While many students find themselves stuck in the so-called ‘Durham bubble’, it is often because they have yet to discover the many places just outside of Durham City. Over the past few years, I managed to discover quite a number of exciting places and have chosen to share my top 3 with you.
#1 Shincliffe Wood
Not far from the city centre near Maiden Castle, the quaint village of Shincliffe is a miniature Durham to me, save for the absence of students and Tesco. Yet, this lack of hustle and bustle is why Shincliffe proves to be a lovely getaway.
Shincliffe Wood is an easy one-hour walking route, interjected with photo-taking sessions of the bluebells and wild garlic flowers that blossom in spring. This is a good, refreshing break from exams, stress, or the dread of summatives. My friends and I visited in May to take refuge from the horror of exam revision. Not only was it safe, but the path was obvious and clear for us to navigate through.
Furthermore, the occasional fisherman and dog-walkers passing by are sure to stop for a chat.
When you’ve decided you had enough of a workout, you can retreat to the cosy garden centre for tea and cake. Brambles Café serves a delightful array of cakes, scones and tea. However, one must not forget that it is, after all, a garden centre, so it sells all your gardening necessities as well as quirky gifts. My best buy was a pizza clock! Shincliffe promises a good workout, a guilt-free slice of cake (if you did walk) and some retail therapy.
#2 Finchale Priory
#tbt to Durham in the 13th century, Finchale Priory was a priory (monastery) founded on the site of a retired pirate’s hermitage (basically a hideout for pirates!). While this sounds very ancient and foreign, it then became known as a holiday retreat for the monks of Durham Cathedral. Today, Finchale Priory is a tourist attraction that anyone can visit.
I discovered this rather obscure attraction when I decided to go for a little adventure with my college hiking society last year. Although it was quite a few hours walk away from college, the time spent chatting with old friends and making new ones was definitely not wasted. The remains of the old priory are no less fascinating sight to behold compared to the famous Durham Cathedral. It reveals more about the old County Palatinate of Durham and is definitely a place that would interest anyone interested in history or even photography.
After the long walk there, we were also pleasantly surprised to find a little snack shop where we could grab a bite to recharge for the return hike to college. If you fancy a journey back to ancient Durham, Finchale Priory is definitely a place worth visiting!
#3 Beamish Museum
The last place on my list is an interesting outdoor museum, Beamish that is just a short drive out of Durham City. This unique museum brings you back to the early 19th to 20th century by allowing you to step into what everyday life was like back then in North East England. Moreover, it brings a wide span of history to life – from the Georgian times up to the industrial revolution.
The preservation of elements of the past along with the re-enactment of life during those times by people working at the museum, has basically created a time machine for us to travel back to see life over the past 200 years! My favourite part was the opportunity to take the numerous forms of transportation around the museum. From tramways to trolleybuses and even steam railways, the variety of vehicles collected and used by the museum is very impressive indeed.
If you don’t own a car, or are turned off by the cost of taking a taxi there and back, there are also buses from Durham City bus station.
Tickets are valid for a year
Once you have paid your entry to the museum, your ticket is valid for a full year and they change up the exhibitions and put on special events based on the season, so it’s definitely worth visiting them at various times around the year with your ticket. I’ve personally been there twice, once in summer and once in autumn/winter and am planning another trip before my ticket expires.
To have such a special museum in the vicinity is definitely something worth taking advantage of!
Get out and explore!
I hope this list has inspired you to find more hidden gems around County Durham when you’re here. There are definitely a lot more beautiful and interesting places around the area that are waiting to be discovered! (:
Find more great places to visit in the region here