Fire and Ice Durham | Photographs & Top Tips for 2023

Fire and Ice Durham returns this February Half Term. The event is FREE to visit. 

Fire and Ice 2023 

  • Takes place on Friday 24th & Saturday 25th February 
  • No need to book - just turn up between 10am and 6:15pm each day (I recommend getting there early to see the sculptures in their best condition)
  • Live demonstrations, interactive displays and a big finale at 6pm 
  • This year's theme is 'Steampunk'
  • Dog friendly but it can get busy 
  • There are usually around 10 ice sculptures to find. There is usually a map available online before the event or you can collect one from a steward on the day
  • Mostly suitable for pushchairs / wheelchairs but there are some cobbled areas and gradients 
  • The grand finale with a water and ice show takes place in Market Place at 6pm each evening
  • Kids eat for £1 at Revolution, kids eat free at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, kids eat free at the Undercroft Cafe in the Cathedral. T&Cs apply for all of these offers - check their individual websites and social media for details 
  • Keep an eye on the official FB event here for updates 

    Want to make a day of it? Make sure you check 20 things to do in Durham City here. 

2023 Timetable of Events: 

There will also be a competition as part of the Fire and Ice Trail, pick up a entry sheet from any of the stewards around the city centre or from Moon Jewellery to be in with a chance of winning £150 to spend in store.
10am - 4pm - Fire and Ice Trail
Including world famous contact juggler "Calvos"

Market Place:
Noon - 4pm - Live Carving Demos
5.15pm - 5.25pm - Early Aquabatics and Fire Show
6pm - 6.25pm - Main Aquabatics and Fire Show

Millennium Place
Noon - 5pm - Have a go Ice Carving

Ullr Fire and Ice Shows at Millennium Place (15mins)

New Website Features 

I'm really excited to share some new FREE features which have been added to my website recently. To access them, click the share button / heart in the bottom corner of this post. 

  • A Search Box - Quickly and easily search for posts using this button 

  • Save Posts - Click the heart to save a post to come back to at any time. To find your saved posts, simply click the heart again and select 'my bookmarks' and you can quickly find them all in one place

  • Share Post - Easily share posts with friends and family at the click of a button 

To access all of these features, you do need to 'sign up' to my website which is quick and easy to do the first time you click the button. You should stay signed in once you have signed up. There will also be a prompt to sign up to my new monthly newsletter which will focus on key ideas for this to do in the upcoming school holidays. I really hope you sign up and make the most of these features. 

Below is information, tips and photos from previous years which should give you an idea of what to expect......

Please continue reading this post which covers my previous reviews and gives you an idea of what to expect plis restaurant recommendations and top tips for visiting........

2020 Review 

We use Belmot Park and Ride which is signposted from A1 (follow Sunderland A690/Park & Ride signs). It is free to park and £2 return per adult to use the bus. You buy your ticket from the bus station and can pay by cash or card. We had a wait of around 20 minutes as it was busy but we were in the city centre in under 30 minutes.

The bus drops you near Gala Theatre. Turn left as you leave the bus, head up the hill and turn left towards the theatre. Here you will spot the tardis. There are security staff around and they will hand you a map and information sheet (or see below). 

We visited in the following order - 6, 7 , 5, 8, 9, 4, 2, 3, 10 & 11. We had a nice little break at Riverview Kitchen after 3 and before heading up to the Cathedral.

The TARDIS (number 6) near Gala Theatre 

Have a go Ice Sculpting from 12noon-5pm in Millenium Place (outside of Gala Theatre)

Have a go Ice Sculpting

Miners Lamp on High Street (number 7)

Miner in Market Place (nimber 5)

Live Ice Sculpting from 12noon - 4pm in Market Place 

Stephensons Rocket on High Street (number 8)

Astronaut on Elvet Bridge (number 9) 

Viking Longship by the River (number 4)

Steampunk Timepiee by the River (number 2)

The DeLorean by Riverwalk (number 3)

Durham Cathedral (number 10)

Number 11 is actually inside Durham Cathedral. It is free to visit and donations are welcome but there is no pressure to donate. Find the ice sculpture in the Cloisters (where part of Harry Potter was filmed). The helpful volunteers will show you the way. The Cathedral is also home to an Open Treasure museum (chargeable), lovely cafe, LEGO model of the Cathedral and children's trail. Definitely worth looking around. It is beautiful and one of my favourite buildings in the world.

Eye of Agamotto in Durham Cathedral (number 11) 

Although busy, I do recommend checking out the fabulous local businesses on offer too. Expect a bit of a queue at most cafes but they generally go down pretty quickly. We stopped at Riverview Kitchen for cake and hot chocolate - it was wonderful and the staff were SO friendly and on the ball despite being rushed off their feet. 

Ultimate Hot Chocolate at Riverview Kitchen 

Riverview Kitchen

We also popped into Gala Theatre - there is a small, free exhibition in the foyer here called Wonder : Wander. It is a nice place to sit for a few peaceful few minutes away from the busy city. I also noticed that  a family ticket for up to 5 people (with at least one child) is just £20 at the cinema here. Bargain! It might be worth booking a film if you want to hang around and catch the evening show. 

We didn't stay for the evening show as we have seen it before and were ready to go home. We spent 3 hours in Durham which included the trail, a look around the Cathedral, queuing at the cafe and stopping for cake.

The bus stop to catch the park and ride back is in a different spot to where it drops you off - it is right outside of Gala Theatre opposite Subway. You can't miss it! Buses are super regular and every 10 minutes.  

We really enjoyed this year's trail. Personally, I did not think the theming was as good as previous years and it did feel a bit disjointed (Heroes and Villains was our favourite theme). Also, the weather wasn't on our side so the sculptures were melting more quickly than normal - try and see them before 1pm if you can. Still more than worth a visit though, always a lovely atmosphere and brilliant FREE day out.

Keep scrolling for my top tips........ 

Event Timings

Top Tips for Visiting Fire and Ice InDurham 2020

  • Fire and Ice is a free Ice Sculpture Trail in Durham City Centre. The trail should last around 60 minutes, is pushchair friendly and easy on little legs and a lovely way to get out and about with the whole family. 
  • The theme is Travelling through Time. 
  • This year's trail takes place on 21-22 February 2020 and is FREE to take part. You can check out a trail map via the Fire and Ice website nearer the time or pick a physical copy up from one of the lovely volunteers you'll see by the sculptures in Durham (head to the Market Place for the first one) or pick up a map from Gala Theatre foyer. 
  • I'd recommend visiting in the morning to see the sculptures at the best. Often wind/rain/sun can cause the sculptures to deteriorate throughout the day.
  • This year there is a sculpture in the Cathedral. This is a good excuse to pop inside and have a nosey around (it's beautiful and child-friendly).

    Entry to the Cathedral is FREE (donations welcome). There's a bit of a hill up to the Cathedral, there is a bus that leaves from the train station and Market Place if you don't fancy the walk. It's FREE if you use Park & Ride or there's a small charge if not. See here for details. 
  • Durham is a gorgeous city and I recommend making the most of your visit and stopping for a bite to eat. My favourite places to eat with the kids are Zapatista,  Fat Hippo Durham or Bell's Fish and Chip Restaurant. There's also a Nandos near Gala Theatre.

    All of the cafes and restaurants had queues out of the door on Friday. I would recommend booking in advance and taking a few snacks with you too.
  • here are usually two big finales in Market Place with fire, music and lights. Timings will be announced nearer the time. These are free and worth seeing (but be prepared for it to be busy). 
  • For the past two years, there's been a chocolate challenge with lots of chocolate bars frozen inside of an ice block. Spoons are provided but it's popular so I'd recommend bringing your own spoon from home if you think the kids would like to try this (and I imagine they will). This year, the chocolate sculpture was missing on Friday. Fingers crossed it is there on Saturday! 
  • We usually use Belmont Park & Ride which is just off the A1 and very convenient. It's £2 per adult and under 16s are free for unlimited travel on the park&ride and Cathedral buses. See here for details. It was fairly busy on Friday - we arrived at 11am and had a 20 minute wait but I still think this is quicker than trying to park in the city centre. The bus journey is only around 5 minutes.

    If you have never used to park and ride before, the stop for Durham is just under the flyover and basically the first (and maybe only) place the bus stops. Everyone gets off the bus here so just follow the crowd. Turn left off the bus, walk up the hill and then turn left at the top towards the Gala Theatre where you will see your first sculpture and staff handing out maps.

    To catch the bus back, the bus stop is in a slightly different place - it is just outside of the Gala Theatre opposite Subway. If you are stuck - just ask someone, everyone is super friendly.
  • Ramside Carvery run a Kids Eat Free offer Monday - Saturday from 3pm-6pm (1 child receives a free pizza per adult dining) and grown-ups are just £8.95 for 2 courses. Ramside is just along the road from Belmont Park and Ride so perfect for popping into for a cheap early dinner on the way home. 

If you are looking for other ideas for days out in Durham, check out this post featuring the Best Days Out in County Durham and if you would like to make a weekend of it, this post shares 11 of the Best Hotels in County Durham. 

Bells Fish and Chips Children's Menu

Bells Fish and Chips Menu

Fat Hippo Durham Kids Menu

Fat Hippo Durham Lunch Menu 
Pin Me 
Fire and Ice Durham | A Free Trail for February Half Term 2020

Fire and Ice Durham | Top Tips for February Half Term 2020

Fire and Ice Durham | A Free Trail for February Half Term 2020

Fire and Ice Durham | A Free Trail for February Half Term 2020

Fire and Ice Durham | Photographs & Top Tips for 2019

You can read about the 2018 and 2017 trails below: 

Fire and Ice InDurham 2018

Advertorial - The following section was sponsored by Durham BID in 2017 & 2018 

We paid Fire and Ice in Durham a visit this year for the second year running. We learned from our mistakes of 2017 and arrived for the start of the day.

I always recommend using Belmont Park and Ride. It's just off A1 (junction 62) and it's free to park your car - adults are £2 each and children are FREE. The services are regular and the staff are all super friendly too.

As a bonus, your ticket includes travel on the shuttle bus up to the Cathedral which is fab if you don't like climbing hills (or like us, have children who don't like climbing hills). I downloaded the trail map onto my phone and we were in Durham's Market Place for around 9:50am.

We managed to see all of the sculptures apart from the Cathedral and capture decent photos within about an hour. I'd definitely recommend heading to Durham for 10am if you want to see the sculptures in their best condition and with minimal crowds.

This year's theme was Literary Characters and I loved that there was something for all ages from the Night's King for Game of Thrones fans to The Gruffalo for younger ones and even Gandalf and Paddington Bear making appearances. The detail on the sculptures was fantastic. Here are our 2018 photos.......

What I love about Fire and Ice is that it forces us to explore Durham which really is a gorgeous city and somewhere I always leave wanting to revisit again soon.

We visited Durham Cathedral for the very first time and if it hadn't have been for Fire and Ice I bet we still wouldn't have stepped foot inside which is some kind of crime!

The Cathedral is free to visit and absolutely stunning inside. Sadly no photography is allowed inside but you'll have to take my word for it that you should visit.

Don't feel scared about taking your kids there either, my three really enjoyed it (and part of Harry Potter was filmed there which I'm sure they'll appreciate). We stopped at the Cathedral restaurant for coffee and cake which were both top notch.

After the Cathedral we walked back down to the Market Place and bought a few treats from the stallholders. Heidi and Jack bought themselves a toy from the indoor market too.

The event is free and I think the least we can do is support a couple of the local traders. As Fire and Ice coincided with Chinese New Year, we were promised an appearance by a Chinese Dragon to welcome in the New Year.

The dragon did not disappoint and the crowds were huge. You can watch my live stream of the Dragon's performance here. It was difficult to take any photos as the crowds were so busy (and I was similtaneously filming on my phone) and this one doesn't really do the performance any justice but I'll share it anyway......

The children in the crowd were each handed a fortune.....

I remembered from last year that Durham's restaurants were always super busy so I booked a table at The Fat Hippo in advance. Steve had yet to visit this particular branch of his favourite burger joint and had his eyes on their Valentine's special (Smokeback Mountain) which was still available.

Fat Hippo Durham did not disappoint at all. Kids and grown-ups devoured the lot. Our meal was £50 for the 5 of us which I thought offered good value as we were all stuffed and satisfied. 

I had promised the kids (and Steve) that we could watch Black Panther at the cinema as part of our day out but was disappointed to see that it wasn't showing at the Gala Theatre.

I had planned to watch it there in the afternoon and then we'd be able to catch the Fire and Ice finale afterwards. It wasn't meant to be though and with 5 hours to spare until the finale we decided to head back to the car and head to another cinema instead.

A couple of cool things happened on our way back to the park and ride bus stop though. Firstly, I was approached by a member of staff outside New Look as we walked past.

Apparently, it was their Random Act of Kindness day and as I probably looked like I had my hands full with three tired kids in tow, they said that I deserved to treat myself and handed me a New Look gift card with strict instructions to treat myself.

How cool is that! I did just that and bought a lovely new handbag. Then we decided to head over to the chocolate in ice and try and de-ice a chocolate bar with the spoons provided. We weren't in luck this time but it was fun trying! 

We had the best time in Durham and enjoyed the trail and the fantastic work that was clearly put into the sculptures, the Chinese New Year celebrations, visiting and supporting the local markets, our first trip to the Cathedral and of course an excuse to enjoy the best burgers in Durham.

The event was a huge success and although we missed the finale, arriving first thing was definitely the best way to experience the event. I am already excited to see what next year's event will bring. You can keep up to date with events in Durham and news of next year's event via the Durham BID website here. 

Fire and Ice Durham 2017

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 was a FREE family event. Featuring a trail of 10 ice sculptures based around myths and legends and ending with two spectacular finales. We headed along on Saturday afternoon to take part.

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Good Points

I have not taken my children to Durham before and the free trail was a fantastic way for us to get to know the city whilst having fun.

The kids loved walking around looking for the fire beacons above their heads and ticking off the 10 sculptures from our trail map (available from one of the many staff). The throne was our favourite sculpture and H & J loved taking a seat and pretending they were the ice King/Queen. 

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - Jack on the Ice Throne High Street
Jack in the Ice Throne
I also loved that it was something the whole family could take part in - my mam and her husband work shifts and it is a very rare that we can all go out together - as they both had a day off, it was free and something I thought they'd also enjoy, the came along too and it was nice to spend some time with them. 
Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - checking the trail map
Checking out the Fire and Ice Map
Harry enjoyed trying the sword challenge - if you were able to pull the sword from the stone, you'd win £40 worth of vouchers. He wasn't lucky this time but it's the taking part that counts right?

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - trying to remove the sword from the ice stone
Harry removing the Sword from the Stone

We also loved peering through the Dragon's mouth and watching the ice sculptures in action - how fantastic is Tinkerbell?

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - through the dragon's mouth

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - ice sculpture of tinkerbell

Finally, we watched the 5:15pm finale which was aimed at younger children and we loved it as we danced along to our favourite songs whilst watching the water fountains dance in front of us and jets of fire shooting up from the ground. Check out our Facebook live stream below:

Considering this was all COMPLETELY FREE we think the event was superb and would highly recommend a visit. We loved exploring Durham and I don't think we would have visited the City and explored on foot like this had it not have been for this special event. 

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - Durham cathedral from river

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - Durham castle from river

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - market hall light hall

Fire and Ice Durham | Disappointments

I feel a little bad stating some bad points as this event was FREE after all but I'm always honest in my reviews so here we go:

The kids were looking forward to the chocolate bar melt, this was not available on Saturday as it had been completed on Friday - next year I would suggest they make one for each day. We wasted 20 minutes searching for it before we found out it wasn't available today.

H, H and J were keen to have a go at sculpting themselves and joined the queue. The queue was too long though and we stood in it for 7 minutes and the same girl was still sculpting - there were 20+ children in front of us so if everyone took the same length of time, it would have taken us over 2 hours to get to the front. We did not fancy queuing for this length of time so did not bother waiting. Next year I would love to see more chances to join in or free timed tickets given out so children didn't have to queue.

We started the trail at 2pm - we thought that 3 hours would be the perfect amount of time to view the sculptures and have a nice coffee before the finale at 5:15pm. Unfortunately, most of the sculptures had started to melt quite a bit and certainly weren't as detailed as expected. One of the stewards told us not to bother heading to Durham Cathedral as that sculpture had collapsed. Apparantly, the high winds had caused the sculptures to melt ahead of time which I suppose can't be helped but we were still disappointed.

Here are some photographs from My Boys Club who visited on Friday. Look at the fantastic detail:

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - Ice sculptures My Boys Club
Credit | My Boys Club

Then compare this to my photographs which clearly show how melted the sculptures were:

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - melted King Arthur

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - melted ice sculpture

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - melted lampton worm

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - melted ice mermaid

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - melted hydra

Despite our disappointments though, we still had a really great day. Jack (6) rated the day 1000000/10, Harry 5/10 (he was really looking forward to the chocolate bar challenge) and Heidi (7) gave it 10/10. I would also give the day a solid 9/10. I think it was well organised and a lovely way to explore Durham.  The finale was also spectacular and really entertained us grown ups and kids. The atmosphere was fantastic and there were fire jugglers entertaining the crowd in the build up.

Our Top Tips for Visiting Durham

One of the reasons I've always been put off visiting Durham is the whole parking situation. We decided to use Belmont Park and Ride though which was super easy. It is just off to A1 (Southbound) at Junction 62 (turn left at the roundabout and follow the signs for park and ride). It was super efficient and only £2 return for adults and kids were free so it was a real bargain. Buses are every 10 minutes and drop you right by Market Place and collect from outside the Gala theatre. It was so easy to use and I'd recommend.

If you're planning on visiting Durham a few times throughout the year, I would recommend buying an InDurham Loyalty Card. They cost £5 for 12 months worth of discounts including 30% off food at Bella Italia or 20% off food at Bills.

We really fancied Fish and Chips and I would definitely recommend Bells Fish and Chip Restaurant. We managed to score a table right by the window and it's a fab spot for people watching. The fish and chips were beautiful too - the best I've had that haven't been by the sea. Kids were well looked after with Instagram props, word searches and puzzles and the staff were lovely. It was £56 for 3 adult meals, 3 kids meals (inc ice cream) plus drinks and all the trimmings which considering the quality, service and location, I think was very good indeed. They were also running a special Fire and Ice menu which my Step Dad tried and enjoyed.

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - Fire and Ice Menu at Bells Fish and Chip Restaurant

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - kids menu Bells Fish and Chip restaurant

Fire and Ice Durham 2017 | Photographs & Top Tips for 2018 - Fish and Chips from Bells Fish and Chips

We spent 4 hours in Durham and really had a lovely afternoon. It helped that the weather was on side! We enjoyed our day so much that we've already planned a return visit with Steve next month to see more of Durham and the Cathedral.

Fire and Ice has ended now (it was just a 2 day event) but I do hope to see it return in 2018. Fingers crossed!

Let me know if you visited Fire and Ice this year and your thoughts. 

Pin Me For Later

Fire and Ice Durham | Photographs & Top Tips for 2019



  1. Thanks! Didnt know about this until now!

  2. I've only just found out about it as well

  3. This looks awesome! They need to get more bloggers involved in future - if it wasn't for this I wouldn't have known about it! If I had known earlier on we would have gone.

  4. We decided to go on Friday after seeing your original post about it. Growing up near to Durham, I decided to drive in as I know all the little nooks and crannies to park my car, but it was horrendous! There were so many roadworks, all the junctions were jammed and after 1hr of trying to get parked (incl. Prince Bishop's multi-storey which was operating a 1 in/ 1 out method) I admitted defeat and just went to visit my parents who live in Washington! In hindsight I should have taken the park and ride like you, but I didn't expect it to be so busy. A lesson for next time! I'm glad you had such a lovely day, it looked great fun!

  5. Looks like great fun! We have been so busy that we just didn't get down? I love Durham though! and want to do the botanical gardens soon as weather improves

  6. thanks for the tip about the voucher

  7. This looks such a great event - how fun to explore the city with the trail, and even better when it's free. I suspect my daughter would have sat in that ice throne, announced she was Elsa and stayed put until her bum was numb :) Hopefully they can sort some of the teething problems for next time.

  8. This looks like a fab place to go with kids. Thanks for the tip re: voucher!

  9. What a great idea for an event, it looks like it could be great fun with kids. It's a shame the sculptures started melting too early, but I'm glad you still had a good experience

  10. What an awesome event - really love it! Watched ice sculpting on a cruise once (the ship's dentist's hobby!) It's so cool (excuse the pun). Love your photos.

  11. It looks like a great event. I was hoping to go but couldn't make it this year so I really enjoyed your post xx


I'd love you to Tweet your thoughts about this post (@nefamilyfun) or leave a comment over on my Facebook page ( - Sam x

© North East Family Fun | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Designed by pipdig