The hotel is really well-positioned about 10 to 15 minutes from the city centre in a quiet spot next to the river.
Radisson Blu Hotel Durham
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.
Our Edwardian family photo
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.
High Force 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.
Address: Durham Cathedral, Palace Green Town Centre, Durham, DH1 3EP.
Palace Green Library (Durham City)
Also in the city, near to the cathedral’s main entrance on the Green, is this small museum.
It contains treasures detailing the history of Durham dating back more than 2,000 years. There are also rooms dedicated to the history of the Durham Light Infantry and another with information about Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage status.
Palace Green Library
And there’s a children’s trail you can collect at reception for them to do.
You can hire traditional, hand-made rowing boats to explore the River Wear from Browns Boats. The river is nice and wide so ideal even for novice rowers.
The team at Browns will give you advice and guidance on where to go and how to row safely before you get on board.
The boats have one seat at the front and two at the back with the oarsman in the middle.
In an hour you have time to head in both directions along the river.
Cost: Adults £8, children £5 (plus £10 refundable deposit).
Address: Browns Boats, The Boathouse, Elvet Bridge, Durham, DH1 3AF.
Dig for Sea Glass at Seaham Hall beach (Durham Heritage Coast)
It’s a strange sight to arrive at the beach at Seaham Hall, everyone is either stooping over as they walk or sitting and digging at the sand.
They are hunting for sea glass and it’s strangely addictive.
So, what is sea glass? It is coloured gems found along the shore.
They are formed from bottles, jars and other discarded glass which have been weathered, smoothed and rounded into frosted glass.
Our haul was mostly green and white in colour but there was the odd blue, yellow and even pink find.
Parking: There are steps down to the beach from the free car park above.
Address: Seaham Hall Beach Car Park, SR7 7AF.
Locomotion railway museum (South Durham)
Locomotion museum has all sorts of different trains from the national collection of railway vehicles.
It’s in the town of Shildon, which was the world’s first railway town.
Highlights include peeking inside a Royal Train which carried Edward VII’s wife and a game where you test your reaction times on railway signals.
Looking at the royal carriage
There are locomotives from different eras from the 1830s onwards with a huge variety including cattle carriages, 19th century fire engines and more.
Food: There is a small cafe but you can also bring picnics to eat inside or out.
Cost: Parking and entrance to the museum is free.
Address: Locomotion, Shildon, County Durham, DL4 2RE.
Beamish (North Durham)
Beamish is a living, working museum, where the staff are dressed up to bring to life people and places from the past.
You can experience life in the 1820s, walk around a 1900’s town, a 1900’s pit village, a 1940’s farm and a 1950’s town.
Our highlights included dressing up for an Edwardian family portrait and our daughter having her hair styled in a 1950’s hair salon.
You can get around the sprawling site by tram or old-fashioned bus and buy food from places like an Edwardian bakery or a 1900’s sweet shop.
Tickets are booked in time slots at 10am, 11am and 12noon, try to get 10am as it seemed to get busier later. If you arrive after 1pm you don’t need to reserve a timeslot. We were among the first to enter and went straight to the hair salon first for our daughter and managed to get an appointment straight away.
Food: There are various takeaway and sit-in places to eat, we bought some delicious savoury pastries from a takeaway in the mining village.
Cost: Payment includes membership for a year, it costs £21 per adult, £15.50 for students and seniors aged 60 plus and £12 for children (aged 5 to 16). Family reductions start at £37 for one adult and two children.
Address: Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG.
Raby Castle (Durham Dales)
This is one of England’s best medieval castles and was built in the 14th century.
The grounds of Raby Castle include a scenic deer park with lakes.
A real highlight here is The Plotters’ Forest, a woodland adventure playground for children.
Food: Take a picnic or enjoy lunch or a snack at the Yurt Cafe.