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Things to do in County Durham

County Durham in the north east of England contains archaeological evidence dating to Roman times.

The County is still known as the 'Land of the Prince Bishops' referring to the period in history when the Bishops of Durham were granted the right to rule this part of northern England, creating their own armies, holding their own courts, minting their own money and imposing their own taxes.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle


You can find County Durham Tourist Information in the Historic County Town, Durham.

Situated above the River Wear, the town is dominated by its magnificent Cathedral and Castle, and is now a World Heritage Site.

To the south is the attractive market town of Bishop Auckland, the country seat of the Bishops of Durham since the 12th century.

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral

Durham Dales

Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle
Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

Tourism in County Durham often begins in the Durham Dales in the west of the County, one of Britain's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Don't miss in Barnard Castle, a market town which is a well situated base for exploring the upper dales.

Visit the Bowes Museum, an impressive mansion in the style of a French chateau, which houses one of the finest collections of European art, ceramics and furniture. A few miles to the north is Raby Castle, whose history dates back nearly 1000 years.


Teesdale is situated on the east side of the Pennine Hills and is home to England's biggest waterfall, High Force - at 70 feet it is a renowned feature of rugged upper Teesdale. High Force is also situated adjacent to one of the most attractive sections of the Pennine Way.

Peninne Way, Grindsbrook
Peninne Way, Grindsbrook

A short distance west is England's longest waterfall Cauldron Snout - 200 feet of Tees water creates a spectacular sight. Teesdale has many way-marked walks by the river, through woodland and interesting villages. Cyclists are catered for with National Byway signposts to indicate quiet country lanes, safe for cycling.

Signpost for Peninne Way
Signpost for Peninne Way

Between Teesdale and Weardale is the 5,000 acre Hamsterley Forest managed by the Forestry Commission. The beautiful mixed forest is home to a variety of wildlife, and has several way marked walks and cycle routes, car parks, a play-park, and picnic areas. The visitor centre is worth visiting and holds many interesting events.


Weardale was the ancient hunting ground of the Prince Bishops, and later a centre of the mining industry, for coal, iron ore, limestone and slate.

The Lead Mining Museum at Killhope tells the story of the lead mining industry during the boom years in the 19th century. It is the best preserved lead mining site in Britain, and centres on the reconstructed Victorian Park Level Mine, and Park Level Mill with its huge working water wheel. Here you can take a trip down the mine, and above ground you can see how the miners lived.

Weardale has wonderful scenery and has several circular walks as well as the 73 mile Weardale Way, which follows the River Wear from Monkwearmouth to Wear Head. The stone built towns and villages in this area have a unique character and are worth visiting. At the historic market town of Stanhope, in the former grounds of Stanhope Castle is the Durham Dales Centre, with an award-winning visitor Centre.

River View
River View

The River Derwent running through north County Durham, has created verdant river valleys, contrasting with rocky crags and moorland. Derwent Reservoir is popular for angling and sailing and home to a variety of wild fowl. Ancient woodland in the north of the County offers shelter to the endangered Red Squirrel.


One of England's most popular attractions Beamish Open Air Museum, is situated near Stanley and makes a great day out for all the family.

World's Oldest Railway Bridge

Nearby is Causy Arch, the world's oldest railway bridge still in existence. A single span bridge, the first of its kind to be built, it stands over 80 feet high above Beamish Burn - it was constructed in 1725 and is over 100 feet long. Visitors to the bridge can enjoy a trip on the world's oldest railway Tanfield Railway, opened in 1725 - its original purpose was to carry coal from nearby collieries to the River Tyne.

View from Cathedral Tower
View from Cathedral Tower

Southern Region

The southern region of County Durham is both agricultural and industrial. Attractive towns and villages such as Heighington, with its picturesque village green and Sedgefield with its land mark St Edmunds Church, and the National Hunt racecourse.

Old Fulling Mill, Durham University
Old Fulling Mill, Durham University

Aycliffe village is another gem with a delightful village green surrounded by historic houses. Shildon is the railway town from where George Stephenson's "Locomotion" took the inaugural run of Stockton to Darlington Railway. Visitors to Shildon can visit the attraction "Locomotion", which houses many engines from the National Railway Museum's collection.


The east of County Durham is undergoing extensive regeneration. 'Turning the Tide' is an innovative project committed to cleaning up the area after hundreds of years of coal mining. Today you will find sandy beaches at Seaham and Crimdon. You can walk the 11 mile Durham coastal footpath, enjoying fine views. Grassland meadows, wooded valleys and wildlife habitats have been restored and east County Durham has been designated a Heritage Coast.

Waterfall on River Tees
Waterfall on River Tees

With so much to offer - the ancient 'Land of the Prince Bishops' has everything you need for a wonderful holiday.


Days out in County Durham

  • Auckland Castle
    Auckland Castle is the home of the Bishop of Durham, and has been for the past 900 years.
    Auckland Castle
  • Beamish - The Living Museum of the North
    Beamish is a world famous open air museum telling the story of the people of North East England in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times.
    Beamish - The Living Museum of the North
  • Beamish Wild Adventure Park
    Set in the grounds of Beamish Hall in Chester-le-Street, Beamish Wild Birds of Prey Centre is a purpose-built conservation centre providing an educational and fun day out for all the family.
    Beamish Wild Adventure Park
  • Crook Hall and Gardens
    Crook Hall built in the 13th century is one of the oldest inhabited houses in Durham. The Hall is a jumble of buildings reflecting its historical development.
    Crook Hall and Gardens
  • Durham Castle
    Durham Castle, together with the Cathedral, was awarded the status of a World Heritage Site in 1986 providing international recognition for this unique, historic and scenic site.
    Durham Castle
  • Low Barns Nature Reserve
    Regarded as one of Durham Wildlife Trust's premier reserves, this 50 hectare wetland site contains mixed woodlands and grasslands. A recently refurbished visitor centre is open to the public and something of interest can be seen throughout the year.
    Low Barns Nature Reserve
  • Raby Castle
    See the proud stronghold built by the mighty Neville dynasty in 1360, which has stood for centuries as a monument to their power and ambition.
    Raby Castle
  • The Bowes Museum
    Where else in the world can you see a 230-year-old mechanical silver swan, still in working order, alongside a Turner or a Canaletto?
    The Bowes Museum

Places to Visit in County Durham

  • Barnard Castle
    Barnard Castle is a historic thriving market town, which developed in the protective shadow of Bernard Balliols castle. Built on a fine defensive site in 1125, the castle is in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public.
    Barnard Castle
  • Bishop Auckland
    Bishop Auckland - Ancient and historic market town, seat of the Bishop of Durham since the 12th century. The largest town in the Wear Valley, lively, with good shopping and busy markets (Thursdays and Saturday).
    Bishop Auckland
  • Burnopfield
    Nestled between Stanley in County Durham and Rowlands Gill in the borough of Gateshead sits one of the North East Greatest secrets. The village of Burnopfield sits on the top of a hill that overlooks the Tyne Valley.
  • Crook
    Crook is a small bustling town with an open Market Place, good selection of pubs, coffee shops and restaurants and a wide variety of shops, including factory shops.
  • Dalton-le-Dale
    We have just received a description of Dalton-le-Dale from one of our readers. This description is currently being prepared for publication and will appear on this page within the next few days.
  • Durham
    Durham City - The jewel in the county's crown! Compact enough to explore on foot but so exceptional that its magnificent Norman Castle and Cathedral are a World Heritage Site.
  • Easington
    Easington village is conveniently situated to the east of the A19 trunk road with easy access to many sites of natural beauty, and within easy access of the large towns of Sunderland, Durham and Hartlepool.
  • Eastgate
    Eastgate is a tiny hamlet where Roman remains were found, including an altar, a copy of which can be seen at the side of the road.
  • Fishburn
    Fishburn is a quiet and pleasant small village, situated between Sedgefield and Trimdon Village. It was once a pit village and is a very close-knit community.
  • Frosterley
    Frosterley was once an important centre for the limestone industry. Its renowned marble, an ornate limestone containing 323 million year old fossil corals, can be seen in Frosterley Parish Church.
  • Hunwick
    Hunwick is an attractive ancient village dates from Saxon times then it once belonged to the Cathedral church of Durham.
  • Ireshopeburn
    Ireshopeburn is the base of the Y.M.C.A. Outdoor Centre. Also home to the Weardale Museum which exhibits some of the history of the Dale.
  • Middleton in Teesdale
    In 1815 the London Lead company established its northern headquarters at Middleton in Teesdale and the impact can be seen in the many buildings which symbolise late Victorian prosperity.
    Middleton in Teesdale
  • Staindrop
    Staindrop is an attractive village near Raby Castle, former stronghold of the Nevills, has always been associated with the Lords of Raby.
  • Stanhope
    The historic market town of Stanhope with its cobbled Market Place, stands on the banks of the river Wear and has a strong industrial heritage, which stems from mining lead and quarrying limestone for iron and steel making.
  • Westgate
    Westgate is a popular centre for walking. Visitors to Westgate can see the foundations of the former Prince Bishops' Hunting Lodge.
  • Willington
    Willington lies towards the eastern end of the district and is a town transformed by reclamation.
  • Wolsingham
    Wolsingham is often called the 'Gateway to Weardale'. Originally a Saxon settlement but became for many centuries the market town for lower Weardale.

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