Durham - GoWithKids.com

Go to content

Main menu


Places to Go > UK



Durham has recently been voted the top city in England and the second best city to visit in the UK in a national poll.  Readers of The Guardian and The Observer were asked to pick their favourite cities, countries, hotels and attractions to visit and have voted Durham ahead of Bath, Newcastle and Liverpool in the prestigious awards. Edinburgh was the only city this year  to receive more votes than Durham.  The beautiful and compact heritage city was singled out for its ‘historic charm’ and furthermore the accolade comes shortly after Guardian readers voted for Durham Cathedral’ as Britain’s  best building and Durham scooped 6 Gold awards in the North East Tourism Awards.

When you visit Durham with the family it’s easy to understand why the city has received such accolades and it really  is the perfect base to explore the wider county for a long weekend or half-term break.  The city is located in the North East of England on the River Wear which forms a loop around a rocky peninsula containing the historic city centre and the magnificent  Cathedral and Castle which combine to give the city one of the most distinctive skylines in the world.  Compact enough for families to explore on foot but so exceptional that its magnificent Norman Castle and Cathedral are a World Heritage Site. For over  nine centuries the Castle and Cathedral have dominated the town from their dramatic location high above the River Wear. The massive Cathedral is widely acclaimed as one of the world's finest buildings. The original rib vaulted church, an architectural  innovation of great importance, took 40 years to build and was completed in 1133. Since then the Cathedral and St. Cuthbert's shrine have attracted pilgrims and travellers from all over the world.

Church services are held in the Cathedral every day and there are regular concerts, exhibitions and other events. Visitors  can also see the Monks' Dormitory, Tower, Treasury Museum and Audio-visual presentations.  Following the Norman conquest the Bishops of Durham were given the power to rule the North of England, using their own armies. They occupied Durham Castle and were  known as Prince Bishops. The evidence of their power and influence can be seen in additions to the Castle and alterations which over the centuries transformed a fortification into a lavish palace.  By the 19th Century, the power of the Bishops was no  longer appropriate. In 1837 Bishop Van Mildert moved to nearby Auckland Castle and transferred Durham Castle to the University of Durham which had been founded five years earlier.

Durham Castle continues as the heart of University College, and home to over 100 students and staff. It is now one of twelve colleges within the University. Durham, the third oldest university in England, after Oxford and Cambridge, is a leading centre  for education and research. The Castle is used for University ceremonies, public events and, during the vacations, as a venue for conferences, banquets and holiday accommodation. Interesting guided tours for visitors are conducted by the students throughout  the year but entrance to the public is by guided tour only and it is advisable to book these in advance.

The compactness of the city and easy access to the Castle and Cathedral make it ideal for families to explore. Downhill from the Castle and Cathedral you can still trace Durham's mediaeval layout in the narrow winding streets. In the city there’s a wide range of shops with safe pedestrian walkways, including the refurbished Victorian Indoor Market and the  new Prince Bishops development, but it also offers a haven of peace with pleasant walks along the wooded river banks where the children can run freely or the family can take the opportunity to take boat trip on the River Wear. The University Botanic Garden  has trees and plants from all over the world and is well worth a visit. The city is well served with museums illustrating the county's fascinating blend of Christian, social and industrial heritage.


Visit Durham at thisisdurham.com

From Durham it is easy to explore the Durham Dales, part of the North Pennine Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These  dales offer some of the country's finest scenery - a blend of rugged upland, impressive waterfalls, gentle river valleys, wildflower meadows and drystone walls. The heather moorland to the west are pierced by the headstreams of the Derwent, Tees and Wear.  At High Force, the Tees falls dramatically over massive boulders for 70 feet to form the largest waterfall in England. The remote and beautiful high Pennines offer panoramic views from quiet moorland roads.

The animal lovers in the family have a of superb at Hall Hill Farm, Broom House Farm and Tweddle Children's Animal Farm.  At Thorpe Farm parents can search out culinary delights in the shop while the kids watch the birds of prey  at falconry centre. For history lovers find why taking a bath in Roman Times was about more just with a trip to Binchester Roman Fort in Bishop Auckland, or let the past come life at award-winning Beamish. More recently  the 19th Century lead mining in Upper Weardale is brought to life at Killhope Lead Mining centre.

For the ultimate fun trip Diggerland is a great day out of diggers and dirt!  This is an adventure park experience where children and adults can drive REAL construction machinery. With over 15 rides and drives there's something for  everyone at Diggerland including Spindizzy, unique to Diggerland, prepare to feel the ultimate adrenaline rush on this world famous attraction.  If you want to get some real JCB experience try out your excavating skills on the giant dirt diggers, or drive  a monster JCB 3CX.   For a more sedate ride you can relax and take in the views from 50ft in the air on the Skyshuttle.

Take a tram ride into the past at Beamish, a world famous open air museum telling the story of the people  of North East England in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times and an ideal place to visit for families.  Stroll around the shops and houses of the Edwardian Town or go underground at a real drift mine in the Pit Village. Visit the miners’ cottages,  pop into the Co-op shops, see the animals at Home Farm and relax in the cosy farmhouse kitchen. Explore Pockerley Old Hall, set in the beautiful Georgian landscape, and ride on a recreation of an early steam train at Pockerley Waggonway. Enjoy the fun  of the fair with a ride on the newest attraction, the Steam Gallopers, a beautiful steam carousel.  Above all, meet people who lived and worked in the past. Talk to the dentist, school teacher, miners, a pitman’s wife and discover what life was  really like. Beamish is no ordinary museum. This is a place where visitors meet history face to face.

Throughout the year Beamish hosts an exciting programme of events suitable for all the family, from a Georgian Fair to the Great North Steam Fair and much more besides, including a whole season of Christmas! There really is something for everyone. What’s more, there’s no extra charge for these events - entry is included in the admission charge to Beamish.


The Fun Shack is the North's largest indoor playground, open 7 days a week and perfect for families  rain or shine!  Kids will have a great time at a kid's crazy kingdom with 19,000 square feet of indoor fun for kids up to 12 years or under 5ft 1in tall.  It includes a soft play area and a small town village, trampolines, cinema, football court, PS2's,  ten pin bowling and go-carts. You can eat at Snack Shack or the family restaurant.

Other options for family entertainment include Krazy Kingdom, a centre including soft play, ten pin bowling, electric go-carts, restaurant, themed parties and rooms and Adventure Valley where you will discover 6 action  packed play zones bringing you the very best in family adventure, animal fun and indoor play. Outside explore Action Creek and Runaway Ranch and to ensure everyone can play there's Little Play for the Under 5s too. Plus watch the fabulous Bird-o-Batics  flying shows (weekends and school holidays). whilst inside let off steam within the giant indoor play town (huge at over 12,000 sq ft), meet the cutest and friendliest of animals in the farmyard and get involved with even more all weather play including  the wild west themed Cannon Saloon in the Busy Bees Barn.


Visit Durham at thisisdurham.com

Recommended ...

     For family friendly accommodation in Durham the Durham Marriott Hotel Royal County  located centrally in Old Elvet has family rooms and a leisure club with swimming pool or if you prefer self-catering accommodation there’s Hamsteels Hall which is located in beautiful countryside six miles from Durham City ......

.........Situated on the banks of the River Wear, the Durham Marriott Hotel Royal County offers sensational views of England 's famous Durham Castle and Cathedral both of which are within easy walking distance. This upscale hotel, part of which dates back to the  17th century, offers modern amenities while preserving historic charm and exquisite features such as antiques and original prints. Elegantly furnished family rooms feature a dedicated workspace, mini-bar, hair dryer, adjustable climate control, and high-speed  Internet service.

.....visit Durham Marriott Hotel Royal County..8

.....................  H a m s t e e l s     H a l l  ......................

         At Hamsteels Hall families are welcomed to stay in recently converted stone barn conversions set in beautiful countryside.  The family friendly, well appointed self-catering cottages are situated next to the owners elegant Bed & Breakfast Georgian Country House which is a Grade II* listed building, full of character, and dates back to the 1600s when inglenook fireplaces, shuttered  windows and panelled rooms were commonplace.

photos from bed & breakfast

.......The property is ideally situated for touring Durham and Northumberland, and only a short drive away from attractions such as Beamish Open Air Museum, the Baltic Art Gallery, The Centre for Life Museum (which  is one of the newest family attractions in Newcastle), The Millennium Bridge, The Angel of the North, Bede's World, Hadrians Wall, Durham County Cricket Club, the Metro Centre with over 300 shops and lots of entertainment for the younger visitors such  as Metroland , or venture farther afield to Holy Island, Kielder Reservoir, Bowes Museum, Raby Castle, Killhope Wheel, Cragside Hall etc. Diggerland is only 2 miles away - providing fun for all age groups.

.June and Frank, the owners, are pleased to tell you more..8


Visit Durham at thisisdurham.com

Back to content | Back to main menu