North East – Durham and County Durham

top 10 places

Top 100 places to visit in north east england

Durham and County Durham

1. The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum collection spans three floors of this magnificent building and contains items too numerous to list. Whether it is paintings by Canaletto or Goya, porcelain produced at Sèvres, or marquetry attributed to André-Charles Boulle it can all be found at The Bowes Museum, which has received Designated status from the government in recognition of the outstanding collection.  Purpose built in the 19th century by John and Joséphine Bowes, the Museum has a wonderful story to tell.

2. Durham Cathedral

Like Hadrian’s Wall and the Angel of the North, Durham Cathedral is an icon of north-east England, and is beautifully sited on a peninsula of land within a loop of the River Wear. Begun in 1093, it was largely completed within 40 years and is the only cathedral in England to have retained nearly all of it’s Norman craftsmanship. Internationally renowned as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, the cathedral attracts over 60 000 visitors from all over the world each year.

3. The Beamish Museum

Beamish Museum is set in over 300 acres of beautiful countryside, and vividly recreates life in the North of England in the early 1800s and 1900s. It’s a living, working experience, with many different buildings clustered in settlements representing different periods of history and ways of life. There’s even a fully functional tram service. Actors in period costume walk the streets and run shops and businesses, who will be most happy to talk to you about their everyday lives.

4. Hartlepool Maritime Experience

Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience is a superb re-creation of an 18th century seaport, bringing to life the time of Nelson, Napoleon and the Battle of Trafalgar. Travel back in the mari-time machine to experience how it was aboard a real British naval frigate. Explore the historic quayside, featuring ‘Pressganged’, ‘Fighting Ships’, and realistic period shops and houses. You can talk to tour guides in authentic period dress, and see Britain’s oldest warship afloat, HMS Trincomalee.

5. Durham Botanic Gardens, Café and Visitor Centre

Durham Botanic Gardens has plant collections from around the world, including China, Japan, North America, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile, as well as a woodland garden, alpine garden and bamboo grove. In the glasshouses you will find a collection of tropical rainforest plants, desert plants, and more familiar plants from the Mediterranean. There are also some tropical bugs, scorpions and tarantulas. In late summer to early spring the arboretum is grazed by rare breed sheep.

6. Locomotion – the National Railway Museum at Shildon

The National Railway Museum tells the story of development of the British railway industry through it’s fantastic collection of working steam engines with gleaming paint and brasswork, railway artefacts, images and records. As a special treat or present, why not try the “Drive of Your Life” package, where you can actually get to drive a working steam engine (under supervision) and find out more about the behind the scenes operations with the locomotive team.

7. Killhope Lead Mining Museum

Killhope is a fully restored nineteenth century lead mine, where you experience for yourself the life and work of the lead mining families of the Pennine dales. You can experience the “mineshop” where miners lived for the week and slept three and four to a bed, work as a “washerboy” separating lead ore from waste, and see the working machinery which Fred Dibnah admired in the “jigger house”. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff will make sure you get the most from your visit.

8. Raby Castle, Park and Gardens

Every room in Raby Castle, from the magnificent Barons’ Hall, to the Medieval Kitchen (used until 1954!) gives an insight to life throughout the ages. Despite its foreboding exterior of towers and fortifications, the castle houses a fabulous art collection and has splendid interiors. Treasures include an important collection of Meissen porcelain, tapestries, furnishings and paintings by leading artists such as Munnings, De Hooch, Teniers, Van Dyck and Reynolds.

9. High Force Waterfall at Raby Castle

High Force, England’s largest waterfall, suddenly and spectacularly drops 70 feet into the plunge pool below.  As you begin the descent down the gentle slope of the woodland walk which leads to the waterfall, the path twists and turns giving a different view every few yards. The muffled rumble suddenly turns to a roar and the waterfall comes into full view. A gift shop, picnic area and parking are available.

10. Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle has been the official residence of the Bishop of Durham for the past 800 years and is set in a large deer park that was originally used by the Bishops for hunting. The painter Zurbaran’s famous collection of pictures of Jacob and his twelve sons hang in the Long Dining Room. This is Britain’s best exhibition of this 17th century Spanish artist and attracts visitors from all over the world.

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