As lockdown continues to ease and we enjoy spending more time with family and friends, it’s a great opportunity to get out and about in Durham’s great outdoors and discover some of the county’s many hidden gems, exploring lesser-known walking and cycling routes as well as picnic and beauty spots.

As summer holidays in the North East begin, This is Durham is inspiring people to seek out new places to explore, off the usual beaten track.

Here are 8 suggestions from This is Durham, that let you in on some of the county’s very special secrets.

Walks in Durham 

Darlington and Stockton Times: Barnard CastleBarnard Castle

Explore some of the stunning walks that have inspired artists and writers through the ages, such as Greta Bridge, to Brignall Banks - an area that inspired a poem by Sir Walter Scott (‘Rokeby’ - 1813), and which was captured on canvas by the watercolourist, John Sell Cotman.

Or enjoy a stroll through local history on the Barnard Castle – Blue Plaque Trail, which links the picturesque market town’s past prominent figures with the buildings that can still be seen today.

Cycling in Durham

Darlington and Stockton Times: The Durham Dales The Durham Dales

Take a scenic ride along the historic 6-mile Tees Railway Path, beginning at Middleton-in-Teesdale. Join it at the delightful village of Romaldkirk, and follow it along as it winds its way towards the magnificent 9 arched Balder Viaduct, just before the route finishes at Cotherstone.

The Cockfield Circuit takes you through landscapes pockmarked with evidence of the agricultural and industrial past of Cockfield Fell. Seek out the partly hidden Copley Lead Mill chimney - a striking reminder of the valley’s former industrial activity.

Picnic spots in Durham

Darlington and Stockton Times: Causey ArchCausey Arch

Nothing can beat a picnic on a sunny day – especially one with a magnificent view. Mid to late summer is the ideal time to visit Waldridge Fell, just west of Chester-le-Street, when the heather blooms and creates a stunning purple haze across the hill.

Causey Arch Picnic Site offers not only the chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Durham countryside, but time to reflect on times gone by, symbolised by Causey Arch - the oldest existing single-arched railway bridge in the world. Built in 1725, it slipped into retirement within 20 years because the advancement of steam locomotive power required bigger and stronger structures.

Durham's beauty spots

With so many beauty spots along the dramatic Durham Heritage Coast, it might be hard to choose a favourite. Nature-lovers can witness the changing fauna throughout the year at Blackhall Rocks and Cross Gill Nature Reserve and enjoy the breathtaking views across the North Sea.

A short walk from Bowlees Visitor Centre, in the Durham Dales and North Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty, is the picturesque Summerhill Force. The plummeting veil of water falls over the dramatic overhanging rock known as Gibson’s Cave.

What better excuse could you have to step out of the door this summer and discover the hidden gems of Durham?

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Please remember - respect, protect and enjoy Durham’s great outdoors by following the Countryside Code.

Obtain full directions for walking and cycling routes prior to visiting and check conditions.