What it's like
The county offers some excellent walks and it just gets better as time passes. Its mining past has left a massive footpath network. Old quarries, mining sites etc have been turned into nature reserves or woodland for wildlife and outdoor leisure. Most of the former railway tracks are now very popular footpaths.
The Durham coastline once spoilt by coal waste has been transformed by an investment of millions of pounds and walks can include fascinating coastal denes. Seal Sands near Hartlepool is home to a breeding colony of common seals and a major site for migrating birds.
The rural west of the county is dominated by Teesdale and Weardale which have lovely river walks. Teesdale is famous for its waterfalls but Weardale is also beautiful. The county has no significant lakes but numerous reservoirs provide an attractive substitute. For a good forest walk head for Hamsterley which has some impressive mature trees.
Durham has arguably benefited more than any other English county from the CRoW access laws. Massive areas of upland moor often decked in yellow gorse or purple heather are now available to walkers. Those with navigational skills can enjoy a real wilderness experience crossing these wild lonely spaces, just take care if you encounter old mine shafts. Mountain summits tend to be well rounded but Goldsborough Hill in Baldersdale is quite craggy.
A trip to the area would not be complete without a visit to Durham City and if time allows enjoy a walk in its surrounding countryside.
- Bowlees to Gibson’s Cave, Low Force and High Force There are many fine walks in Teesdale (and Weardale) but this tour of the waterfalls is considered the “classic”.
- Castle Eden Dene and Coastal Path A fine example of a Durham coastal dene which connects to the coastal path. Look out for red squirrel and roe deer.
- Durham city surroundings Fine views of the cathedral and castle and includes a visit to the Botanical Gardens. Return route includes Prebends Bridge, a famous viewpoint painted by Turner (route available from www.countrywalkingroutes.co.uk) If time allows, Wharton Park above the railway station has a fine overview and Crook Hall has lovely gardens.
Must see and do
- Go back in time Spend a day at Beamish Open Air Museum and discover Durham’s past. www.beamish.org.uk
- Look down on sinners Climb the tower at Durham Cathedral and you can look down into Durham Gaol and out to Penshaw Monument (a folly). www.durhamcathedral.co.uk
- Swim outdoors Weardale Open Air Swimming Pool at Stanhope is one of Britain’s few remaining outdoor lidos in a scenic setting. www.woaspa.co.uk/
Destination County : County Durham