At the beginning of the Summer we were invited by This is Durham to spend a few days in Durham to explore what the city and the surrounding area had to offer. It certainly proved my point that in the Summer of 2021 you want to head North rather than South!
NB| This is a paid campaign with This is Durham
Durham is in the North East of England, about 15 miles south of Newcastle. The City and surrounding County is filled with stunning architecture, scenic walking routes and plenty of things to keep the whole family entertained.
So what did we do, and what things are there to do in Durham with Kids. Read on to find out more.
You can also visit This is Durham’s website to find even more incredible things to see and do when planning a trip to Durham.
Locomotion; The National Railway Museum
A smaller version of the National Railway Museum in York, Locomotion: The National Railway Museum at Shildon is a fantastic museum in County Durham.
At Locomotion you can see highlights of the national collection of railway vehicles, and the museum celebrates the fact that Shildon was the the World’s (yes the World) first railway town.
The collection contains numerous locomotives such as Sans Pareil and Apt-E Advance Passenger Train all of which visitors can get up close too. There’s also a basic train themed café, a train themed outdoor play area and at certain times of the year you can take a short train journey on the passenger steam train.
Sam from North East Family Fun has written a fab post about 10 reasons to visit Locomotion, but a really important reason is that it’s FREE. Perfect for the summer holidays when costs really can start to mount up. All you need to do is book tickets to ensure it doesn’t get too busy.
On our visit we were a few days too early to see The Flying Scotsman which is at Locomotion for 3 weeks from Wednesday 28th July.
- Locomotion Shildon is usually closed on a Monday and Tuesday but during the summer holidays is open daily from 10am – 4pm
- Address: Locomotion. Dale Road Industrial Estate. Shildon. DL4 2RE
- Website: https://www.locomotion.org.uk/
Durham Castle and Cathedral were awarded the status of a World Heritage Site in 1986 and are must-see attractions if you’re visiting the Durham area.
The Cathedral is a stunning building which was built to house the body of St Cuthbert and it is also the biggest and best example of Norman architecture in England.
The grandeur of Durham Cathedral means it has been the set for many films, the most exciting for my girls being Avengers Endgame and Harry Potter. We spent a good half an hour wandering around the Cathedral looking for scenes and trying to recreate them.
If you don’t mind heights, climb the tower for an amazing view across the city and Harry Potter fans may recognise the cloisters and the Chapter House that were used in some of the films. The Chapter House being Professor McGonagall’s office.
Durham Cathedral Museum
Whilst at Durham Cathedral we took a tour of the Cathedral Museum with Shaun. The tour lasted 1hr 30 minutes.
When we turned up to start the tour there wasn’t anyone else under 65 there. I wondered at that point if the girls would struggle with the length and content of the tour, but with full credit to Shaun our tour guide, who was fantastic, the girls loved it and were fully engaged the whole time. They didn’t actually want the tour to end and asked relevant questions throughout. I think if I’m honest 9/10 might be the youngest age for this type of tour but if your kids are interested in history at all then I’d highly recommend. Fabulous for grown ups too.
Highlights for the girls was learning about Cuthbert, the links to the Jabberwocky, seeing locations from Harry Potter films and understanding more about what monks ate, including porpoise!
• adult £12.50
• child £4.50 (children under 8 free)
• family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) £27.50
Tour dates and times:
Daily (except Fridays) at regular intervals throughout the day, from 19 July to 29 August.
After our tour we ate lunch in the Undercroft Restaurant in the Cathedral. It’s a lovely spot for a sandwich or even just some cake!
Durham Botanic Garden
Durham Botanic Garden is set amongst beautiful mature woodlands on the southern outskirts of Durham city. We walked from the Cathedral and it took about 25 minutes.
It’s not a huge spot but on a very sunny day in July it was lovely to walk through the often shady gardens and appreciate the huge plants and the running water everywhere.
The Botanic Garden offers several self-guided activities and trails for children of a range of ages. All the activity sheets are available at the Visitor Centre or can be downloaded before you go.
We decided to do the Art Trail during our visit and loved all the different pieces. All in all we were there for a couple of hours including making time for an ice cream.
Address: Hollingside Lane, South Road, Durham City, DH1 3TN
There is a policy of no dogs in the garden, however assistance dogs are welcome and dog bowls can be obtained from the café.
Adults £4.00 Concession £3.00 Students/Children (5-16 years)£1.50 Infants FREE
Carers FREE Durham University Campus Card holdersFREE RHS Members – free entry every Monday, and the first Saturday of the month, throughout 2021 FREE
The next morning we met my Sister in Law and the girls cousins at High Force. High Force is one of the most impressive waterfalls in England. Located in the Forest in Teesdale, it’s right in the middle of the Durham Dales.
The walk down to the falls is a pleasant one and short enough for little legs, and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a row deer. It’s suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs however, access to the falls viewing area is by steps.
High Force has a 21 metre drop and when the river is full, looks spectacular.
You do have to pay for car parking and admission to the falls themselves, but once you’ve paid you can stay at the falls as long as you like. There are toilets and changing facilities in the car park and you can visit the High Force hotel for lunch like we did.
New recently at High Force is the option to do a longer walk around to the top of the Waterfall but because we booked our tickets online we didn’t see this option. They are telling you about it at the ticket booth though apparently.
Tickets for High Force are £2 for adults and £1 for children
Book here: https://www.raby.co.uk/high-force/waterfall/
The car parking is £3 for 3 hours – it looks like you can only pay by card but there is a pay machine near the entrance.
High Force Hotel
After the falls we ate lunch at the High Force Hotel just as they started serving food at 12pm. The food was a little slow to arrive, probably because we were first to be served and there were a few things missing off the menu, but the food we did have was really good. They also have a basic kids menu. My kids only complaint was that there was too many veges in the tomato pasta! Isn’t there always.
My eldest loved her steak, the burgers were superb and my French Onion with crusty bread was just the ticket. Really friendly lovely staff too.
The last stop on our 3 day adventure was Raby Castle. If you’re intending to drive between High Force and Raby Castle know that it’s at lest 20 minutes between the two.
You can visit Raby Castle itself, just the grounds or both.
Raby is without doubt one of the most impressive intact castles in the North of England. Built in the 14th century by the powerful Nevill family, it has a long history. Home to Cecily Nevill, mother of two kings of England, it was also the scene of the plotting of the Rising of the North and a Parliamentary stronghold during the Civil War.
The Castle is fascinating to walk around and was lived in until fairly recently. My favourite rooms are the kitchen and the chapel, or perhaps the huge ballroom. I also loved the entrance hall and the fact that it was designed to allow horses and carriages to drive in one way, drop off, and drive out the other side.
After a walk around the Castle we ate some fabulous ice cream to keep cool and then enjoyed the walled gardens. We sadly didn’t have time to enjoy the deer park or the outdoor adventure playground.; perhaps next time!
Raby Castle, Staindrop, Co. Durham, DL2 3AH
During our time in Durham we stayed at the Raddison Blu right on the river.
It was a really perfect spot. We could walk to all the restaurants and we sampled Pizza Express and Bills whilst we were in the city. Just a ten minute walk into town.
What we really loved about the hotel though was the swimming pool. You had to book a slot which I had done before we arrived for 5pm both evenings. It was lovely to head down to the swimming pool for an hour after a full day of exploring and before heading out for dinner.
The hotel breakfast (included with our room rate) was also great. A buffet breakfast with everything you would like on it. If I’m being picky I would prefer a pot of tea or coffee than a machine but that’s just me. The machine does however make it quick and easy and then you’re off out to start your day.
We absolutely loved our 3 days in Durham and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for something a little bit different this Summer (and beyond). Remember you can always head North for your Summer Holidays and avoid the busy South West.