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The Very Best Things to Do in Durham

With exciting attractions and impressive landscapes, County Durham is brimming with things to do

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Durham Castle in the distance, behind trees and a lake, Durham, England, UK

Durham may be a small county, but it’s jam-packed with brilliant things to do. From exploring historic buildings and castles, to taking in remarkable natural wonders and thrilling attractions, you’ll find just what you’re looking for in a great getaway. And we know all about where to stay and what to do here at Plum Guide, so when it comes to things to do in Durham, you’re in good hands. Heed our expert advice and set off on the trip of a lifetime.

Explore Durham Castle and Cathedral

A large stained-glass window inside Durham Cathedral, England, UK

A large stained-glass window inside Durham Cathedral, England, UK

Durham Castle and Cathedral, and the buildings located between them, form the Durham World Heritage Site - the largest and most impressive examples of Norman architecture in England. Durham Castle was built 900 years ago to protect the English borders, but today, it’s home to the students of Durham University. Take a guided tour to see the castle’s collections and exhibitions, and learn more about the major historical events that have left their mark.

Durham Cathedral is one of Europe’s best medieval buildings - unfortunately it isn't in our exclusive collection though...yet. Built in 1093, the cathedral has many interesting designs, including medieval wall paintings, towering sandstone pillars, and an impressive vaulted ceiling. The best way to enjoy these architectural delights is on a guided tour, where you can go behind the scenes and discover the cathedral’s spellbinding stories (it’s featured in the Harry Potter films, if you didn’t know). If you’re looking to fit in a workout, climb up the 325 steps of the central tower for some unforgettable views.

Earl Blue, Plum Guide home in Durham, UK

Earl Blue, Plum Guide home in Durham, UK

Wander round the University's Botanic Garden

A close up view of a yellow flower in a botanic garden

A close up view of a yellow flower in a botanic garden

Durham University’s Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. Set within 10 hectares of mature woodland, the Botanic Garden offers various landscapes to relax in. Step into the glasshouses and instantly be transported to tropical rainforests and arid deserts around the world - just make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the indigenous bugs, scorpions and tarantulas. As for those travel bugs? You can see plants from China, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and North America as you stroll through the different themed gardens. There is the Alpine Garden, Winter Garden, Bamboo Grove, Woodland Garden, and Wildflower Meadow, where you’ll come across several sculptures and pieces of artwork by local artists.

Mr. Bailey, Plum Guide home in Durham, UK

Mr. Bailey, Plum Guide home in Durham, UK

Marvel at High Force Waterfall

Who doesn’t love a waterfall? Located in the heart of the Durham Dales, High Force is one of the most impressive waterfalls in England. Plunging 21 metres into the pool below, this natural wonder is surrounded by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To get here, take a leisurely woodland walk to the bottom of the falls - every so often the walk teases you with glimpses of the waterfall from different angles. There are plenty of photo opportunities, and it's a great spot for roe deer and rabbits, so don’t forget your camera.

Hans in Luck, Plum Guide home in Northumberland, UK

Hans in Luck, Plum Guide home in Northumberland, UK

Visit Beamish, the Living Museum of the North

There are countless boring and stuffy museums out there, but Beamish isn’t one of them. This open-air, living museum is simultaneously one of the most unique and enjoyable things to do in Durham. Set in 300 acres of countryside, it tells the story of life in North East England during the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and 1950s, transporting you back to a time before your computer-reliant job even existed. As you go through the towns and villages, meet costumed actors bringing the stories to life while admiring the original buildings - they have been rebuilt brick-by-brick. There’s even vintage Edwardian buses and a tramway to get you around, so your there's ample opportunity to give your feet a rest. The museum has an exciting calendar of events throughout the year too, including the Great North Festival of Transport, the Great North Festival of Agriculture, and a Georgian Fair. And don’t get us started on the Christmas events here.

When April Comes, Plum Guide home in Northumberland, UK

When April Comes, Plum Guide home in Northumberland, UK

Take a trip to the Durham Heritage Coast

What’s a UK holiday without a trip to the seaside? Take a moment to explore the dramatic landscape of the Durham Heritage Coast. Running from Sunderland to Hartlepool, you’ll discover sandy beaches, grasslands, majestic cliffs and imposing headlands - so just about everything you could hope to see. The coast is known for its areas of historical and geological interest, as well as rare plants and wildlife, so this is another one to make sure you pack your camera for. Head out onto the footpaths at the scenic Castle Eden Dene, a National Nature Reserve home to over 450 species of plants and wildflowers. After a hard day’s work of nature spotting, relax on the wide, sandy beach at Crimdon. You deserve it.

Enjoy a ride at the Tanfield Railway

A close up of a train track with small stones on

A close up of a train track with small stones on

Any train enthusiast should put Tanfield Railway at the top of their list of things to do in Durham. Step all the way back in time to 1725 and take a ride on one of the oldest railways in the world (yes, the world). As you travel aboard a recreated colliery carriage, a restored industrial steam engine will take you on a journey through three miles of the beautiful Causey Valley. Stop off at Causey Station and walk across Causey Arch, the world’s oldest railway bridge. If you’re super into trains, you may want to visit Marley Hill engine shed too. When else will you get to nosy round the world’s oldest working locomotive shed?

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