 acres of garden set in mature woodland at Durham University's Botanic Garden, with sculptures, glasshouses and woodland walkways - a real hidden gem!
  • A visit to Crook Hall & Gardens in the heart of the city will delight groups. Explore the Shakespeare Garden and discover the Secret Garden and Maze.
  • A visit to Eggleston Hall Gardens provides a great refreshment stop for groups with the Coach House Bistro's homemade scones and cakes well worth a taste.

Railways and Industrial Heritage

Durham and the North East are synonymous with the heritage of the railways and the county's rich industrial past. Famous northerners such as George Stephenson are not the only heroes of the railways you'll find in Durham... groups can learn more about the engineer Timothy Hackworth and his role in bringing the railway to the world at the Locomotion: National Railway Museum

While the lives and working conditions of lead and coal miners can be explored in our world famous museums Beamish Museum and Killhope - The North of England Lead Mining Museum. 

Suggested Heritage Day

Bishop Auckland - Shildon - Crook - Wolsingham* - Stanhope - Killhope OR: Beamish
(This itinerary combines railway heritage with an opportunity to ride a train through the lovely Weardale countryside)
(* Board here for the Weardale Railway to Stanhope)

Coach Timings

  • Locomotion NRM, Shildon - Wolsingham: 40 mins 
  • Stanhope - Killhope Lead Mining Museum: 35 mins 
  • OR: Stanhope - Beamish: 35 mins

Attractions - Suggested Length of Visit

  • Locomotion NRM: min 2 hours  
  • Weardale Railway trip: 35 mins 
  • Durham Dales Centre, Stanhope: 45 mins - 1 hour 
  • Killhope Lead Mining Museum: 2 hours 
  • OR: *Beamish: min 4 hours in summer & min 2 hours in winter

Did You Know...

  • To explore the history of innovative steam engineering and the story of Timothy Hackworth  visit Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon and enjoy over 70 engines and railway vehicles held in the new collections building. 
  • You can take a journey through the Durham Dales by rail - Weardale Railway operates between Wolsingham and Stanhope. The Durham Dales Centre with arts, crafts and a cafe makes a perfect stop after the ride.  
  • It's possible to relive a day in the life of lead miners at Killhope Lead Mining Museum. From the moment you 'kit up' with hard hat, cap, lamp and wellingtons your visit becomes an unforgettable adventure.
  • At Beamish Museum you can be transported into days gone by with a recreation of a pit village - including cottages, a school and a chapel. Working trams and costumed tour guides bring the past to life. New for 2010 the museum is exhibiting its collection of safety lamps in the Colliery Lamp Cabin. 
  • Near Beamish Museum is Causey Arch, the oldest existing railway bridge in the world. A real hidden gem of historic industrial architecture.

Arts and Culture

With such rich association with international culture and the arts - both past and present, groups can explore Durham's distinct culture through museums, theatres and an innovative events and festivals programme. Durham is also home to great sporting attractions with Durham Regatta, Durham County Cricket Club and Sedgefield Racecourse all within easy reach and providing great days out. So don't forget to check our events listing to find out what's on!

Suggestions for 2 days in Durham On the Cultural Trail

Route - Day One
Durham City - Ushaw College - Barnard Castle
(Either The Bowes Museum or Rokeby Hall)
- Durham City

Route - Day Two
A full day in Durham City, free coach parking and most attractions are within walking distance.

Coach Timings

  • Barnard Castle to Raby Castle: 20 mins
  • Barnard Castle to Rokeby Hall: 10 mins
  • Raby Castle to Durham City: 45 mins
  • Rokeby Hall to Durham City: 55 mins

Attractions - Suggested Length of Visit

  • The Bowes Museum and Barnard Castle: allow 4 hours
  • Raby Castle: allow 2 hours
  • Durham City: min. half day - extend to full day to include City museums
  • Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum: allow 2 hours
  • Durham Heritage Centre & Museum: 30 minutes
  • Gala Theatre, Durham City: allow performance time
  • Durham Town Hall: allow 1 hour
  • Ushaw College: 1 - 2 hours 

Durham University Attractions - 

  • Durham Castle: 1 hour
  • Oriental Museum: allow 1 - 2 hours
  • Botanic Garden:  2 hours
  • Old Fulling Mill/Museum of Archaeology: 1 hour 

Did You Know...

  • The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle welcomes all groups, especially those interested in decorative and fine arts. Contact the Museum for bespoke tours or specialist talks.
  • You can visit Durham attractions that have inspired writers through the generations. Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens stayed at Rokeby Hall in the 19th Century - inspiring Scott's poem 'Rokeby' and Bowes village school became the inspiration for Dotheboys Hall in 'Nicholas Nickleby'.
  • Artist John Sell Cotman immortalised Durham landmarks in his work - Cotman's painting 'Greta Bridge' now hangs in the British Museum in London. 

  • Fowlers Yard in Durham City provides open workspaces for artisans - watch them at work and be inspired by their creativity.

  • Bill Bryson, famous American travel writer, is champion of Durham's attractions and is currently Chancellor of Durham University.
  • A double attraction in one - visit the Durham Light Infantry Museum and Durham Art Gallery, both  housed under the same roof.
  • Brass: Durham International Festival brings music to Durham during July, and in December the Durham Christmas Festival is also a very popular event for groups. 
  • Durham's events and entertainment programme is second to none. Gala Theatre, Durham University Student Theatre and a whole host of innovative events put Durham on the map year round. Click here for a full events calendar.

Durham Dales Natural Beauty

Durham's back garden takes in the beautiful and tranquil landscape of the Durham Dales and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty spreading across to the dramatic coastline of the Durham Heritage Coast.

Forget mobile telephones, car horns and urban noise, listen instead to the sound of rushing water and bird calls and be inspired by the wide open spaces of the Durham countryside.

For groups wishing to discover Durham's peace and tranquillity follow this trip into the Durham Dales and enjoy English landscape at its best.

Route - Day One
Bishop Auckland - Barnard Castle - Middleton in Teesdale - Stanhope - Frosterley - Wolsingham - West Auckland - Bishop Auckland.

Coach Timings

  • Bishop Auckland - The Bowes Museum: 25 mins
  • The Bowes Museum - High Force Waterfall: 45 mins
  • High Force Waterfall - Eggleston Hall Gardens: 15 mins 
  • High Force Waterfall - Stanhope/Durham Dales Centre (via Eggleston village): 40 mins 

Attractions - Suggested Length of Visit

  • The Bowes Museum: 2 - 3 hours (inc. refreshments)
  • High Force waterfall: allow 45 mins inc. walk to falls 
  • Eggleston Hall Gardens: 1 hour
    NB: Groups must pre - book. Narrow gateway accessible by mini - coaches. Large coaches can use lay - by outside main gateway - group members need to cross road to access short, level walk to garden/cafe. 
  • Durham Dales Centre: 45 mins - 1 hour

Did You Know...

  • The Durham Dales and North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, provide a habitat for many rare species of plants and wildlife.
  • You can find an arts and ceramic collection housed in a French chateau. The celebrated French architecture of The Bowes Museum houses fine and decorative art collections.
  • You can view one of the most impressive waterfalls in England at High Force on the River Tees with a drop of over 20 meters. A pretty woodland walk leads to a viewing platform.
  • You can discover Durham's own homage to the Angel of the North with a scale version at Eggleston Hall Gardens
  • When touring the beautiful Dales landscape, visit the Durham Dales Centre at Stanhope, a welcoming refreshment stop ideal for groups.

Retail and Relaxation

Why not combine one of the busy itineraries with a more relaxing day out?

The vibrant Durham City has plenty of retail therapy on offer, while Dalton Park provides an excellent outlet shopping centre. If the more specialist shopping and seasonal farmers markets are your taste take time to visit Durham's market towns Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Seaham and Stanhope. Barnard Castle has a specialist antique quarter as well as a traditional town centre to explore.

To experience something authentically Durham in taste, try one of the many farm shops selling local foods and produce or  sample some local dishes in Durham's award winning cafes and restaurants. Whatever type of cuisine your group enjoys you will be spoilt for choice!

For the ultimate relaxing visit, why not try a hotel with spa and leisure facilities, there's quite a few to choose from in Durham.

Retail Therapy route

Route One
Durham City - Bishop Auckland - Barnard Castle - Cotherstone - Eggleston - Middleton in Teesdale - Stanhope - Crook - Durham City.
OR: From Stanhope - Seaham - Durham City

Coach Timings

  • Durham City - Barnard Castle: 50 mins 
  • Middleton in Teesdale - Stanhope: 45 mins 
  • Stanhope - Durham City: 45 mins 
  • Stanhope - Dalton Park : 70 mins 

Attractions - Suggested Length of Visit

  • Barnard Castle Tourist Information Centre & High Street: min. 2 hours 
  • Middleton in Teesdale: allow 45 mins 
  • Stanhope Durham Dales Centre: allow 1 hour including refreshment stop 
  • Durham City: min. half a day - extend to 1 full day to cover all museums 
  • Dalton Park Shopping Centre: 2 hours

Did You Know...

  • The ultimate relaxing visit to Durham includes a hotel with spa and leisure facilities. Visit to find something to whet your appetite!
  • Durham Cathedral has a book shop with a difference, housed in the Medieval Great Kitchen. You can find souvenirs, gifts and specialist guide books. 
  • There are gift shops galore at Durham University's attractions. Find plants, toys, books, souvenirs and prints at the Botanic Garden and Oriental Museum gift shops. 
  • FREE coach parking in Durham is another great reason for groups to shop in the City! The Prince Bishop Shopping Centre and Victorian Indoor Market are well worth a visit!
  • Specialist antique shops on The Bank in Barnard Castle make a visit to the town a real treat for collectors. 
  • You can find added value for groups with 60 stores and food outlets to explore and up to 50% off designer labels at Dalton Park Shopping Centre.  
  • Tantalising local produce and creative menus are on offer to groups at cafes and restaurants that have the Taste Durham seal of approval.
  • You can discover hidden gems around Durham with a Blue Badge Guide accompanying your group. It is a great way to tailor a commentary to your group's interest.

Outdoor and Active

Durham has much to offer groups who enjoy exploring the great outdoors whether by foot, cycle or horseback. From sightseeing short walks to more adventurous rambles over Dale and Vale, Durham has many walking and cycling routes you can enjoy.

Designated walking routes across the county offer a great way to see the countryside up close and appreciate the local flora and fauna of the Durham landscape. For groups of experienced explorers seeking adventurous activities there is mountain biking, off-roading, sailing and wind surfing  - all can be experienced in the Durham Dales.

Follow the route below to experience some of these outdoor activities.

Barnard Castle - High Force waterfall - Bowlees Visitor Centre - Middleton in Teesdale - Grassholme Reservoir OR Hamsterley Forest

Coach Timings

  • Barnard Castle - High Force waterfall: 35 mins 
  • High Force - Bowlees Visitor Centre: 15 mins 
  • Bowlees - Hamsterley Forest: 35 mins 
  • OR: Bowlees - Grassholme Reservoir: 20 mins 
  • OR: Bowlees - Deepdale Off - Roading: 30 mins 
  • Bowlees - Blackton Grange: 35 mins

Attractions - Suggested Length of Visit (pre - book tours prior to visit)

  • Barnard Castle & Town: min 2 hours for Castle/town 
  • High Force waterfall: allow 45 mins inc. walk to falls 
  • Bowlees Visitor Centre: allow 1.5 hours inc. walk Low Force waterfall and back 
  • All other activities: allow 2 - 3 hours for specialist activity 

Did You Know...

  • Our award winning Tourist Information Centres across Durham supply specialist publications with invaluable information for those interested in self - guided walks. 
  • For off - road cycling thrills, Hamsterley Forest has some of the best cycle routes for beginners to the most experienced cyclists, you can even hire a bike there!
  • Where can you sail and wind surf in Durham? Grassholme Reservoir has excellent facilities for those groups taking part in 'on the water' activities. 
  • Bowlees Visitor Centre makes an excellent starting point for keen walkers, with routes that take in sights such as Low Force and the historic Wynch Bridge.
  • For a rural retreat, Blackton Grange, a converted farmhouse nestled in Baldersdale Valley, is a perfect venue. Abseiling, orienteering and other outdoor activities can be arranged to suit you group.