Many people across the UK will be enjoying holidays closer to home this summer, and to help inspire you we’ve picked 20 fun summer events and activities you and your family can enjoy on your summer staycation or next day out in Durham.

How many will you tick off your bucket list this summer? 

family walking outside Raby Castle and family kayaking at TCR Hub

Children’s scavenger hunt at Raby Castle 

Let the little ones blow off some steam in the beautiful grounds of Raby Castle during the summer holidays by picking up a free scavenger hunt sheet to complete as you explore the castle’s beautiful deer park and walled gardens. See how many colours, shapes, sounds and objects you can spot during your visit from a list of 20 items. 

Challenge yourself

Across the county you’ll find amazing adventurous events and activities offering you the chance to challenge yourself this summer and get your adrenaline pumping. Take to the water by kayak or paddle board at Seaham Harbour Marina, enjoy a peaceful paddle along the River Wear with Weardale Adventure Centre, or if you have a head for heights try out the high ropes course at TCR Hub, Barnard Castle

woman sat in outdoor pool at Seaham Hall and woman looking at painting inside Auckland Castle

Escape the same four walls and enjoy a night away 

Sick of looking at the same four walls? Escape this summer, reconnect with friends and family, and make lasting memories on a summer getaway. Whether it's budget friendly campsites, cosy holiday cottages, or lavish luxury spa hotels, across the county you’ll find the perfect place for a staycation this summer.  

Explore Auckland Castle - the former lavish home of the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham

The grand old doors of Auckland Castle recently re-opened and once again visitors can enjoy a day exploring inside the Prince Bishop’s Palace, surrounding deer park and gardens. Discover what life was like throughout history for some of the most powerful men in British history – The Prince Bishops, take a guided tour of the lower walled garden, view works of art in the Bishop Trevor Gallery and follow the family-friendly outdoor trails.

Nearby you can enjoy getting up close to incredible artwork at the awe-inspiring Mining Art Gallery.

High Force Waterfall and children stood with Gruffalo sculpture Hamsterly Forest

Feel the force at High Force Waterfall

Let the force of nature take your breath away at High Force Waterfall – one of England’s most impressive waterfalls. A woodland walk takes you to its base, but you will hear its roar long before it comes in to view, as the River Tees plunges into the gorge below. Across the road from the mighty waterfall you’ll find High Force Hotel, serving up delicious food and drink daily alongside relaxing overnight stays. 

Follow the Gruffalo Spotters trail at Hamsterley Forest

Before you head to Hamsterley Forest be sure to download the new Gruffalo Spotter 2 app. The amazing app will turn your forest walk into a fun-filled trail, where you can interact with your favourite characters as you go in search of the Gruffalo in the deep dark wood. 

Derwent Waterside Park and a family down the mine at Killhope lead mining museum

Get active at Derwent Waterside Park

Run wild and reconnect with nature at Derwent Waterside Park. You'll find something for all ages and abilities to enjoy along the water's edge. See what wildlife you can spot, try your hand at fishing, follow the reservoir trails on two wheels, enjoy a relaxing picnic, or even take to the water with a range of water sports.

Go underground at Killhope Lead Mining Museum

Visitors can enjoy free entry to Killhope Lead Mining Museum this summer, where you can discover what life was like for the 19th Century lead miners of the North Pennines. Step into the darkness on an underground mine trip, explore the fascinating exhibitions, including the new addition - the Weardale Tub, or look for lead ore and minerals on the washing floor.

Plus keep your eyes peeled as you explore the historic site, as it's home to the rare red squirrel who can be seen regularly in Killhope’s wonderful woodland throughout summer.  

The Flying Scotsman at Locomotion and a drawing of Clara the Rhino

Locomotion welcomes the Flying Scotsman 

The World famous steam locomotive Flying Scotsman will be visiting Locomotion this summer and will be the only chance to see the Flying Scotsman up close in the North East in 2021. The record-breaking A3 class Pacific locomotive, no. 60103 will go on display at Locomotion from 28 July to 17 August.

Positioned outside the main visitor hall, visitors will be able to get up close to the famous engine and take photos of the Flying Scotsman nameplate. Plus you can enjoy free, daily environmentally-themed family learning activities throughout the school summer holidays. 

Meet Clara the rhinoceros at The Bowes Museum

This summer visitors to The Bowes Museum will have the chance to meet Clara – once the most famous rhinoceros in the world.  See, hear and even smell what life was like for her in the Adventures of Clara exhibition open until 31 October.

This interactive fun family exhibition follows the story of Clara, an Indian rhinoceros who travelled from her home in India to Europe in the 18th century, creating a sensation wherever she went, inspiring paintings, songs, poems and sculptures. This exciting exhibition features two immersive trails, where you can fill in a special passport with stickers of Clara’s friends as you follow the trails inside the museum and in the grounds. 

LIGHT art installation at Durham Cathedral and the grounds of Ushaw, historic house, chapels and gardens

See the LIGHT at Durham Cathedral

Step inside Durham Cathedral this summer and you will be greeted with LIGHT - Chris Levine’s immersive art installation. The stunning artwork will welcome visitors as they pass through the 12th century Galilee Chapel, virtually bathing in light, symbolic of the medieval tradition of foot washing as pilgrims arrive at their destination. 

See what you can discover across Ushaw, Historic House, Chapels and Garden’s majestic estate 

Ushaw’s 500 acre estate will be filled with music, fun and laughter this summer with an amazing programme of events and activities for all to enjoy. Sing along to live music most weekends with Sounds on the Bounds, wrap up warm and watch a movie as the sunsets at the outdoor cinema, see retro vehicles at the Classic Car Show, or take your pick from lots of family-friendly events including forest school, mad hatter tea parties, and crafternoons.

crowd watching live music at Hardwick Live festival and inside Durham Castle chapel

Sit back, relax and let us entertain you

Throughout the summer you'll find a packed programme of live entertainment to enjoy. Horrible Histories is heading to Wharton Park’s amphitheatre for some gruesome good fun on 23 and 24 July , Billy Shakes: Wonder Boy will be touring different outdoor venues across the county, Hardwick Live festival returns on 21-22 August, and the Emirates Riverside stadium will come alive with large scale live musical performances

Check out our latest blog with more highlights of live events to enjoy this summer.  

Step inside Durham Castle

The gates of Durham Castle will be re-opening for self-guided visits from Tuesday 20 July. Sitting at the heart of Durham's World Heritage Site, you can explore Durham Castle and its 1,000-year history at your own pace, with knowledgeable guides and volunteers on hand to answer any questions. All tours must be pre-booked before arrival, various times available.

couple walking through a flowery field in the Durham Dales and family walking along beach

Stride out on ancient pilgrimage trails

Follow in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims as you explore the Northern Saints Trails – hundreds of miles of walking trails inspired by the stories of Northern Saints. Escape the everyday and lose yourself in the rugged beauty of our incredible region with trails taking you through breathtaking landscapes, picture-perfect villages and amazing attractions – like the majestic Durham Cathedral.

Sunny seaside days out

"Oh! We do like to be beside the seaside! We do like to be beside the sea!" What better way to spend a summer day than by the sea? All along the Durham Heritage Coast you’ll find amazing beaches, walking trails and real hidden gems to enjoy throughout the summer. 
Collect the world-famous Seaham Sea Glass, treat yourself to traditional fish ‘n’ chips or a refreshing ice cream, build a sandcastle, and see what wildlife you can spot as you walk along the clifftop coastal path. 

family walking across road at Beamish Museum and man eating food at Seaham Food Festival

Travel back in time at Beamish, The Living Museum of The North

Enjoy good old fashioned fun at Beamish Museum this summer with den building, teddy bear trail and traditional live music. Throughout the summer adults and children alike can experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of times gone by with an incredible line up of fun-filled activities every day, from 17 July to 31 August. From ice cream making and adventurous play to Georgian games and croquet in the park, there’ll be lots for everyone to see and do.

Treat yourself to a taste of Durham

Let someone else do the cooking (and the washing up!) this summer by enjoying a taste of Durham. From visiting #tastedurham award-winning restaurants, to tasty pub grub, bustling farmers markets, there’s lots of ways to treat yourself to delicious local produce and home cooked meals in Durham. 

Plus save the date for the return of Seaham Food Festival on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 August. There’ll be a host of tasty treats from around 100 traders and local producers, plus live demonstrations from famous TV Chefs, amazing family entertainment, outdoor theatre, and live music.

Inside Roman Baths at Binchester Roman Fort and red squirrels

Uncover ancient Roman life at Binchester Roman Fort

Discover what life was like for the Romans who lived in Durham thousands of years ago. Known to the Romans as Vinovia, Binchester Roman Fort was founded around 80AD and was once one of the largest Roman military installations in Northern Britain.

Walk in the footsteps of Roman soldiers within the remains of the commanding officer's house and see the impressive remains of two bath-houses. One of which contains one of the best preserved examples of a hypocaust (underfloor heating system) in the whole of Britain.

Plus nearby Bishop Auckland Town Hall you can visit - Gladiators: A Cemetery of Secrets - a Touring Exhibition by The JORVIK Group. Get a close up look at fascinating archaeological finds, including the skeletal remains of two men which were unearthed in a York Roman-age cemetery in 2004. Were the men soldiers, criminals, slaves or gladiators? Uncover the mystery and learn more about everyday Roman life at this fascinating exhibition. 

Wildlife watching in Durham great outdoors

The Durham Dales and North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and UNESCO Global Geopark is a haven for wildlife and nature, come rain or shine, wonderful days await outdoors this summer. From challenging cycle rides, to peaceful countryside strolls, incredible natural wonders and wildlife watching, you’ll be spoilt for choice for outdoor activities. 

Why not download our wildlife watcher checklist and see how many animals you can spot when outside exploring the Dales. Don’t forgot to check out our online nature and wildlife calendar to see what summertime wonders you can see in Durham’s great outdoors.  

You'll find lots of exciting experiences to enjoy this summer in Durham on our #EscapeTheEveryday page. 

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