A wild time in Durham

Durham is a sweep­ing emer­ald can­vas with breath­tak­ing dales, a dra­matic coast­line and a vi­brant city at its heart and there’s so much wild beauty to ex­plore in the great out­doors.

Countryfile Magazine - - Salmon - Ex­plore more of Durham at thi­sis­durham.com/out­doors

Durham by day

Be­gin your trip on Durham’s Her­itage Coast – recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally for its rare plants and wildlife. Fol­low the coastal path that leads you through a colour­ful mo­saic of grass­lands, wild­flow­ers, flora and fauna, and through ar­eas of nat­u­ral, his­tor­i­cal and ge­o­log­i­cal in­ter­est.

The lime­stone grass­lands of the clifftops are one of the UK’s most pro­tected habi­tats and home to unique and var­ied wildlife, in­clud­ing the pro­tected Ar­gus But­ter­fly. In­land, ex­plore hid­den denes con­tain­ing rem­nants of an­cient yew and ash wood­land. The largest is the pic­turesque Cas­tle Eden Dene, a Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve with 550 acres of nat­u­ral wood­land, 12 miles of foot­paths and 450 species of plants and wild­flow­ers.

Dis­cover the charm of Sea­ham, a lively har­bour town on Durham’s Her­itage Coast and home to St Mary the Vir­gin, one of the old­est churches in the coun­try. Re­lax and en­joy a spot of shore­side lux­ury with fine din­ing, a spa and stun­ning suites in the award-win­ning Sea­ham Hall Ho­tel & Spa, or for a rush of adren­a­line head to the ma­rina, where you can try your hand at pad­dle board­ing, surf­ing and ca­noe­ing. Sea­ham is a world­wide hotspot for col­lect­ing stun­ning sea glass peb­bles, so be sure to take a lit­tle piece of Sea­ham home with you! Af­ter build­ing up an ap­petite, sam­ple tra­di­tional sea­side favourites along the har­bour, with cafés, sweet shops and ice cream par­lours all boast­ing pic­ture-post­card sea views.

Head across the Durham Dales, part of the North Pen­nines Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty and a Euro­pean and UNESCO Global Geop­ark, where you’ll find some of the best hik­ing and bik­ing routes in the coun­try. Take in breath­tak­ing views from the dra­matic High & Low Force wa­ter­falls and ex­plore 2,000 hectares of wood­land in Ham­ster­ley For­est, or let the chain take the strain on an elec­tric bike.

Durham af­ter dark

In the Durham Dales and North Pen­nines Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty, your eyes can feast on up to 2,000 stars at any one time; the fur­thest ob­ject you can see with your naked eye is the An­dromeda Gal­axy – a vast is­land of stars very sim­i­lar to our own Milky Way. The North Pen­nines AONB has more na­tion­ally recog­nised Dark Sky Dis­cov­ery Sites than any other part of the UK.

Although 80% of us have never even seen the Milky Way, in the Durham Dales and North Pen­nines AONB, you can see it in all its glory. You can also cel­e­brate Durham’s magnificent dark skies at the North Pen­nines Stargaz­ing Fes­ti­val, with 30 events tak­ing place from 20 Oc­to­ber to 4 Novem­ber that will fas­ci­nate both sea­soned stargaz­ers and am­a­teur as­tronomers. High­lights in­clude an evening with Dr Mag­gie Aderin-Po­cock MBE, dis­cussing the won­ders of space and what it can teach us.

As night falls, the county truly comes to life. For a cosy night’s sleep, check into the Rose & Crown at Roma­ld­kirk, where you can while away the hours in front of a roar­ing log fire. Or, take the fam­ily to an open air the­atre per­for­mance, or learn the art of bush craft­ing within the mag­i­cal set­ting of Ham­ster­ley For­est. Pre­fer a slower pace? En­joy a de­li­cious din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at one of many Taste Durham-accredited cosy inns, restau­rants and cafés serv­ing fresh lo­cal pro­duce, many of which of­fer live en­ter­tain­ment.

In the Durham Dales, pitch up on the county’s scenic camp­ing sites, make your­self at home in cosy self-cater­ing cot­tages, or take your pick from a stun­ning se­lec­tion of ho­tels and B&Bs, where you can re­lax in style and ap­pre­ci­ate the majesty of the dark skies.

Boast­ing a UNESCO World Her­itage Site made up of the im­pos­ing Durham Cathe­dral and Cas­tle, in ad­di­tion wealth of awein­spir­ing at­trac­tions in Durham City, Durham is the per­fect des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies and cou­ples alike to get out­doors and ex­pe­ri­ence some of the UK’s finest wild beauty.

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