The best things to do in County Durham


Posted by Hannah Jury on 18th May 2023

Durham Castle and Cathedral

Gifted with natural beauty, ancient history and a variety of great places to visit, County Durham is a diverse place with something to offer everyone. 

With so many different things to see and do, it can be hard to decide what to pack into a week’s holiday, so we’ve picked some of our favourite places to go near our County Durham cottages. The list below ranges from family-friendly attractions to living museums – there are some great options here for all kinds of visitors.

And when you've decided what you're going to do on your holiday, start searching for a cottage nearby.

County Durham cottages

Broom House Farm

Broom House Farm

This charming farmstead has something to discover both inside and out. Visitors of all ages will love getting in touch with their wild side on the Forest Adventure, where you can run through the woodlands, climb tall towers, whizz down zip lines, and slides and crawl through tunnels.

After a few hours of wearing yourselves out, head to the café for delicious cakes and freshly ground coffee, or buy some local produce and meat reared on site to take home from the farm shop and butchery.

Visitor information

  • Free parking available
  • Pushchair and wheelchair friendly – carers go free
  • Dogs welcome on the lead
  • Price: The farm is free; Forest Adventure £6.50 per person aged 2 and over
  • Cafe, shop and picnic area on site
  • Toilets and baby changing facilities available
  • Opening times: Forest Adventure 10am-4pm (summer only); Farm Shop Tuesday to Saturday 9am-5pm; coffee shop Tuesday to Sunday 9am-5pm (kitchen closes at 3.30pm
  • Stay nearby: Bed In The Shed | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Beamish Museum

Beamish Museum

This enormous attraction calls itself ‘the living museum of the North’ and is a living, breathing testament to times past. Walk the streets of Northern England as they would have been over two hundred years ago in 1820s Pockerley, and discover what life was like in a 1900s town, a 1940s farm and a 1900s pit village.

Ride the historic tramway, or shop Edwardian-style in the town, while in the cafés and restaurants, you can enjoy a variety of traditional meals and treats.

Visitor information

  • Free parking available
  • Pushchair and wheelchair friendly – carers go free; wheelchair-accessible vehicle available
  • Dogs welcome on the lead – please see guidelines
  • Price: Adults £22.50, children aged 5-16 £13, seniors (60+) £16.50, students £16.50, family tickets from £38.50
  • Shops, cafes and restaurants on site
  • Toilets and baby changing facilities available
  • Opening times: Open between April and November 10am-5pm
  • Stay nearby: Gracie's Cottage | Sleeps 2

Clay pigeon shooting

Carrs Farm

Offering stunning views of Weardale as well as a plethora of exciting (or relaxing) activities, Carrs Farm is the perfect place to go with friends or family to let off some steam in picturesque surroundings.

There are gentle activities such as rambling, bird watching, clay pigeon shooting and archery for those who like a slower pace. And for those who prefer a little more adrenaline, the farm offers paintball, zorbing, white water rafting, rock climbing and even skiing – plenty for everyone.

Visitor information

Axe throwing

Valhalla North Axe Throwing

As the only IATF (International Axe Throwing Federation) venue in the north of the UK, Valhalla North offers days out like no other. 2023 sees the first annual IATF UK Open taking place here and with league matches on most nights of the week, you can join and become a regular or just book a slot to test your skills.

With multiple awards and thousands of 5-star reviews on social media and review platforms, Valhalla North proclaim that they are the UK’s number one axe-throwing venue, and it’s hard to argue against that. For fun things to do in Durham, this is right up there, so bring the whole family (suitable for ages 8+) and enjoy a couple of hours of Viking glory.

Visitor information

  • Free parking available
  • Pushchair and wheelchair friendly
  • Tea and coffee are available and there is also a bar
  • Shop selling merchandise and axes
  • Price: From £22 for 90 minutes, see here for more info
  • Opening times: Monday to Thursday 6pm-10pm; Friday 4pm-10pm; Saturday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-6pm
  • Stay nearby: North Farm | Sleeps 14

A family escaping an escape room

Escape Rooms Durham

If, as they often do in the UK, the heavens open and you find yourself in need of rainy-day attractions, look no further than Escape Rooms Durham. This is one of the best places to visit for indoor fun and excitement.

Featuring an escape room inside a 600-year-old castle (as well as numerous other rooms on offer in the city centre), the games here are unique and are not mass-produced, meaning you won’t find these escape rooms anywhere else. The staff has a background in immersive theatre and West End musicals, and they get involved to create a thrilling and engaging experience for all.

Visitor information

  • Free parking at Lumley Castle; use Prince Bishops car park for the city centre
  • Wheelchair accessibility at Lumley Castle only
  • Price: Variable, see here for more information
  • Toilets available
  • Opening times: Click here and scroll to the bottom to see the opening times for both venues
  • Stay nearby: Meadow View House | Sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

DiggerlandImage: Blake Hammond


This digger-themed fun park promises fun for all ages and plenty of chances for you to have a go at operating some diggers yourself. Kids big and small will love driving the JCB diggers and operating the dirt diggers and dumper trucks.

It wouldn’t be Diggerland without a variety of digger-themed rides, which include the Dig-a-round (merry-go-round), Spindizzy, Skyshuttle and digger train ride. Traditional rides such as dodgems are also found on site, as well as a café and picnic areas, meaning you can enjoy the entire day out.

Visitor information

  • Free parking available
  • Pushchair and wheelchair friendly – carers go free
  • Guide and assistance dogs welcome only
  • Price: Depends whether you book in advance or pay on the day – see here
  • Cafe and picnic area on site
  • Toilets and baby changing facilities available
  • Opening times: Seasonal – see website for more details
  • Stay nearby: The Bright Bay 2 | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Raby Castle

Raby Castle

No holiday to County Durham is complete without visiting one of its many spectacular castles, with Raby Castle having something to please both young and old. You can explore the many rooms of this impressive 14th-century castle, which give a fascinating insight into the life of royalty throughout the centuries, including the Medieval Kitchen and the Barons’ Hall, decorated with splendid interiors and wonderful art.

The castle’s exterior, with its towers and fortifications, is just as magnificent. It is also surrounded by a 200-acre deer park, home to red and fallow deer, the perfect place for leisurely strolls and relaxing picnics.

Visitor information

  • Free car parking
  • Grounds partially accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, access is limited inside the castle
  • Dogs are welcome on the lead on the grounds but not within the Plotters' Forest or the castle
  • Prices: See here for various ticket prices
  • Cafe, picnic benches and gift shop on site
  • Toilets available
  • Opening times: Seasonal, between March and October, see website for full details
  • Stay nearby: High Lands Cottage | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

The National Railway MuseumImage: Gillett's Crossing

Locomotion – The National Railway Museum at Shildon

This large railway museum is home to more than 70 vehicles and is situated on the site where the first ever steam-powered passenger train operated in 1825. Locomotion takes you on a journey through the ages of rail history, and railway fanatics will love the huge archive of artefacts, photographs, artwork and more.

Among the attractions at Locomotion are the royal coaches, where you can step onboard and see how royalty, from King Edward VII to Queen Elizabeth II, enjoyed train travel. Rides aboard one of the steam trains are also available at certain times of the year.

Visitor information

  • Free car parking
  • Pushchair and wheelchair friendly
  • Dogs are permitted on the outdoor footpaths, but only guide and assistance dogs welcome elsewhere
  • Prices: Free – donations welcome
  • Cafe, picnic area and gift shop on site
  • Toilets and baby changing facilities available
  • Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm during the summer, 10am-4pm during the winter
  • Stay nearby: Oaklea Cottage | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Walworth Birds of Prey

Walworth Birds of Prey

Get up close with a variety of birds at Walworth Birds of Prey. Enjoy walks through the woodlands, take part in the hunting experience days, watch the fabulous falcon flying displays or have your wedding ring delivered via hawk! Encounter owls, go on a hawk walk, or sit back and take some epic photographs.

They do plenty of off-site experience days too so check their website to find out where they're going to be

Visitor information

  • Free car parking
  • Prices: Private Hunting Day Experience is £250. For individual session prices, see the website and contact David and Tori
  • Opening times: See the website and contact David and Tori
  • Stay nearby: The Walled Garden | Sleeps 12 + 2 dogs

Riverside ParkImage: Steven Cooper

Riverside Park

This large park, found within the town of Chester-le-Street, has plenty to keep everyone entertained and is great for those looking for a free day out. It’s especially great for kids, as it is home to a large play area, with a 16-foot-high castle as its centrepiece, as well as a splash pad that's great for sunny days.

The park’s beautiful gardens are also great for a leisurely stroll, with each area based on a different star or planet, while there are also riverside walks next to the River Wear, with a wildlife area that features a pond and a grassland meadow.

Visitor information

  • Public car park nearby, price starts from 80p
  • Pushchair and wheelchair friendly
  • Dogs welcome – they are allowed off lead along the riverside walk areas, but must be on the lead in the gardens
  • Price: Free
  • Cafe and refreshments kiosk available
  • Toilets and baby changing facilities available
  • Opening times: The park has 24-hour access, the splash pad is open from 10am to 6pm
  • Stay nearby: The Den At The Angel Of The North | Sleeps 4

Self-catering stay in County Durham

If you’ve been inspired to visit this wonderful corner of the North of England, find out more about our Durham holidays by tapping on the button below and start planning your perfect break. From Barnard Castle and Beamish to Waskerley and Wolsingham, we've got a cottage to suit you. Whether you're looking for a dog-friendly retreat for the whole family or a romantic bolthole for two, we can make your County Durham dreams come true.

Explore County Durham

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.