We take our children on a fantastic short break to Durham city and county
There aren’t many places where you can enjoy an historic city, visit the beach and explore dramatic countryside all in one day.
But you can in Durham where we began an action-packed short break with a trip to the sea at Seaham.
A striking stretch of sand where the main attraction is what’s washed up by the incoming water.
The beach is famous for its sea glass with dozens of hunters at a time scouring the sand for tiny bits of the precious material.
We found searching for sea glass strangely addictive – within a few minutes all four of us had joined everyone else on our hands and knees looking for it.
It wasn’t so tricky to find the main attraction at another of our early stops – Locomotion railway museum.
This home to trains of all shapes and sizes in Shildon – Britain’s first railway town – is a free attraction.
Also free to visit – though you are encouraged to donate £5 per person – is the striking Durham Cathedral.
The incredible 11th century building stands over the city, its three towers regularly visible as you stroll the riverside and the cobbled streets.
Inside, you can learn about the history of the building and, if you’re fit enough and eight years old or over, you can climb the 325 steps to the top for views over the city.
The spiral staircase gets increasingly narrow at the top but makes for an exhilarating destination when you step out onto the roof.
The busy cathedral is also a great place for Harry Potter fans with several scenes from the first two movies filmed there. You can stroll the cloisters where Harry, Ron and Hermione walked.
Apparently, the scene where Ron’s spell backfires and he starts throwing up slugs was filmed here (find out more in our video below).
If the thought of this doesn’t put you off your lunch, you can buy something to eat and drink from the Undercroft cafe and eat it opposite the atmospheric square.
Thanks to its compact size, Durham is an excellent city to walk around – with riverside strolls and car-free cobbled streets.
We even managed to get out on the water when we hired a traditional rowing boat from Browns Boats.
The hand-made boats fit a family of four and you can spend an hour exploring both directions on the River Wear.
The sweeping, wide waters of the river were visible from our hotel – the Radisson Blu – read our hotel review and guide.
The hotel is really well-positioned about 10 to 15 minutes from the city centre in a quiet spot next to the river.
It’s idea for families – our large, modern family room contained two TVs and excellent WiFi.
Its indoor swimming pool is a real bonus for children and we used it every day. And parents can enjoy the jacuzzi, sauna or a spa treatment if they’re lucky.
However, for us there was too much to do to spend long relaxing.
We even managed to take a trip back in time at Beamish – the living museum of the north.
This popular day out is great fun for all the family as you travel by tram or old bus to different eras.
We visited the 1950s, 1940s, 1910s and 1820s with a cast of staff and volunteers in period costume manning traditional bakeries, sweet shops and hairdressers.
Particular highlights for us was our daughter getting a 1950’s hair-do and having a family photo in Edwardian outfits.
The museum is on a large site in lovely countryside with woodland walks between some of the different attractions.
But we had to wait until our last day to fully explore County Durham’s countryside.
Heading inland, our destination was the Northern Pennines. On the edge of the hills lies Raby Castle – a beautiful castle with deer park to explore and a new play area called Potters Forest with a wooden assault course for adults and children to explore.
Our final stop was England’s highest waterfall.
A few miles outside the pretty village of Middleton-in-Teesdale lies High Force.
You can buy a ticket and snacks at a kiosk next to the High Force Hotel and then set off towards the waterfall.
An accessible 15-minute walk brings the gushing water into view. It is a spectacular sight and you can get right down onto the rocks near the waterfall.
Once you’ve enjoyed the sight and sound of High Force, the trail takes you through woodland back to the car park – but don’t forget to keep an eye out for the wooden carvings of people and animals on the route.
A visit to High Force makes for a suitably spectacular end to a wonderful mini-break with a little bit of everything.
More details on the all the attractions we visited here: Best places to visit around the English city of Durham and the wider county
This is Durham
For more great ideas, visit the county’s official tourism website This is Durham.
Telephone: 03000 26 26 26
RELATED STORY: Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham City Centre – review and guide
(We received complimentary accommodation and entry to attractions for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).