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.
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.