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From giving the gift of Kynren to your loved ones, to leisurely strolls to enchanted castles against a snowy winter backdrop, Durham’s ancient market towns and historic sites have that perfect festive experience in store for your weekend break or day trip this winter.

Here’s our handy guide to get you in that festive holiday mood:

Raby Castle

For the first time during the Christmas season, the Portcullis Gates of Raby Castle will be open as visitors are invited to wander around the castle’s inner walls.

Get into the Christmas spirit by choosing from hundreds of real Christmas trees grown locally on the Raby Estate and gather round the fire with Father Christmas as he tells stories and sings songs as part of this magical Christmas experience.

The tearoom, housed in the old stables at Raby Castle will also be serving warming drinks, cakes and festive themed snacks as well as daily hot specials. Visit the new Christmas Cabin outside for warming mulled wine, gingerbread and other festive treats.

Visit Bishop Auckland - one of the friendliest places in the UK

Bishop Auckland is one of the only towns in the North East to be officially recognised as one of the most welcoming places in the country, after recently being awarded a prestigious ‘WorldHost Recognised Destination’ status.

The Auckland Project will be hosting a series of exciting festive ‘make your own decorations’ workshops for all ages and abilities on the following dates:

A traditional Christmas carol service for the whole family featuring The Durham Singers will take place on Saturday 16 December at St Anne’s Church.

Visitors are also being given the chance to go behind closed doors and take a look inside the £17m restoration of Auckland Castle in a Behind the Scenes tour, giving visitors a peek inside each stage of the spectacular transformation, with new details unveiled as work progresses.

The Auckland Project Winter exhibition

No.42’s latest exhibition runs until Saturday 23 December, tying up what has been a wonderful year so far, with 42 artworks selected to go on display.

There’s also the recently opened Mining Art Gallery, where you can learn about the proud arts heritage within the region’s mining community, with more than 400 works from prominent local artists including Tom McGuinness and Norman Cornish.

Barnard Castle - where walkers are very welcome

The breathtaking landscape in and around Barnard Castle has inspired artists and writers such as Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott. Barnard Castle is also the first town in the county to receive the ‘walkers are welcome’ status, now held by more than a hundred towns and villages across England.

The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle and the Witham Arts Centre have teamed up to provide entertainment for all ages, with a funfair and a wide variety of market stalls and shops to celebrate the festive season. Highlights include:

Inspired by the Museum founders John & Joséphine Bowes, it will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Museum opening in 1892. Santa’s grotto, an elves’ workshop, with Christmas crafts and a fun festive trail are planned.

Kynren 2018

Give the gift of Kynren this Christmas with a special voucher which can be exchanged towards part or all of a ticket to Kynren 2018. This showstopping event, with 17 shows taking place at Auckland Castle between June and September, is not to be missed.

Where to eat and drink

Already in the mood for turkey and all the trimmings and a mince pie (or three)? Whilst out exploring the beauty of Durham’s ancient sites and towns, drop into one of these tasty establishments to feed that hearty winter appetite!

We recommend:

Visit our Food and Drink section to find more restaurants, pubs and cafes throughout Durham.

Looking for a winter break this year or in the New Year? Stay in Durham, with ideas for winter breaks here.

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