Durham's Hidden Gems: Walks, Rides & Picnic Spots

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Durham is a county that covers an area of over 862 square miles. There is so much outdoor space to explore from your door. From heritage coastline and nature reserves to rolling countryside and dark skies. Durham is an area of outstanding natural beauty. There is an abundance of outdoor space to enjoy. 

Title Image:Durham's Hidden Gems: Walks, Rides & Picnic Spots

Today, I am going to focus on a few hidden gems and I am sharing some of the lesser-known walks, trails and picnic spots you can enjoy around Durham this summer. If you think you know Durham, think again!

There is no better time to enjoy some of the county's quieter hidden gems. These options are perfect if you are looking for lots of space, fresh air, and a quiet spot to enjoy nature and relax and offer an alternative from some of the potentially busier well-known attractions. 

#LoveDurham Safely

Before I jump in, I just wanted to reiterate some of the important safety messages shared by This is  Durham: 

  • Plan ahead and double-check which facilities are open - some may still remain closed or be operating with reduced opening times. Also check if anything needs to be pre-booked in advance.

  • Some places may be busier than others, why not explore a hidden gem from this list and try somewhere new? 

  • Plan to visit earlier in the day, later in the evening or mid-week to avoid peak times.

  • Check ahead for car parking options and park responsibly.

  • Consider the local community - stay away from private property, farms and homes.

  • Remember social distancing and stay 2m away from those not in your household / bubble.

  • Close gates behind you and leave no trace.

  • Pay using contactless methods where possible.

  • Follow paths but give way when necessary.

  • Wash or sanitise your hands regularly, especially before eating. 

  • Don't have BBQs or fires.

  • Be respectful of nature and watch from a distance. 

  • Keep dogs under control at all times and clean up after your dog. 
Please note, the walking and cycling routes featured are just an overview. Please check rights of way, full directions and conditions before you visit. 

Durham's Hidden Gems: Walks, Trails & Picnic Spots

Please let me know if there are any walks, trails or picnic spots you would recommend in Durham and I will add them as a list to the bottom of this post for others to enjoy too. 

Causey Arch Picnic Spot & Walk 

Image: Causey Arch

We recently visited Causey Arch and had such a lovely day out. It was nice and quiet with lots of space for us to enjoy. There is a picnic area next to the car park with plenty of picnic tables & a tearoom (with customer toilets - open Thurs-Sun 10am-3pm) and two main walking routes to follow which are well signposted. 

The first is down some steps to the gauge where you can walk alongside the river passing over several bridges. It is super peaceful down there. The second is an accessible route following the railway line to Causey Arch Bridge. There is another picnic spot here as well as spectacular views of the bridge and valley below. 
  • Car Park Postcode: NE16 5EJ
  • Cost: Free
  • Accessibility: There is a clearly marked accessible route from the car park to Causey Arch bridge / viewing point suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. There are some gates. 
  • Find out more here

Eggleston Hall Garden Trail

Credit : Visit County Durham

Wander the winding footpaths and discover the romantic ruins of a 16th century churchyard as you enjoy the beautiful gardens of Eggleston Hall. Expect a range of pretty flowers and plants on display, thoughtful planting, an on-site cafe and parking.  Dogs are welcome on leads (please inform staff before entering if you have a dog with you). 

  • Postcode: DL12 0AG
  • Cost: Admission to the garden trail costs £2.50 per adult, under 18s are free. 
  • Accessibility:  See here
  • Find out more here

Romaldkirk : The Tees Railway Path Cycle Route 

Credit : Visit County Durham

The Tees Valley Railway Path can be accessed at various points along its 6 mile stretch. The full route runs from Middleton to Cotherstone and this particular section begins in the picturesque village of Ramaldkirk. 

Join the Tees Railway Path from the village centre (look out for the small directional signs) after enjoying the village green complete with village stocks. 

The cycle route along the disused railway is a haven for wildlife. You can expect to see butterflies, beautiful flowers and hedgerow. 

  • Car Park Postcode: Park in Romaldkirk village (please be considerate)
  • Cost: Free
  • Accessibility: The 6 mile linear route is fairly flat, there are several slopes where bridges once stood but these can be avoided if you check a map first. Walkers have access to the entire route, cyclists and horse riders have access between Lonton and Low Lathbury. There are gates along the route. 
  • Find out more here

 Tunstall Reservoir Circular Walk 

This 1.5 mile circular walk will take you through ancient woodland which was once the site of iron smelt bloomeries and charcoal production. 

  • Car Park Postcode: DL13 3LZ
  • Cost: Free
  • Accessibility: Moderate grade with off-road surface. 
  • Find out more here 

Barnard Castle Blue Plaque Trail

Credit : Visit County Durham

There are 22 Plaques to find as part of the Barnard Castle Blue Plaque Trail which spans over around 1.5 miles throughout the town. 

Each plaque provides a little information about someone who has contributed to Barnard Castle in the past. I love the idea of this trail as it has a real purpose and we will hopefully learn something too.

  • Car Park Postcode: DL12 8BE
  • Cost: Free
  • Accessibility: Accessible / in the town centre
  • Find out more here 

The Norman Cornish Art Trail 

Credit :  The Norman Cornish Ltd

This 1.5 mile walk across various locations in Spennymoor allows you to follow in the footsteps of one of the most loved & respected North East Artists of the 20th Century and identify the locations of many iconic works. 

The trail will take you back in time and allow you to imagine what life in Spennymoor was like during an era when coal was at the heart of the community. 

You can download a free PDF booklet to accompany the trail here. 

Rookhope Picnic Spot

Credit  : Visit County Durham

If you turn off some of Durham's main roads, you will discover some real gems and that is certainly the case here. In the Weardale village of Eastgate, a turning leads to the village of Rookhope and one of Durham's hidden valleys. This place looks truly stunning and has an interesting history too. 

Rowley Station Picnic Area - Hownsgill Viaduct (Cycle & Walking Route)

Credit : Bob Graham

This route forms part of the 9.7 mile long Waskerley Way Railway Path which forms part of the C2C route. It is one of the more popular railway paths so best to visit in the morning or later in the day if you are looking for a quieter time. 

Join the route at Rowley Station Picnic Area and walk or cycle for approximately 2 miles in the direction of Consett and you will reach the picture-perfect viaduct. Definitely a photo opportunity you do not want to miss. 

  • Car Park Postcode: DH8 9AB (nearest)
  • Cost: Free
  • Accessibility: Suitable for cyclists, walkers, horse riders and wheelchair users
  • Find out more here

Over to you.......

I asked my Instagram followers for other hidden gems and quieter spots in Durham. Nothing beats a personal recommendation. Here are their responses: 

  • Finchale Priory on an overcast day (it gets busy when the sun is shining)
  • Cockburns Woods
  • Broomhouse Farm 
  • The Secret Garden at Houghall (apparently they make the best scones in Durham and there is plenty of outdoor seating)
  • Low Barnes 
  • Hardwick Park  
  • Wharton Park 
  • Hedleyhope Fell (near Tow Law with lots of lambs to spot)
  • The walk along the river in Durham City is quiet
  • Dalton le Dale
  • Hawthorne Dene 
Discover more of Durham's hidden gems over on the This is Durham website here  and please let me know if you would recommend any others and I will add them to this post. 

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Durham's Hidden Gems: Walks, Rides & Picnic Spots



  1. Ushaw College grounds are well worth a visit. Lovely gardens and woodland walks. Picnic on the old playing fields and explore some of the old college grounds including the priests grave yard at the back of the site.

  2. is there any waterfalls in durham?

    1. Not Durham itself as far as I know... but Teesdale has High and Low Force which are stunning.

    2. Durham river walk car park, over the bridge of the A690 near mandale business park. Walk down the bank and right theres a small waterfall but impressive after a rainfall

  3. I hadn't heard of Rumbling Kern but it turns out it's not in County Durham but in Northumberland. I'd vote for Blackhall Rocks as a hidden gem. Also inland Muggleswick woods and Derwent Gorge.


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