What to see and do in Durham, UK?
September 11, 2019 1:28 AM   Subscribe

Going to Durham for a couple of days. I know about the museum, the castle and the cathedral. What else is interesting locally? Wandering around is good; history, archaeology, books, art, gardens, quietish places to eat or have coffee. We will have a car so could go out of the city, but probably don't want to go too far.
posted by paduasoy to Travel & Transportation around Durham, England (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Beamish Open Air Museum is a magnificent repository of local industrial and social history
posted by el_presidente at 2:58 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Seconding Beamish. If you're there this weekend the Agricultural Show is on.
North Sea coastline is scenic, cleaner than beaches in the South and reachable by car, if you like blustery and bracing walks. Seaham is one idea, but there are plenty of other good spots.
If you like peaceful woods, even just a long circular walk around the Wear river which snakes through Durham is a good use of a couple of hours.
Hidden archaeological gem: the Norman chapel underneath the castle is something special.
Climb the Cathedral tower if you can, views are great. Oh and Vennels for a peaceful courtyard cafe (gets busy on weekends though)
Have a lovely time!
posted by Flora Poste at 4:21 AM on September 11, 2019

Depending how far you do or do not want to go, you are close to the Penines. Half hour's drive gets you to the Weardale Railway which might be nice if it's running that day. An hour's drive would get you somewhere like the Killhope Lead Mining Museum which is interesting enough on its own and gives you somewhere to use a base to wander.

If the weather is good, I highly recommend a morning or afternoon peeking around the Penines. If it's cold and windy and rainy, not so much.
posted by humuhumu at 5:48 AM on September 11, 2019

Kynren (warning: site has autoplaying sound) is a great open-air show about the history of England as a whole and the North East in particular, with a cast of thousands of local volunteers, light shows, animals, special effects and the like. It's located at a purpose-built arena at Bishop Auckland, which is very close to Durham. It runs over the summer and closes this coming Saturday night, though.

If you're heading as far up as Killhope and you like walking, the whole area around the North Pennines AONB is one of the most beautiful and least visited parts of England - it's one of the few places in England where you can experience genuine remoteness. It's quite a long drive if you're only there a couple of days, though.
posted by winterhill at 5:57 AM on September 11, 2019

There's the Crook Hall gardens http://crookhallgardens.co.uk/gardens/, and Durham Uni has a public botanical garden- both of those are walkable from the city centre.
posted by Shark Hat at 1:40 PM on September 11, 2019

Here's a great walk along the coast that brings you to an utterly charming village called Low Newton. Eat a stottie for lunch at the Ship, a pub on the green. One hour's drive from Durham.
posted by Morpeth at 1:42 PM on September 11, 2019

Thank you, everyone. Beamish was a big hit and we spent the entire opening hours of one day there. We also saw the castle undercroft. Were going to go to Vennels but found another quiet café, Cafedral. Kynren sounds great but was over when we were there. The walks would have been a bit too much as we had someone with walking difficulties, but maybe another time.
posted by paduasoy at 7:24 AM on September 20, 2019

Came back to recommend a book I've come across since my visit: Mollie's Choice, by Helen Barber, set in the 1920s at a fictionalised version of Durham Girls' County Grammar School.
posted by paduasoy at 8:38 AM on November 21, 2019

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