Top 5 places for a Silver Traveller to visit in Durham

Date published: 15 Jan 16

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The Essential Guide

There's no doubting the UK has more than its fair share of historic universities. There's Oxford and Cambridge, York with its tangle of quaint cobbled streets, St Andrews Scotland's oldest university and of course Durham, home to one of the finest cathedrals in the world.   If you're lucky enough to have a child, grandchild or in my case god-daughter (Camilla, now in her final year at Durham) at one, you have the perfect excuse to visit and explore some of the country’s finest cities at the same time. Spoil them with meals out and treating their friends to rounds of drinks whilst you get to see the beautiful surroundings that students often take for granted. Here's our guide to the Top 5 places a silver traveller should visit in Durham, all easily doable over a weekend.

Durham Cathedral

DurhamA UNESCO World Heritage Site with breath-taking Romanesque architecture, exquisite stained glass, the Shrine of St Cuthbert and resting place of St Bede. In 2013, the cathedral was voted the UK's number one landmark in the travellers ‘choice attraction awards, organised by Trip Advisor whilst Bill Bryson called it the finest cathedral on the planet. A highlight is walking the 325 steps to the top of the tower. You do need to be relatively fit as the climb is quite strenuous and the upper part of the stone spiral staircase very narrow. However at the top, you're rewarded with fabulous views of the city, the River Wear below and County Durham beyond.  

Durham Castle

Durham Castle - courtesy of VisitEngland/Diana Jarvis

The great thing about Durham is its size, it's tiny with everything very close by, so just short hop from the cathedral and sitting at the heart of Durham's World Heritage site is the castle. The castle  is a registered museum as well as a vibrant living and working community, it has been occupied continuously since the 11th century and is now home to the students of University College, the founding college of Durham University. Over 100 students are resident during the term and in view of this, entrance to the public is by guided tour only. The castle has limited wheelchair access, so it is advisable to call in advance for details.  

Crook Hall and Gardens

A short walk from the cathedral is a 13th century private home and idyllic English Garden, described by Country Life as having 'history, romance, and beauty'. Crook Hall and Gardens - courtesy of VisitEngland/Diana JarvisThere's a walled garden and then a secret walled garden, a Shakespeare garden, cathedral garden and even a silver and white garden. Not sadly something to honour us Silver Travellers but a garden to celebrate a twenty fifth wedding anniversary but what a lovely idea. There are hundreds of spring bulbs in the garden including snowdrops, white cyclamen, hyacinth, daffodils and tulips. White primula and buddleia, roses and also white pansies add to the theme. William Wordsworth and John Ruskin both visited the gardens for quiet contemplation, something I too would suggest. The hall and gardens are an ideal and relaxing tea stop after a tour of the Cathedral and Castle. However, it should be noted that there are some steep steps and deep slopes throughout and due to the historic layout of the Grade 1 listed building, access for wheelchair users may be difficult.

Botanic Garden

Durham University Botanic GardenThe 10 acre Botanic Garden is set amongst beautiful mature woodlands on the southern outskirts of the city. Wander through the alpine garden, winter garden, bamboo grove, glass houses and recently developed woodland garden and wild flower meadow. As well as being a beautiful natural environment the Botanic Garden also hosts a number of events throughout the year and is another good place for a coffee. My two biggest impressions of Durham were firstly the magnificent setting of the Cathedral and Castle, standing side by side on a prominent hill-top site and that the city has literally dozens of excellent tea rooms and coffee shops.

Beamish – The Living Museum of the North

Beamish - The Living Museum of the NorthDurham can essentially be done in a day or two, so I'd also suggest a visit to nearby Beamish - The Living Museum of the North. Just nine miles away, Beamish a large open air museum set in 300 acres of countryside is a place where you can discover what life was like in North East England in the 1820s, 1910s and 1940s and experience first-hand how the Industrial Revolution transformed agricultural life in the region. Free wheelchair hire is available from the entrance building, visitors are welcome to use personal motorised scooters whilst an accessible bus provides transport around the site and accessible toilets are located in most areas.

For more details on Durham visit

Petra stayed at Durham Marriott Hotel Royal County

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Other Members' Thoughts - 3 Comment(s)

  • Riversiderouge
    about 4 years ago
    Oops!! That website is of course
  • Riversiderouge
    about 4 years ago
    I couldn't have described it better myself Petra, and I live in the County.

    You are right ESW, there is something really special coming to this area in July. The eagerly awaited £31m open air live action show called KYNREN will be rolled out on 2nd July as a 14 night, action packed, and movie like performances, full of pyrotechnics, stunning lighting and water effects. Set in the shadow of the majestic Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland it is set in a 7 acre site with a full size lake and is performed, not by professional actors, but entirely by local volunteers who have been working hard to perfect their performance since last summer.

    It tells the amazing story of Britain over 2000 years through the eyes of the North East, and is as a result of an artistic partnership with Puy Du Fou ( and it is the first time ever that it has been taken out of France. Take a look at the website to get a flavour. (

    Do come and see it. I don't think it is going to disappoint!
  • ESW
    about 4 years ago
    Durham City is addictive - Michael and I met at university there fifty years ago and went back to celebrate those fifty years.
    Daughter followed in our footsteps, also going there.

    The Norman cathedral is wonderful and that isn't just the setting. I've yet to visit Crook Hall but daughter highly recommends it.

    Durham needs to be walked - inspite of all those hills - and especially along the river banks.

    Beamish is definitely worth a visit too, but needs at least a day to do it justice.

    Somewhere else worth adding to the list is the newly opened Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland.
    This was the palace of the Prince Bishops for nine hundred years. The Bishop of Durham no longer lives in the castle, although it remains his place of work. It is now owned and run by a charitable trust and has recently been opened to the public. There are grand plans to restore the castle and estate, costing up to £50 million, developing what may be the largest tourist attraction the region has ever seen, turning it into a major centre for religious art as well as a museum of religion. This is very much a work in progress and a lot of the castle is not yet open. As well as the castle, the trust is wanting to regenerate this deprived area of County Durham by bringing money and visitors into the town of Bishop Auckland. After years of decline, there is a spirit of hope and enthusiasm in the town. Do visit to see what is happening and to support this project.