If you’re looking for castles, cathedrals and coastline, look no further – Durham has them all. This elegant cathedral city can be traced all the way back to the 12th century and is just brimming with fascinating legends and history.

The lively local community is bolstered by some 20,000 students attending Durham University and the city centre is full of vibrant independent bars, restaurants, cafés
and shops.

With the dramatic sandflats of Seaham Beach to the east and the rolling countryside of the North Pennines to the west, Durham is perfectly placed for exploring the beautiful north-east.

Seaham Beach
Take a quiet stroll on the sands at Seaham Beach

Places to stay for a trip to Durham

Durham Grange Club Campsite is a family-friendly park that is just three miles from Durham’s centre, and offers spacious pitches near woodland walks.

Alternatively, you could try Finchale Abbey Touring Park if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet. About four miles outside Durham, this adults-only campsite is home to the splendid ruins of Finchale Abbey.

Another option is Strawberry Hill Farm – this pretty site, 15 minutes’ drive from the city, has a tea room, a children’s play area and a well-stocked shop.

Take a look at our best motorhome sites in North-East England if you’re thinking of heading to other areas in the region too.

What to do in Durham on Day 1

9am – Cathedral city

Steeped in history, Durham is studded with interesting heritage sites. A great way to start your trip is with a visit to the magnificent Durham Cathedral, set in the heart of the River Wear’s loop.

Dating back to 1093 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral is home to unique architecture and artifacts.

Shrine of St Cuthbert
Durham’s magnificent medieval cathedral houses the Shrine of St Cuthbert

Harry Potter fans will recognise The Cloister from the first two films, and visitors can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city from the tower.

11am – Off to market

In the nearby town centre is Durham Market Place, where you can get a taste of local life in the Market Hall. Grab coffee and cake at one of the stalls and pause to admire the town square.

Market Place
Wander among the shops and stalls of the bustling Market Place

1pm – Lunch break

Tucked away off Saddler Street, Cafédral is a firm favourite among locals and tourists. This charming café serves a simple menu of paninis, soups and salads, as well as coffee, homemade cake and scones.

3pm – Norman castle

A short walk away on cobbled streets is Durham Castle. This spectacular Norman fortification, originally built for William the Conqueror, dates back to 1072.

The castle is now home to many lucky Durham University staff and students. Lively guided tours (£5 for adults, free for under-16s) reveal the fascinating history of the beautifully preserved building.

Durham Castle
The Norman castle, former home of the bishops of Durham, now houses university staff and students

5.30pm – Over the bridge

Take a stroll across the 15th-century Framwellgate Bridge to The Curious Mr Fox, where you can enjoy an early dinner. This welcoming restaurant offers modern European dishes, alongside an excellent choice of cocktails.

7.30pm – Curtain up!

Head into the old town to the Assembly Rooms Theatre, an intimate performing arts centre. This 17th-century former ballroom hosts touring productions and often has performances in the evenings.

What to do on Day 2

10am – Serene gardens

Time for a breath of fresh air in beautiful Crook Hall Gardens. This house has been part of Durham’s story since the 1300s. Now, visitors can view parts of the mediaeval hall and wander the network of gardens, each with its own style.

Changing with the seasons, there is plenty to see, including the serene moat pool, walled gardens and a maze. Open for winter weekends, adult tickets cost £8, children, £4.

12pm – Pause for a pint

A scenic 10-minute walk downriver, you’ll find The Head of Steam, a vibrant pub specialising in local craft beer and ale. Their menu is as diverse as the pub itself, with some fantastic vegan options and plenty of choice.

2pm – Afternoon stroll

If you found yourself unable to resist The Head of Steam’s extensive beer offering, you could always walk it off along the city’s riverside footpath.

Link up with the trail at Framwellgate Bridge, a few minutes away, then wander along by the river, taking in the fine views of the cathedral and the weir.

Now cross over the 18th-century Prebends Bridge and follow the path around to the right, and you’ll soon stumble across The Count’s House, a Grecian-style folly built in the 1820s and named after Polish entertainer ‘Count’ Joseph Boruwlaski.

4pm – Historic museums

Continue along the path up to Kingsgate Bridge and you’ll be in the perfect place to visit Durham Museum and Heritage Centre and Durham University Museum of Archaeology. Between them, these two small museums chart the great city’s history from prehistoric times to the 20th century, with a selection of fascinating exhibits and artifacts.

6pm – Buon appetito!

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, you can enjoy an indulgent dinner at La Spaghettata. This excellent Italian restaurant is full of charm, offering a menu of pasta, pizza and specials.

After your meal, why not head to Durham’s smallest bar, Tin of Sardines, for one of its specialist gins? A great way to complete your weekend.

Where to eat in Durham

Lead image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wondering where else you can head to for a weekend getaway? Then head to our Best of British: Weekends Away section, for more great ideas!

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