We welcomed family travel blogger - Globalmouse Travels to explore the wilder side of Durham this winter with her three children. 

The Durham Heritage Coast

Durham is not an area we have explored before and it was wonderful to spend a winter weekend exploring the countryside from these craggy cliffs to the rivers and waterfalls and beguiling forests.

We were based in the heart of the county at Byers Green in the Old Halls Cottages for our weekend in Durham. Situated in a small village between Durham City and Bishop Auckland, off an ancient lane, the cottage was a tranquil base to explore the Durham Dales and surrounding area.

The cottage provided comfortable, warm accommodation and the space for us to cook up and enjoy big, hot breakfasts each morning of our stay.

The Old Halls Cottage

Winter can be great for hibernating but I’ve realised how much happier I am when we make the effort to get out and about exploring. Our first stop on our winter weekend in Durham was to Hamsterley Forest which was perfect.

Hamsterley is one of those amazing places that has something for all the family and makes you want to stay out and about exploring. There are a number of woodland walks and biking routes that you can follow and also a really fun trail tracking the characters of Julia Donaldson’s books, the Gruffalo and the Highway Rat. We loved this, it kept the children skipping along the path, eager to find the next carved character or activity board all aided by the app we downloaded at home.

Hamsterley Forest

With a backdrop of the most beautiful trees and lightly babbling brook ‘Bedburn Beck’ beside us it was a wonderful walk and I wished we had Hamsterley Forest closer to home for regular trips out to visit it. 

My favourite forest sight came in the form of tall totem poles that you could walk around and the face would change according to the angle you were looking at it from. 

Bowlees Visitor Centre

As the skies opened we retreated to the car and the next stop of Bowlees Visitor Centre, the gateway to the North Pennines AONB and set in a beautiful converted chapel. With the log burner roaring inside it was a warm space to take off the coats and settle back with bowls of steaming spicy aubergine curry and drinks. 

The visitor centre is in the middle of two spectacular waterfalls - High and Low Force. There are a few walks to take including a winding ramble out to Low Force, on to High Force and back through the fields. 

High Force Waterfall in the Durham Dales

High Force is truly spectacular with water cascading down the rocks and filling the River Tees below. Low Force isn’t to be sniffed at either, this beautiful waterfall, combined with the scenery of the landscape of Upper Teesdale is just gorgeous.

Looking around the landscape beyond at numerous whitewashed stone brick cottages, their chimneys puffing out the smoke of warming fires within was just so pretty to look at.

Low Force Waterfall

With our fix of fresh air for one day we headed back towards the Vale of Durham and the beautiful Whitworth Hall, a country estate that is part hotel and part deer park. 

The hotel was so welcoming with a lovely fire in the entrance way and great, friendly staff. The restaurant was perfect for a great family meal with a children’s menu but also smaller items from the main menu on offer for little ones. We had such a great meal here, the food was lovely, the wine flowed (for the adults) and we all laughed as we played family games around the table.

Whitworth Hall

After another night at the cottage we headed to the beautiful seafront of Seaham on the Durham Heritage Coast. We stood at the top of Nose’s Point, looking down over the beaches here where the sea water has washed away the cliffs in to its own stony creations. The waves crashed across the rugged coastline, an area unique now in terms of animals and plants and we thought how it reflected the whole of the county. 

The Durham Heritage Coast

This is an area which is enchanting, it gets under your skin with its landscapes as pretty and timeless as can be and a genuine, warm welcome wherever we went. It’s clear there’s real community here, complimented by the landscape which makes you want to get out and explore. We can’t wait to return to see more. 

To read Globalmouse Travel's full Durahm Winter break blog click here. 

*All images kindly provided by My Travel Monkey.

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