From lesser-known walks, to breathtaking viewpoints and peaceful nature reserves, Durham’s great outdoors is a treasure trove of amazing hidden gems. 

Follow the path less followed this summer and start planning your next outdoor adventure with our guide to Durham’s crowd-free beauty spots. 

Aycliffe Nature Park

Aycliffe Nature Park may be small, but it’s home to an amazing range of habitats and creatures, perfect for those who are looking for a short walk filled with plenty of wildlife watching opportunities.

Blackhall Rocks Beach 

Blackhall Rocks Beach has been transformed from its bleak industrial past to a beautiful stretch of clean and quiet coast. Along the beach you’ll find Durham Coast’s largest cliff caves here (perfect for a game of hide and seek) and plenty of rock pools to explore when the tide is out. Head up to the cliff top to enjoy walks through the beautiful wildflowers and grasses as you take in breathtaking views out across the North Sea.

Bowes Village

Head out from Bowes Village for a walk through the Durham Dales countryside where you can enjoy the view of the dramatic ruins of Bowes Castle followed by a gentle, peaceful stroll along the River Greta. 

Burnhope Reservoir

Follow the peaceful circular walk around Burnhope Reservoir, or one of the woodland trails, where you can pick a spot along the way to sit and gaze at the beautiful surroundings. Or sit down to enjoy a peaceful pitstop at the quiet waterside picinic spot.  

Chapman’s Well Local Nature Reserve

Chapman’s Well Local Nature Reserve near Annfield Plain was once an open cast coalmine and is now one of Durham’s best bird-watching sites. The varied habitats include marshy grassland, ponds and open heath. It’s a great location for breeding waders in early spring, and Exmoor ponies help manage the colourful heathland. 

Cow Green Reservoir

Be blown away by the wild views of the surrounding North Pennines AONB and UNESCO Global Geopark as you follow the peaceful moorland walk around Cow Green Reservoir and the Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve. Visitors can enjoy wild brown trout fishing, peaceful walks, wildlife watching and incredible scenery. Cow Green is also an official dark sky discovery site, where you can feast your eyes on thousands of stars as the sun goes down, and is also home to Cauldron Snout waterfall, a real hidden gem of the Durham Dales.  

Easington Colliery Local Nature Reserve

This former colliery is now a designated local nature reserve, offering incredible views of the Durham Heritage Coast and North Sea. You’ll find a replica mine shaft overlooking the sea and a timeline along the footpath explaining the history of the colliery. From here you can also connect onto the heritage coastal footpath heading south to Crimdon or north to Seaham.

Hedleyhope Fell Nature Reserve

Hedleyhope Fell is Durham Wildlife Trust’s largest nature reserve and one of the largest mid-altitude heathlands remaining in Durham. Three walking trails weave through a landscape of heather, bilberry and pasture, offering beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, it’s also a great spot for spotting butterflies.

Observatory Hill

A short distance from the centre of historic Durham City you’ll find Observatory Hill, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city below and Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durham Cathedral and Castle. It’s a fantastic spot to watch the sun rise or set over the majestic cathedral.

Ushaw, Historic House, Gardens and Chapels 

Ushaw Historic House, Chapels & Gardens is a 500 acre estate on the outskirts of Durham City. Once a Catholic Seminary, Ushaw’s doors are now open to the public, offering an incredible programme of exhibitions, events and activities for all ages to enjoy. 

Ushaw's gardens have been a main feature of the grounds for almost as long as the former college itself has been established, and boasts beautiful flowers, greenery, a pretty lake, and many wonderful woodland and garden walks. 

Visit the Explore from Your Door page to discover more of Durham's hidden gems and lesser known walks, rides and attractions. 

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