From behind-the-scenes farm tours to dedicated theme parks for kids – and we haven’t even got to Diggerland yet! – the city’s great outdoors has something for everyone. We’ve rounded up just some of the top outdoor activities Durham has to offer.
There’s only one place to start for little ones who love mini-tractors, go-karts and dodgems – Diggerland. Now a franchise with JCB friendly sites across the UK, the Durham branch includes all the aforementioned main attractions, as well as a wide range of diggers big and small. The Diggerland Shuttle gives you panoramic views across the site from 50 feet up and there’s also free parking, a café, picnic areas and a gift shop, which you might struggle to leave without some goodies to take home.
Similarly adventurous (the clue is in the name) is Adventure Valley, another family-focused day out spread over six distinct zones, including a farmyard, soft play, an animal zone and lots more. It’s just a two-mile drive from our Durham North hotel. The largest of the zones is outdoor and includes the Runaway Ranch and its zip-line, Action Creek and its pedal go-karts and super-sized jumping pillows, plus hours of fun to be had indoors if the weather isn’t cooperating thanks to over 18,000 sq feet of indoor play. With a roller disco, theatre, wild west play town and indoor farmyard, you’ll struggle to fit everything into just one visit.
Set in the rolling hills around Durham, Hall Hill Farm is a 290-hectare farm that’s fun for all the family. Animal fans can get up close with baby chicks and help feed some of the animals including the lambs if they’re in season. More adventurous kids will appreciate the tractor rides, crazy golf and barrel train, while parents will definitely appreciate the well-stocked tea room, providing some much needed down time and a decent cup of coffee.
If you’re after some serious natural beauty, then head for the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a landscape filled with rolling dales, swollen rivers and heather moors home to a diverse array of wildlife. A UNESCO Global Geopark, the area stretches from west of Durham up towards Carlisle and down towards Kendal, making it one of the most remote and unspoilt areas in England, and the perfect place for exploring via walks, country drives and bike rides.
Set in the heart of Durham, Crook Hall & Gardens is a Grade I listed medieval hall that boasts a stunning collection of gardens. A perfect spot for afternoon tea (they bake over 30,000 scones a year, so they know a thing or two) or a quick history lesson, the gardens are split into nine distinct areas including the moat pool, the secret walled garden, the orchard, the maze and meadow. Open Sunday to Wednesday, entry is just a few pounds for adults.
Equally sedate is an afternoon trip down the River Wear courtesy of Prince Bishop River Cruises. Offering fantastic views of historic Durham, the 150-capacity hour-long cruise includes a full history tour via the onboard commentary, as well as a sundeck, bar and onboard toilets. Each cruise departs from Browns Boathouse near Elvet Bridge with affordable admission rates for adults and children alike.
If you’d prefer to take your sailing destiny into your own hands, head to Browns Rowing Boats, which since 1900 has been hiring out traditional hand-built rowing boats for romantic soirées, family fun and everything in between. The season runs from mid-March until late September with adult and family tickets including life jackets.
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