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. 

With the help of Durham's residents we've pulled together a guide to the places locals love to spend the day exploring.

left to right - inside Auckland Castle, family on ride at Adventure Valley and group looking up at Auckland Tower

Auckland Castle

Part of The Auckland Project, Auckland Castle is the former home of the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham. Discover hundreds of years of history hidden within the walls, and walk the northern corridors of power and let the Prince Bishops tell you their stories.

Adventure Valley

A fun-filled day out awaits at the biggest adventure park in the North East. With six huge play zones to discover, farmyard fun and masses of indoor and outdoor spaces to explore, Adventure Valley is a fun-filled day out for all ages.

Auckland Tower

Auckland Tower, part of The Auckland Project, is a striking building that sits proudly in the heart of the historic market town of Barnard Castle. Get a birds eye view of The Auckland Project and pick up everything you’ll need to explore its galleries, gardens, parkland and events.

left to right - couple walking at Barnard Castle, tram at Beamish Museum and Binchester Roman Fort

Barnard Castle

In the market town which bears the same name you will find the fascinating ruins of Barnard Castle. Now an English Heritage property, watch out for Richard III’s boar emblem carving and explore the remains of the great hall, 3-storey keep and circular round tower which inspired Sir Walter Scott.

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

A firm favourite with residents and visitors alike, this multi award-winning open air museum will transport you back in time. Discover the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of times gone by as you become emersed in real, living history, and experience life in the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and 1950s.

Binchester Roman Fort

Take a step back in time to when the Roman's roamed the county at this hidden gem loved by locals. See the impressive remains of the Commandant's house and neighbouring bath-house, which contains one of the best preserved examples of a hypocaust (underfloor heating system) in Britain. 

left to right - family walking through Durham Botanic Garden, broom house farm forest and couple on top of Durham Cathedral central tower

Botanic Garden

The Durham University Botanic Garden is a delight no matter what the season. Stroll through the Alpine Garden, Winter Garden, Bamboo Grove, Woodland Garden and wild flower meadow and discover something new around every corner.

Broom House Farm

With its Farm Shop, Coffee Shop and Forest Adventure, Broom House is a fantastic day out for all the family. Kids will love letting off some steam in the Forest Adventure, with its nature trails and woodland challenges. Refuel with tempting cakes and home-cooked meals, and then stock up on fantastic food to take home. 

Durham Cathedral Central Tower

One of the many highlights of Durham Cathedral is the Central Tower, which, after taking on the challenge of the 325 steps, will reward you with incredible views of the historic city and beyond.

left to right - family looking at stained glass window inside Durham Cathedral, exterior or Durham Castle and family feed goat at Hall Hill Farm

Durham Cathedral

One of Britain's best-loved buildings, Durham Cathedral together with Durham Castle forms Durham's world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. A building certain to take your breath away, step inside to discover incredible architecture, fascinating history, and a blockbuster film location or two!

Durham Castle

Part of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site, and together with Durham Cathedral forming one of the most stunning city panoramas in Europe, Durham Castle was built in the 11th century on the order of William the Conqueror. Now a college of Durham University, take a tour to discover the fascinating history of this Norman fortress. 

Hall Hill Farm

What could be better than family fun in the fresh air, with lots of furry (and some not so furry!) animals to meet. Hall Hill Farm is an award-winning farm attraction where children can take a tractor and trailer ride, bottle feed lambs, enjoy a donkey ride and let off some steam in the indoor soft play barn.

Hamsterley Forest

Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life at Durham's largest forest. A magnet for mountain bikers, you will find trails for abilities. Watch out for wonderful wildlife as you cycle or stroll, or look out for the Gruffalo as you follow the trail in the deep, dark wood.

left to right - two women walking dogs in Hamsterley Forest, Locomotion Museum and Lanchester Garden Centre


Head to the world's first railway town, Shildon, to discover the important role Durham played in the development of the railways at Locomotion. Packed with highlights from the national collection of railway vehicles, a visit to this fascinating museum will get you on the right for a great day out!

Lanchester Garden Centre

Not just a garden centre, but a great day out for the whole family. In addition to plenty of plants for the green-fingered, you’ll find a restaurant serving delicious dishes, children’s play area, aquarium and tropical village.

left to right - woman looking at painting inside Mining Art Gallery, Exterior shot of Weardale Museum and family inside Durham oriental Museum

Mining Art Gallery

Part of The Auckland Project, this stunning gallery showcases works by prominent artists, many of whom were local to the area, including Tom McGuinness and Norman Cornish. Get a truly unique insight in to the life of the coal miner, above and below ground.

Weardale Museum

Another hidden gem loved by locals, the Weardale Museum is surrounded by stunning Durham Dales scenery and is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Weardale and its people. Step inside this volunteer-run attraction where the history of this special place is brought to life.

Oriental Museum

The Durham University Oriental Museum is another hidden gem loved by locals, and the only museum of its kind in northern England. Discover world-class collections from North Africa to Southeast Asia, and watch out for the ancient Egyptian mummy!

left to right - family walk through garden at Raby Castle, Prince Bishop River Cruiser and exterior shot of Bowes Museum

Raby Castle

Raby Castle is one of England's finest medieval castles, and beyond its dramatic exterior you will discover stunning interiors, fine art and furniture. Stroll through the 250 acre Deer Park and glorious 18th century Walled Gardens to enjoy the estate in all its glory.

Prince Bishop River Cruiser

See historic Durham City from a new angle as you board the Prince Bishop River Cruiser for a journey along the River Wear. Enjoy spectacular views of Durham Cathedral and Castle, and discover more about the city's fascinating history.

The Bowes Museum

The North's Museum of Art, Fashion and Design. The Bowes Museum is a building as breathtaking as the exhibits within. Stroll through stunning themed galleries displaying paintings by Old Masters, textiles and ceramics, and watch in awe as you see the magical movements of the Silver Swan, which has been charming its audience since the 1700s.

left to right - steam train at Tanfield Railway and exterior shot of Ushaw, Historic House, Chapels and Gardens

Tanfield Railway

Step aboard the world's oldest railway and take a steam train ride back in time. Hauled by a lovingly restored industrial steam engine, you'll take a seat on a recreated colliery carriage. Stop off at Causey station and walk across Causey Arch, the world's oldest railway bridge.

Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens

Loved by locals, you will find this hidden gem on the outskirts of Durham City. Discover incredible architecture, stroll through the surrounding park and woodland, and enjoy a packed programme of events throughout the year.

Other attractions locals love include – 

  • Holmeside Park, Chester-le-Street        
  • Infinite Air, Belmont, Durham City
  • Ruff n Tumble Adventure World, Newton Aycliffe

You can view more of the county's incredible attractions on our dedicated attractions in Durham page. 




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