When it comes to Durham, no one knows the county better than the people who live here. That's why we asked Durham's residents to share with us what they love about our amazing county, to uncover Durham's many hidden gems. 

From relaxing walks, to rowing boats along the River Wear, wildlife watching, and water sports, check out our handy guide to the top activities and attractions for outdoor adventures in Durham, as nominated by the county's residents. 

couple in rowing boat on River Wear, Durham City

Boating on the River Wear, Durham City

Since the 1900’s Brown’s Rowing Boats has been the place to hire a traditional rowing boat. Whether it’s a treat for all the family or a romantic afternoon, hiring a row boat is a great way to soak up the sights of historic Durham City as you leisurely row along the River Wear.

group of children collecting sea glass on Seaham Beach

Collecting Seaham sea glass

The lively harbour town of Seaham is found on the Durham Heritage Coast and is world-famous for its abundance of unique sea glass, which people travel from far and wide for a chance to collect. No matter what time of year you visit Seaham Beach, you’re certain to spot visitors and locals alike stooped over hunting for sea glass.

Check out our dedicated blog for top tips on how to find Seaham’s famous sea glass

family walking through grounds at Durham University's botanic garden

Durham University’s Botanic Garden

A tranquil oasis nestled in woodland in historic Durham City, across the 10 hectare site certain to find something new around every corner. Explore wonderful woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, filled with plants from around the world and incredible artwork. 

Finchale Priory

Finchale Priory

On the outskirts of Durham City you’ll find the tranquil setting of the ruins of Finchale Priory, overlooking the River Wear. Founded in 1196, the once grand priory was an outpost of Durham Cathedral and was used as a holiday retreat for the monks of Durham, now it’s a wonderful place to enjoy a peaceful walk or picnic.  

boy and girl enjoying donkey ride at Hall Hill Farm

Hall Hill Farm

From feeding and petting animals, to farmyard rides, play parks and cosy on-site cafes - You’re certain to have an unforgettable day meeting many new furry friends at Hall Hill Farm – a definite family-friendly must-visit attraction, especially for those with little ones.

couple walking dog in Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest

From exciting outdoor play and interactive woodland trails, to relaxing dog-friendly walks, miles of horse riding trails and some of the UK's best cycling and mountain bike routes. There’s something for all ages and abilities to enjoy at Hamsterley Forest. 

Hardwick Country Park during autumn with blue sky

Hardwick Country Park

Harrdwick Country Park is a park with a difference, a VisitEngland accredited attraction, and a great place to visit at any time of the year. Enjoy a relaxing bike ride through the 18th Century park’s beautifully landscaped grounds or follow one of the park’s many nature trails. And remember to keep your eyes peeled for the resident Gruffalo sculpture.

Hawthorn Dene courtesy of the Durham Heritage Coast

Hawthorn Dene

A real hidden gem nestled away on the Durham Heritage Coast, Hawthorn Dene is the county’s second largest coastal dene and is a site of special interest. Here you can enjoy a tranquil walk through ancient woodlands down to the sea, where the dene opens out under the impressive Edwardian railway viaduct onto Hawthorn Hive.

low barns nature reserve

Low Barns Nature Reserve

A must-visit site for bird watchers and wildlife lovers alike, the peaceful Low Barns Nature Reserve is one of Durham’s most important wildlife sites The 47 hectare site overlooks the River Wear, where you’ll find plenty of stopping points to sit back, relax and take in the beautiful views of the reserve’s woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands.

family bike ride at Raby Castle

Raby Castle Park and Gardens

The magnificent grounds of Raby Castle are open throughout the year for relaxing walks and bike rides. Here you can explore the 18th century walled gardens, and 200-acre deer park – home to Red and Fallow Deer, and mighty Longhorn Cattle. Grab a warm drink from the Stables Café and head out to enjoy the views of the ancient castle and surrounding picturesque countryside.

Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve

Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve

Get outside and back to nature at Rainton Meadows. Home to over 200 species of birds which can be viewed from the many lookout points across the lakes, wetlands and woodland, Rainton Meadows is only a short drive from Durham City. Also home to a popular coffee shop serving tasty food and warming drinks to enjoy after a refreshing wildlife watching walk.   

sunrise at Seaham Harbour Marina

Sea swimming at Seaham Harbour Marina, Slope Beach.

The sheltered Slope Beach is a popular spot for sea swimming, especially during the warmer summer months when you'll find many families enjoying a day out at the beach. At the marina you'll find ample car parking alongside seaside gift shops and many wonderful eateries, a great spot for a family day out by the sea. But even in the cooler winter months, you'll still spot a few brave souls taking an invigorating dip in the North Sea.

family enjoying water sports at the TCR Hub, Barnard Castle

TCR Hub, Barnard Castle

No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find a bustling hub of activities and events to enjoy at the TCR Hub. No matter what your age or ability, there’s lots of wild activities to try out. Test your physical and mental strength on the high ropes course, learn to canoe or kayak, or hit the target with archery. 

grounds of Ushaw historic house, chapels and gardens

Ushaw Historic House, Chapels & Gardens

The grounds of Ushaw Historic House and Chapels truly is a brilliant place to lose yourself. Throughout the year the 30-acre parkland, gardens and woodland come alive with a fantastic programme of events and amazing exhibitions. Plus you’ll find wonderful walking trails where you can admire the views of the beautiful landscaped formal gardens. 

children enjoying water sports at Weardale Adventure Centre

Weardale Adventure Centre

If you’re looking for outdoor adventures in Durham’s great outdoors, Weardale Adventure Centre is the place to be. Learn paddling skills on the River Wear, try out gorge walking, go underground and reach new heights rock climbing. There’s so many activities to choose from. 

Other outdoor spots locals recommend for an adventure with a difference include -

  • A round of golf at Ramside Hall
  • Broom House Farm Forest Adventure
  • Durham Archery Lawn Tennis Club
  • Jubilee Park, Spennymoor
  • Shincliffe Play Park
  • Nature's Edge CIC, Burnhope
  • Old Durham Gardens, Durham City
  • Rock Pooling along the Durham Heritage Coast, Blackhall Beach is a great spot 

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