County Durham Attractions

County Durham offers visitors a choice of local attractions in the county, visitors can choose from a range of interesting and charming places to discover. The county includes a number of historic houses, museums, parks, gardens, a number of historic buildings, theatre, concerts and events. County Durham’s location in north east England means the tranquil English countryside, scenic coastline and the great outdoors are all within reach located close to local towns and villages with a range of things to see and do in the county.

We have outlined a number of interesting attractions and places to visit for visitors to County Durham, these include:

Durham is perhaps most famous for its wonderful Durham Cathedral, it is synonymous with the age of the Prince Bishops. The cathedral was founded back in 995 by monks fleeing from the Danish Vikings, the monks built a church however this was later taken down and the current building began in 1093. The nave has been described as amazing and inspiring; the relatively slender composite piers alternate with massive drum columns. There are innovations present in the building indicating a revolutionary Gothic style; these are ribbed vaults, flying buttresses and pointed arches. The building has been given much critical acclaim and is regarded as displaying among the finest cathedral architecture in the UK. A trip there is a must for visitors to Durham.

Durham's other well known attraction is Durham Castle, began in 1073 to house the Prince Bishops in suitable style. It is mainly a motte and bailey design, the castle has been subject to change over the years. The Norman Chapel within the castle known for its sandstone arches and carved capitals is a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture. In 1837 the castle was granted to Durham University and it now used as a residence for students. Visitors can stay at the castle during the summer university holidays.

Raby Castle is a 14th century castle located in County Durham that has been subject to much alteration to make a comfortable country house in the 18th and 19th centuries. Raby Castle is among the largest and most impressive of English medieval castles, visitors can see its towers, turrets, walls, interiors and artworks from different periods including Medieval, Regency and Victorian. There are still herds of deer that roam around the surrounding parkland; there are ornamental gardens and horse-drawn carriages. You can relax in the tearooms and buy gifts and souvenirs in the gift shop. The Nevill family owned the castle until 1569 and has been home to Lord Barnard's family since 1626.

Beamish - The North of England Open Air Museum is one of the leading tourist attractions in the region. It recreates life in the North of England as it was in the 1800s and 1900s. It vividly recreates the way people lived, the environment they lived in and visitors will be greeted by costumed staff welcoming them to the turn of the century town with shops, houses, working pub, newspaper office, garage, sweetshop and sweet factory. There are guided tours available and these are given underground at a real "drift" mine in the Colliery Village and pit cottages shows how the pitmen used to live. Home Farm displays the traditional breeds of livestock and poultry and a farmhouse kitchen. The Railway Station has locomotives and rolling stock. Pockerley Manor and Horse Yard are based on a fortified manor house and shows how a yeoman farming family would have lived. This is a fascinating place to visit bringing the past back to life.

There are fine gardens to see at the Durham University Botanic Gardens. There are plants to see here from all over the world including from Japan, China, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile to name but a few. There is a woodland garden, alpine garden and bamboo grove. The glasshouses contain a collection of tropical rainforests and desert plants. There are also various artwork pieces around the gardens to enjoy. The coffee shop offers a wide selection of drinks both hot and cold and snacks, and there are a range of gifts and souvenirs available. The garden centre is a venue for talks and seminars on a variety of horticultural subjects and acts as a showcase for the work of local artists and photographers. The 18 acre garden is set amongst mature woodlands on the south of Durham City.

Theatrical entertainment is on show at the Durham Musical Theatre Company. Based in Durham the company perform at the Gala Theatre usually twice a year in February and June. The company has a long history and was founded back in 1908, they are among the longest established theatre companies in the area, in that time there have been over 100 productions in total. There are a wide range of musical theatre productions and the shows have been ever popular.

The Bowes Museum is located in market town of Barnard Castle in the Durham Dales approx 25 miles from the city of Durham. There is plenty to see here for visitors; the museum is housed inside an imposing 19th century French chateau. There are a number of fine collections inside including the Archaeology collection that includes medieval pottery, prehistoric flints and artefacts from the local area. Other collections include fine collections of ceramics, glass and porcelain, fashion and textiles, fine arts and furniture that have been collected over the years. The museum holds a number of events and exhibitions at various times during the year. There is parkland around the museum where visitors can enjoy a stroll or a picnic in scenic surroundings. There is a café, souvenir shop and family activities including trails and dress up areas for children. With a number of things to see and do here, a visit to the Bowes Museum offers something for the whole family.

The Thorpe Farm Centre is located in the town of Barnard Castle, there are a number of things to see and do for visitors. The Wetland and Nature Reserve was set up in 2008 and attracts a large number of birds and wildlife, visitors can the wetlands from walks around the plantations. Heritage Wood is a woodland area that includes woodland paths offering some splendid views of the farm and the local area. The Woodland Walk offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a walk in the countryside, the walk goes through the paddocks housing the farm animals, the new plantations, woodland and close to the wetlands offering plenty to things to see and enjoy.

Tanfield Railway has a long history dating back to 1725, visitors can enjoy a scenic 6 mile round trip from Sunniside in Gateshead to East Tanfield near Stanley in County Durham; on the historic railway evoking memories of the golden age in rail travel. Visitors can see the Victorian carriages, historic locomotives, there is Europe’s oldest working shed, a collection of locally built and used locomotives and there are a number of restorations of trains carried out by enthusiasts. There is an on site café and a picnic area, offering an interesting day out for the whole family.

It is recommended that prior to visiting County Durham; visitors do their research and ensure any sights and attractions they plan on visiting are actually open on the days you intend on coming. The transport is also worth checking as maintenance and engineering works can mean a restricted service on public transport and the road network.

County Durham is a place that has plenty to offer visitors with a mix of charming market towns and villages including a number of picturesque locations in the Durham Dales and surrounding countryside to enjoy in addition to the attractions in the urban centres. The historic city of Durham with its wealth of historic city attractions along with a number of charming market towns and villages ensuring visitors can enjoy both the urban and rural when visiting the county. The county includes a large number of historic attractions, museums, historic houses, parks, gardens, cathedrals and family attractions. Durham’s attractions ensure visitors can enjoy a short break, weekend away or a longer stay here.

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