48 hours in Durham - what to do on a weekend in Durham
Welcome to Durham – a county steeped in history with a rugged coastline and miles of countryside coupled with an ancient city and a vibrant café culture. Your guide to a weekend in Durham will give you an insight into all the places you need to visit to get a real taste of what County Durham has to offer.
Durham has many towns within the county but the city itself is a spectacular mix of an ancient cathedral and castle, a beautiful riverside and a bustling city full of independent shops and eateries. The architecture, narrow cobbled streets, beautiful bridges and quirky cafes make for a fabulous of one your days out while spending a weekend in Durham.
If you love the outdoors and are keen to hike then the north Pennines are an area of outstanding beauty and offer endless walks and adventures through heather covered moorland and magnificent waterfalls. Hamsterley Forest is a large woodland which is great for short walks or longer rambles exploring the many winding pathways and rivers that lie within. It is also a magnet for mountain bikers with miles of pathways and tracks. For younger children it has a fabulous Gruffalo sculpture trail and wooden adventure play areas.
The rugged Durham coastline is different to the rest of the North East coastline, it is well known for being one of the best places to find Sea glass in the world and there are many local craftspeople who turn in into beautiful jewellery. The coastline houses many denes and national nature reserves which are full of wildlife and ancient woodland. There is certainly something for everyone to enjoy when spending a weekend in Durham.
Friday afternoon in Durham
To begin your weekend in Durham we are starting at the beautiful Raby Castle and deer park situated in the town of Darlington. A stunning castle set in over 200 acres of countryside, it is home to a magnificent deer park where the deer roam free and viewing is almost guaranteed as you explore the grounds. Enjoy a walk through the parkland, take in the views of the imposing castle and be prepared to be amazed at how tame these beautiful creatures are. After this head to the Raby Café for lunch and refreshments before continuing your tour around the walled gardens.
After you have exhausted all areas of this beautiful castle and gardens, it’s time to drive to one of the country’s largest waterfalls – High Force. Park in the allocated car park and follow the designated pathways that will lead you to your destination. You will hear the waterfall before you see it – it is quite a breathtaking sight. The viewing platform is quite close and you will get a stunning view and probably feel the spray from the water fall! A thirty-minute walk away lies Low Force, the smaller cousin to this grand waterfall. It is a series of cascading waterfalls and is great for a dip if you enjoy wild swimming. An experience not to be missed and a great way to end your adventures on your first afternoon of your weekend in Durham.
Friday evening in Durham
After all of that fresh air and outdoor adventure it’s time to head to The Ramside Spa and Hotel for a relaxing night and some downtime. The Ramside have recently built some amazing tree houses in their grounds which I had the pleasure of visiting and I can highly recommend them for a luxurious stay. They are decorated to the highest standards and if it is a state of the art, high quality stay you are looking for then this will certainly fit the bill.
Once settled in to your accommodation, head to the spa for a relaxing swim and sauna, before getting ready for your evening meal in one of the Ramside’s restaurants for some delicious food and a glass or two of your favourite tipple. After dinner enjoy a wander through the beautiful grounds before heading back to one of the cosy lounges to end the night with a final drink before heading back to your room.
Saturday morning in Durham
After an early morning swim in the spa and an indulgent treatment if time allows, I would recommend heading into Durham City for breakfast at Flat White Kitchen, this gorgeous café is a well-known eatery and very popular with the locals. Be prepared to queue! After you have eaten, a short walk up the bank will bring you to the magnificent Durham Cathedral. No weekend visit to Durham is complete without a wander around the cathedral and castle. Take a walk around the outskirts of the Palace Green and you will see Durham castle just set back. I would highly recommend booking a tour and climbing to the top for some of the most unrivalled views in the whole city.
Next, it’s time to head over and take a look inside Durham Cathedral to admire the grandeur of the interior, it’s sure to take your breath away. Once you have seen the main area, head out to the cloisters, here you will see areas used in the filming of the famous Harry potter movies. A truly magical place.
I recommend heading down the beautiful cobbled streets behind the cathedral towards Prebends Bridge and across to one of the most photographed cottages in Durham. The quaint Prebends House sits on the edge of the bridge and always has its quirky streetlamp burning whatever the time of day or season. Next take the pathway down onto the river bank and enjoy yet more views of the cathedral and castle before heading back into the city centre for a spot of lunch.
Saturday lunchtime in Durham
For a light lunch I would recommend River View Café which sits over the riverbank and serves the most delicious lunches and cakes. The views are beautiful and as it sits right out over the river it almost feels like you are on board a boat heading up the river. Why not enjoy a glass of wine, take in the views and enjoy an uninterrupted hour.
An alternate and equally delicious spot for lunch is the Pancake Café. This is the tiniest of restaurants and serves traditional sweet and Savoury pancakes, a real favourite with both adults and children. After lunch it’s time to head to Browns by the river to hire a traditional rowing boat and glide up the river. Relax and even have a snooze if you can persuade someone to row for you! A perfect way to wind down after your busy morning in the city.
Saturday afternoon in Durham
Next on your itinerary is the up-and-coming coastal town of Seaham and the famous Seaham Hall beach. This is known as one of the best beaches in the world for collecting sea glass, many Americans come to stay here just to hunt for these tiny treasures. The best time to visit is low tide when the beach is awash with these beautiful gems and you are guaranteed to come away with a good collection – a perfect way to remember your trip. Stop off at the Flamingo Bar Café in the marina for a delicious coffee and cake – there are lots of vegan treats available and the décor is beautiful, floral and pink with a gorgeous outdoor area overlooking the sea. Other places I would recommend for light refreshments are Clean Bean which serves delicious clean food with a twist and the North View Café which is a recent addition to Seaham and one of our favourite haunts when in the area. If it’s five-star luxury you are after, afternoon tea in the beautiful Seaham Hall hotel is the place to head to. For the last hour before sundown, head to blast beach which is a rugged, unusual beach and has been featured in opening of the movie Alien 3. It definitely has a feeling of being on the moon!
Saturday evening in Durham
This evening’s accommodation is a drive inland through the quaint village of Shotley Bridge and off the beaten track to the recently opened Newlands Lodges. Surrounded by 300 acres of beautiful private countryside, the lodges are the perfect way to relax and unwind after your busy day. Enjoy the views from your outdoor hot tub and relax in your stunning surroundings. The only sounds you’ll be hearing are the birds and local wildlife.
For your evening meal I would highly recommend The Lord Crew arms in nearby Blanchland. The historic hotel sits on the borders of Durham and Northumberland and is housed in a quaint village which I always feel has an old English charm about it, this county pub serves the finest local food all determined by what is in season and growing in the garden kitchen at the back of the hotel. Be sure to have a wander around the village after dinner and explore the gorgeous river and woodland.
Sunday morning in Durham
After a refreshing night’s sleep, enjoy a home cooked breakfast in your lodge and head to Britain’s only living open air Museum. Beamish is one of the North’s most visited attractions and once you’ve bought a ticket you can visit as much as you like for a year. To begin your visit, head to the main town and visit the bakery for a freshly baked mid-morning snack and then wander through home Farm and down to the pit village to find out what life was like in the early 1900’s. Catch a tram to Pockerly Manor and watch a baking demonstration then stroll in the gorgeous Georgian gardens. It really is history brought to life and it feels like you are walking on the set of a movie or have travelled back in time. Spring 2022 sees the anticipated opening of another huge area of the Museum – the 1950’s town, this will house a cinema, hairdressers and community hall among other exciting additions. Today’s lunch has got to be fish and chips from Davey’s traditional fish shop, be prepared to queue though – it’s very popular! Before you leave you must visit the traditional sweet shop and watch the sweets being made – and of course stock up on a few for your favourites for your journey home. Beamish Museum is a perfect way to end your weekend in Durham. Hopefully you’ll want to return for another visit as there is still so much more to explore in this beautiful county of Durham.